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Wednesday, 20 April 1966


Mr BENSON (Batman) .- I rise to support the Bill and to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) on endeavouring to streamline procedures for people entering Australia. I think there is room for improvement, but it is still good to see that some progress is being made. Since some 17 years prior to coming to this Parliament 1 have watched immigration procedures taking place day after day and week after week and I have felt greatly alarmed at the delays which took place in the port of Melbourne so far as migrants were concerned, I was of the opinion that a lot of the procedures could be streamlined. lt could be made much easier for people if more attention were paid to this problem at the first port of call in Australia. Sometimes Melbourne is the first port of call for a ship but in most cases Fremantle is the first port of call for ships arriving in Australia. In many cases immigration officers are employed on the ship. A vessel coming to Melbourne with some 1,400 passengers would generally have about 400 people for the western State - that is disembarking at Fremantle - and about 1,000 to be discharged in the eastern States. I have often wondered why more cannot be done during the passage between Fremantle and Melbourne to get everything in order instead of having the rush and confusion that takes place in Melbourne. Before coming into the Parliament 1 was employed as a pilot and sometimes it would take anything np to three hours after a ship arrived off Port Melbourne before the immigration officers would say: We are satisfied. This ship can now go alongside." The sort of things *hat have to be done should, in my opinion, have been done on the passage between Fremantle and Melbourne. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter to see what can be done to streamline procedures.

There is another way in which things could be speeded up on ships coming to Melbourne. All the ships must pass Portsea which is a sheltered part of the bay. No matter which way the wind is blowing a lee can be had, so an immigration boat could come alongside a ship, and if additional men were required they could be put on board at Portsea. Then during the 2i'to 3 hours when the ship is coming up the Bay everything could be put in order.

Another thing that dismays me is that some people who come here have to be fingerprinted. I am speaking mainly of people from Asia. It is distressing that in these modern days this should have to be done. I think if nothing is known against a person it is wrong that that person should be fingerprinted. I have seen customs officers come aboard ships from Asia and they say to a person: " Hi, here! ", and they grab his thumb and -dump it on a piece of paper. This is 1966 and we are trying to get on good terms with these people. I think it is wrong that people coming to Australia should be fingerprinted.


Sir Keith Wilson - It is not done.


Mr BENSON - It is done. I am sorry to contradict, but I saw it done recently.


Sir Keith Wilson - It is not done with migrants.


Mr BENSON - I am speaking of people coming to Australia. We are talking about people who come with migrants. Some people are stood in one place and some in another place and some are fingerprinted. This does go on. I am just making suggestions to try to make things a little better for all concerned. Perhaps the Minister could tell me that this procedure does not take place and so let me know whether I have been seeing things. I will qualify my Statement by saying that I thought I saw this being done, because I have been wrong in the past. If it is done I hope the Minister will be able to see that is is discontinued.

I am pleased that this measure has been introduced. It is necessary in these days that ships be cleared expeditiously. When a ship comes into a port in Australia, or into a port in any part of the world, certain formalities must be observed. The first thing is that a doctor must go on board to make sure there is no disease on the ship. I am glad to be able to say that the Department of Immigration and the quarantine section now accept a certificate from doctors on British ships - and I think in some cases from Italian and Greek ships - certifying that the ship has a clean bill of health. This saves a lot of time. However, in these modern days with fluorescent lighting, if a ship arrives after dark there is still a law that the ship will be cleared between the hours of sunrise and sunset. After sunset nothing happens. I think that problem should be looked into so that a doctor can clear a ship and the immigration people can carry on their work straight away. The immigration people cannot carry out their work until the doctor says that everything is all right. Take the case of a ship with only 12 passengers. There are lots of ships these days that have 12 passengers. If such a ship arrives in Port Phillip Bay after dark the doctor is not compelled to go on board and clear that ship before next morning. On occasions such passengers have complained bitterly to me. They say: "What is going on here? We have to stick in this place now until the doctor comes out. It will be tomorrow before we can get off the ship. There is fluorescent lighting." All the doctor wants to see the next morning is whether they have had smallpox or any other illness and usually he lines up the passengers on the deck and looks at their wrists. If this examination could be carried out at night when the ship arrives and the departmental officers could go on board then, it would be possible for the passengers to go ashore at night. Passengers get concerned about these happenings.

Ships are inclined to be temperamental. A ship may be due in at 6 o'clock, but because of bad weather it may not get in until 8 o'clock. Passengers may have wired ahead their requirements. They may have asked for accommodation to be booked at the Southern Cross Hotel or for a seat to be booked for them on a flight to Sydney. However, when they arrive at the Australian port nothing can be done until the next day. This sort of thing is not good enough.







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