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164 Burton to Heyes

Memorandum CANBERRA, 15 April 1948


The attention of this Department has recently been drawn to two
matters which seem to emphasize the need for a closer integration
in the carrying out of Australian immigration policy with the
carrying out of general foreign policy, which the Australian
Government is endeavouring to pursue. The matters in question
involve the service on the wives of two white British nationals
resident in Australia of orders to leave the country within a
stated period. It is understood that one of the wives was born in
Singapore of Chinese extraction, and the other in Tonga.

Both cases have been attended by a good deal of publicity. In the
case of Mrs Carvill, the Chinese-born wife, service of the order
to leave has been prominently reported in the Singapore press, and
threatens to give rise to a further outburst of anti-Australian
agitation. There is ground for expecting that the reaction of the
wealthy, powerful and politically conscious Chinese community in
Singapore and Malaya to what it will regard as a further example
of Australian discrimination against the Chinese race will be even
more violent and far reaching than that which followed the recent
case of the Malay seamen. The possibility of a tragic boycott
against Australia and of attempts to have the issue raised at the
next session of the United Nations General Assembly cannot now be
ruled out.

You will agree that one of the cardinal objectives of the
Australian Government's policy-both immigration policy and foreign
policy-is the protection of Australia in the future from threats
which arise out of our peculiar geographical position.

As one means to this end we endeavour to extend Australia's
influence throughout eastern and southeastern Asia. We seek to
extend our commercial relationships through these areas and in
general to build up goodwill towards Australia among the various
Asian peoples living in close proximity to us. To this end, the
Australian Government, as you are no doubt aware, has made
available substantial funds to be used for the granting of
scholarships at Australian Universities and other institutions to
selected students from all countries in South-east and east Asia.

[1] In addition Australia has intervened strongly, through the
United Nations and by every other available means, on behalf of
the Government of the Republic of Indonesia in its efforts to
secure its independence. Furthermore, Australian supplies are
being distributed in various war-devastated countries in Asia.

My fear is that the Australian Government's efforts along these
lines might be cancelled out in the implementation off immigration
policy, which has exactly the same basic objectives.

It would seem to me that without modifying policy in any way, its
application might take into account reactions to particular acts
which tend to prejudice the ultimate objective the policy has in
mind. Reports received from Australian overseas posts show that
resentment against Australia is growing with each immigration
ruling that receives wide publicity. This in turn can lead to
discussion on the world forum of the Assembly. On the other hand,
if administered, having in mind these reactions, no harm would be
done and it would not be difficult to defend our immigration
policy. Though many countries have long resented it, they have so
far been prepared to acknowledge and respect it, however
grudgingly. It is clear, however, that these same countries will
become increasingly vocal, and their pressures more embarrassing,
unless individual borderline cases, particularly those where
family complications and British nationality are involved, can be
handled sympathetically and with an eye to possible political
consequences, even although the consequence might be that in a
limited number of cases permits to remain in Australia might be
indefinitely extended.

1 See Document 155.

[AA:A1838, 3004/11/3, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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