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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1506

Senator NEWMAN(10.30) —I rise tonight on a matter of concern to some of my constituents in a rural community in Tasmania, the village of Beaconsfield on the Tamar River. It also concerns the South African nephew of one of my constituents. The situation is that Dr Grant, the doctor in this small community, wishes to retire. Some time last year he advertised his practice throughout Australia for sale. He had been unable to sell the practice when Dr Peachey, a South African doctor of medicine and the nephew of a Tasmanian constituent of mine, came to visit his aunt on a holiday in Tasmania. That was in August last year. In the course of his visit he discovered that this practice was for sale and took an option on the practice, which expires this month.

Immediately on return to South Africa, Dr Peachey applied in Pretoria for permission to come to Australia. That was at the end of August or the beginning of September. By the middle of November Dr Peachey had still not heard anything from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and his aunt came to me to see whether something could be done to find out why there was a delay and what was happening to his application. I wrote on 13 November to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Hurford, and received an acknowledgment, but not an answer, dated 20 November. On 15 December I wrote again, reminding the Minister that this needed urgent attention and asking for his urgent reply. On 12 January, a month later, this letter was acknowledged. On 17 February I wrote again to Mr Hurford urging an urgent reply, and on 11 March I received an acknowledgment. I find those delays totally unacceptable.

Therefore, last week I contacted the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Holding, asking for an investigation to be made into what was causing the delays. Mr Malone of the Minister's staff said that he would investigate and try to get back to me. He said he would see whether the matter could be expedited. He agreed that the lack of answers to me was unsatisfactory and said that he would see that it was remedied. I was then rung by a member of the departmental staff telling me that there was a letter in the mail. That was in the middle of last week. I have still not received a reply. I am concerned that my work on behalf of my constituents is being impeded by the lack of efficiency in the Ministers' offices and I feel that we are seeing here a very deliberate attempt by the Government to delay immigration by white South Africans to this country.

I think this matter is serious because of a number of things we see happening. One is that the small community of Beaconsfield looks as though it is going to be without a doctor. It is very common in Australia for country doctors to find it quite difficult to find a replacement. Therefore, when we have somebody who is prepared to work in and own a country practice we should not turn him down when Australian doctors are not willing to take those places. In the case of Dr Peachey, his wife is a triple certificated nursing sister. She has applied to the Launceston General Hospital for employment. As the Special Minister of State, Senator Tate, who is at the table, would realise, that hospital needs every qualified nursing sister it can get, and she would have no difficulty in being gainfully employed to the benefit of our constituents in Launceston. In addition, Dr Peachey has special skills relating to underwater medicine. The area of Beaconsfield is in close proximity to the Australian Maritime College and I understand that his skills would be of great assistance to the students and the staff of the College.

I am concerned that these delays are occurring for quite deliberate reasons but, if they are not, they indicate severe inefficiencies in both Ministers' offices. I draw this matter to the attention of the Senate not in the hope of scoring political points, particularly against the Government, but in the hope that something can be urgently done to facilitate the immigration of two people to my State who would offer a lot to people in the community in the village of Beaconsfield, in the Launceston General Hospital and in the Australian Maritime College. They seem to me to be just the sort of immigrants we need, and I cannot understand why after seven months Dr Peachey still has no answer and why after four months there has still been no answer to me.