19 May, 2016 17:15
CLANCY OVERELL | Editor | CONTACT
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been condemned for making ‘deeply offensive’ comments about the migrant intake policies in Australia during the 1950’s.
Mr Dutton made these remarks during an interview with Sky News presenter Paul Murray, stating that the Snowy Mountains Scheme was an exercise of embarrassment for the Australian people, and that those migrants who didn’t find work “languished in unemployment queues”.
“What we found in the 1950’s is that more than 100,000 people from over thirty countries came to the Snowy Mountains to work on a Hydro Electricity project. Up to 7,300 workers would provide their labour at any one time…”
“…Many of them weren’t numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English… these people were taking Australian jobs and there is no question about that,” Mr Dutton said.
According to www.Australia.gov.au, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme is by far the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Australia. It is also one of the largest and most complex hydro-electric schemes in the world. The system’s construction is seen by many as a defining point in Australia’s history, and an important symbol of Australia’s identity as an independent, multicultural and resourceful country.
While speaking to Sky News, Mr Dutton referred to this “embarrassing chapter” in Australian history as “the first and last time Australia let kindness get the best of us”.
As is recorded in the Australian National Library, seventy per cent of all the workers were migrants. They came to Australia to work on the project, attracted by the opportunities that this country offered them. At that time, soon after the Second World War, work was hard to come by in war-torn Europe.
At first, most of the workers were men who had left their families at home in Europe. Their plan was to work hard, save money and bring their families out when they could afford to.
The work was hard and the conditions were tough. Because ninety-eight per cent of the project was underground, there was a lot of tunnelling, often through solid granite rock. Work in the tunnels was dirty, wet, noisy, smelly and sometimes dangerous. More than 120 workers died in the project’s twenty-five year period.
Living conditions were also hard in the camps and towns built in the mountains to house the workers and their families. Often these dwellings were not suited to the freezing conditions. They were cold and the water would freeze in the pipes. When the workers’ wives came to join them in the townships, these women had to work hard to overcome the hardships and establish communities in the strange, new, wilderness environment. When work in one area was completed, the dwellings were dismantled and moved to another area, so very little remains of these towns today.
The majority of the workers stayed on to live in Australia after the project was completed, making a valuable contribution to Australia’s modern multicultural society.
Mr Dutton, a Federal Minister who topped the class in his tertiary studies at the Queensland police academy, says “These people were languishing in Australia’s weaknesses,”
“It’s the same with this new wave trying to become Australians today. I don’t care if they are trying to flee war-torn countries, they are coming for Aussies jobs,”
“It doesn’t matter if they are crappy jobs that Australian’s don’t want. They are Aussie jobs!”