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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21390

Mr JENKINS (9:25 PM) —Since the closure of the Preston office of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, migration services have become much more inaccessible to the residents of the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Regrettably, it is illustrative of the decrease that is occurring in Commonwealth services that are available to the local community in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. The north-east of Melbourne is as much a region as anywhere else in Australia, yet it is not considered as such for the other measures that have been made available, especially in rural electorates. Regrettably, the interface between the Commonwealth government and local communities has been continuously declining in electorates such as Scullin, with the only Commonwealth agency in Scullin now being the Epping and Greensborough offices of Centrelink.

The immigration department argues that the Preston office is not needed as there has been an increased usage of immigration department services via their phone network and the Internet. Residents without Internet access and residents who speak a language other than English now find it more difficult to access the information of the immigration department. By making this information more inaccessible, the department has ensured that people now have to place greater reliance on information being provided by those who are perhaps not best equipped to give that information. The closest office is now the department's office in the central business district. This adds to the cost—through public transport or parking costs—for those people who go to that office. The government really needs to relook at the way it interfaces with areas such as the outer suburbs of a city like Melbourne to ensure that the services that are provided are accessible.

It was my intention earlier to speak more on this matter, but tonight I also wish to associate myself with the generous remarks made by the Prime Minister and the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition and a legion of my colleagues on this side of the House during the condolence motion for Dr Jim Cairns, a former deputy leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party. Whilst I personally did not know Jim Cairns well, like many of my generation of Labor members I knew of him and what he stood for extremely well. Much has been said of Jim Cairns as a champion for peace. I joined with Jim Cairns and hundreds of thousands of Australians on the streets of Melbourne during the moratorium marches—protests against Australia's continuing involvement in the Vietnam conflict. As has been said on several occasions, Jim Cairns was clearly courageous in his early opposition to this involvement in Vietnam. He was an idealist. He championed the issues of peace—such as antinuclear issues and the aim of nuclear disarmament—and matters to do with the environment, but during his ministerial years he also illustrated a great commitment to trade and engagement with Asia—things which he had written about earlier on.

Jim Cairns was a product of the northern suburbs. He was educated at Northcote High School. It was interesting that in his contribution the member for Brand mentioned an exchange between Don Chipp and Jim Cairns. The irony is that both Don Chipp and Jim Cairns were products of Northcote High School. Jim Cairns was also proof that parliament is not the only venue for the action of politicians—proof that, while most parliamentarians are politicians, not all politicians need to be parliamentarians. I think there is a lesson in that—that sometimes through our political activities, modern politics is driven by the winning of government and, therefore, by the achievements through the parliament. Whilst I am somebody who thinks that the parliament is important and that parliamentary processes should be improved, I also think we should encourage that political activity in our community, because there are some things that the community can change itself. Whether they be the collective ideals of the Labor Party or the ideals of the rights of the individual of the Liberal Party, I think we should see that there are ways and measures by which we can achieve them. But I think the important thing today is that we should salute Jim Cairns, a true champion of the Labor Party and the labour movement but also a true champion of Australia—somebody whom many Australians looked up to. I pass my condolences to the family and to the many friends of Jim Cairns.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 9.30 p.m., the debate is interrupted.