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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3209

Mr BURR(8.11) —In a number of speeches in the adjournment debate in this chamber I have tried to highlight to the Government and to the House the difficulties that have been faced by Mr John Griffin in his attempts to be admitted as a permanent citizen to this country. I will not go through all the details that I have previously explained to the House. As a result of pressure from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Mr Griffin returned to the United Kingdom earlier this year. Immediately upon his return to England he filed an application to be readmitted to this country as a permanent citizen. That matter has been under consideration both in London and in Canberra for some time now. I would like to draw attention to a letter dated 18 October 1983 from Mr W. R. Young, for the Secretary to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Mr Young states, in part, in that letter:

I wish to advise that following a Ministerial decision the sponsorship documents have been forwarded to the Australian High Commission, London for further action.

In the meantime, as Mr Griffin lacks skills in demand here it will be necessary for you to locate employment for Mr Griffin before approval can be given for his entry to Australia. Confirmation that employment has been arranged is made on the enclosed employment offer form (Form M61) which should be completed by the prospective employer and returned to this office in the first instance.

That requirement of the Department has most certainly been complied with. On 22 October the appropriate form was lodged with the Department offering employment to Mr Griffin. That offer of employment was made by Mr Brian Frankcombe, a very well-known and well respected farmer in the northern part of Tasmania. I can personally vouch for the honesty, integrity and uprightness of Mr Frankcombe. I have known him for many years. Certainly this is not a frivolous offer of employment; it is a very genuine offer. I am quite sure that, if Mr Griffin is able to return to this country, the offer will be satisfied and Mr Griffin will prove to be a very satisfactory employee for Mr Frankcombe. In making that offer Mr Frankcombe is very conscious of the engineering skills that Mr Griffin has, particularly his qualifications as a fitter and turner and mechanical engineer. That is part of the reason why Mr Frankcombe is keen to have Mr Griffin in his employment so that those mechanical skills can be used in the wide range of farm equipment that Mr Frankcombe has employed on his property.

Mr Griffin presented himself for an interview at Australia House on 4 November for the application to be further considered. It worried me greatly that , at that particular interview, a claim was made by the interviewing officer that Mr Griffin had never been enlisted and had never served in the Australian Army Reserve. This is a claim that has been made by other officers in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Australia, not just those serving in London . For the life of me I cannot understand how, in all honesty, the Department or any officer of the Department can make such a claim. As I pointed out to the House earlier, it was at the instructions of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that Mr Griffin was arrested at the Brighton Army camp while he was on parade with the Army Reserve. Officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Hobart, Canberra and London are fully aware that Mr Griffin was arrested while on Army parade. I can also verify the fact that Mr Griffin was a very conscientious participant in the Army Reserve because on a number of occasions I inspected him on his various parades. I also bring to the attention of the House a letter signed by his commanding officer in Australia in which, in part, he said:

I am writing to keep you informed of military developments appertaining to Pte Griffin, presently domiciled in Britain.

Unfortunately I must discharge Pte Griffin until such time as he returns to Australia and makes an application to become an Australian citizen. I have asked Capt. T. Chugg from Longford to visit his parents.

I should also point out that we look forward to him rejoining the unit, and also that we hope he will continue with his application to join the Officer Cadet Training Unit, on returning to Australia.

Not only was this man a member of the Australian Army Reserve, but also he was so highly thought of in the Army Reserve that he had been selected for officer training. I can only suggest to the officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that they look far more seriously at this matter and stop making slanderous statements about this man, accusing him of never being a member of the Army Reserve when all the officers, from the very senior officers in Canberra to those in Hobart and in London, know full well that this man participated very actively in the Army Reserve. Both Mr Griffin and the Army Reserve are keen that he should resume his service with the Army Reserve.

Mr Hodgman —You showed me that letter.

Mr BURR —I did indeed. I showed my colleague this letter and I intend to remind him of it regularly. In the brief time that is available to me I wish to raise another matter. It worried me greatly, following a question that I asked the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) yesterday at Question Time regarding the moneys to be allocated for the promotion of the referenda campaign, that the Minister dismissed any prospect of an even-handed approach to the promotion of that campaign quite out of hand. I remind the Minister that, in part his answer said:

The referenda campaign enjoys very wide support in this House on a bipartisan basis. The decisions will stand to benefit the Australian community considerably in reduction of the cost of election campaigns by reducing that element of instability which has come to exist in our political system. They are very desirable for the general public. It is necessary that the general public has the information placed before it, and that will require a campaign.

That is a very overbearing, jackboot type tactic where the Government is saying: 'We are the only ones who are capable of putting a point of view before the public'. As we all know, there are two points of view that could and should be put. But what the Government is saying is: 'We are only prepared to use taxpayers' money to promote one side of the argument so that the public will be left in the dark as to what the other side of the argument may be'.

Mr Hodgman —Is this the Soviet Union?

Mr BURR —I sometimes wonder whether we may be moving to some sort of totalitarian state in Australia. The Hobart Mercury of 1 December said in its editorial:

What sort of democracy does the Australian Labor Party think it is running in this country? Now it seems that even the outward forms are to be sacrificed for the sake of political expediency.

Further down in the editorial it said:

Its attitude represents a travesty of democracy which would do justice to the prevailing virtues in the worst of this world's banana republics.

That is the conclusion that the Hobart Mercury has reached on the decision by the Government not to adopt an even handed approach to the referenda campaigns and allow the public to be properly informed of both sides of the argument. I fear that perhaps the Mercury is correct in its editorial and that my colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) may well be correct in suggesting we may well be moving towards a totalitarian form of government in this country. I urge my friends on the other side of this chamber not to take that in jest. We all remember what happended in Nazi Germany when Goebbels used the media and the power of propaganda in order to promote that totalitarian regime and to keep the public of Germany in the dark. That is precisely what this decision is leading this country towards. I strongly put the view that this country is based on democracy and the decision by this Government is going a long way towards undermining the democratic freedoms we have come to cherish.