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Subject: Cultural Studies »


FitzGerald Immigration Policy Review, 1988

Alan Matheson.

An Interview with Alan Matheson, gives his view of the FitzGerald Committtee.



Date Added:

18 July 2002


Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994.


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



23 secs


Ethnic Liaison Officer, Australian Council of Trade Unions, and ACTU Representative on the FitzGerald Committee

I never interpreted the FitzGerald Committee as an attack on multiculturalism. The attack on citizenship, for example, was interpreted by all of the ethnic communities as an attack on them. A close reading of it and certainly FitzGerald's point was, it was the bloody British who were the problem. I mean they're the ones who have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who haven't taken out citizenship.


Most of the communities who complained about this citizenship issue had all exceptionally high citizenship records.

I see it (the Report) as one of the significant reports in terms of debate on everything from multiculturalism, citizenship, the labour market, the Bureau of Immigration Research - the Migrant Outlook Conference came out of that Report.

I think the first thing with the FitzGerald Report is that one of the strengths of Australian immigration and multiculturalism is that there's not another social policy that's been reviewed, investigated, analysed, researched more than migration and multiculturalism. If anybody is to suggest that there's no debate here, I mean they've been asleep for two decades.

From our point of view, the issues that we believe were significant for us were in the whole area of labour migration. We institutionalised, within the FitzGerald Committee, the labour agreement, that formal arrangement between government, trade unions and employers on negotiations of skilled recruitment.

There was certainly debate within the trade union movement about the rights of citizenship and who was using or abusing social security benefits. I had no problems with citizenship.

The thing that worried me was the inability of the ethnic communities to turn the citizenship recommendations on their head and demand as rights those sort of things that they had been advocating for two decades. I mean citizenship and the value of citizenship can be interpreted negatively.

That is, you're penalised if you don't become citizens and that was how the ethnic communities by and large interpreted it. If you were smart, you would have turned it on its head and seen citizenship as one of those positive deals that now added another dozen arrows in your attack in terms of your rights, on government.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994.