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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- The Opposition supports the Bill. However I wish to make a few comments about the origin of the legislation and the proposals announced by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman). In his second reading speech, the Minister generously paid tribute to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who, as Minister for Immigration, introduced the original Bill on 23rd September, 1949. On that occasion he said -

The purpose of this bill is to create by statute a secure procedure for the reception, administration and disbursement of certain moneys received by the Australian Government on behalf of a group of non-Jewish migrants from Palestine known generally as "Templars" or members of the Temple Society. The Temple Society is a religio-economic society whose original members migrated from Germany to Palestine between 1860 and 1870 for " the spiritual and economic development of the Holy Land ".

I do not want to go through the whole of the speech made by the Leader of the

Opposition on that occasion, but it is interesting to recall some of the facts. They may have been forgotten by, or may not have been known to, some honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition continued -

By the use of communal funds and a communal organisation sustained by religious motives, members of the society gradually established urban and rural colonies at Haifa, Jaffa, Sarona, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and elsewhere in Palestine, and by the outbreak of the recent world war had developed them into flourishing and lucrative communities.

Their economic wealth comes mainly from the primary products of their rural colonies. Although at the outbreak of war the society in general had been for 80 years in Palestine and the majority of its members had never seen Germany, they had remained predominantly of German stock and had not lost their German nationality. When Palestine became a strategic war area, it was necessary to take precautionary measures. The majority of the Templars were interned. They were subsequently sent to Australia and some 574 men, women and children were interned for the duration of the war. In 1946, it was quite apparent that the Templars in Australia could not be re-established in Palestine. They had no desire to be transported to Germany. It was found that many of these people were anxious to settle in Australia after the war. Mr. Justice Hutchins of the Supreme Court of Tasmania presided over an inquiry and reported on applications for Australian citizenship. It was decided that all but 70 of the Templars would be eligible to take up residence in Australia and become Australian citizens. A recommendation to this effect was approved by the Minister and the Templars became Australian citizens.

On their release from internment the Templars in Australia applied for landing permits for members of the Society who still remained in Palestine or Germany and they asked that the Government assist them officially in the liquidation of their valuable Palestinian assets and the transfer of the proceeds to Australia. The Government sent' a mission to Palestine in 1948. Subsequently 270 Templars from Palestine, who had been evacuated to Cyprus for their own safety, were selected for migration to

Australia and joined their relatives here. They had assets totalling about £3,500,000 sterling for distribution. This money was derived mostly from liquidation of the Templar colony at Sarono and then vested with other German assets in the Palestine Government to be transferred to the United Kingdom for eventual disbursement to Templars in Australia.

In 1949 much of the property remained unsold. Naturally it was necessary to have some legislation whereby this might be disbursed to the people concerned. Arising out of that background, the present Act was introduced by the Minister for Immigration of the day for the purposes I have mentioned. We are seeking to amend that Act today. The Temple Society Trust Fund is, of course, subject to the provisions of the Audit Act, 1941-48. It is interesting that in the Auditor-General's report for 1964-65 the following appears, under the heading " Temple Society Trust Fund " -

Receipts during the year comprised interest on investments and amounted to £26,142, and payments, representing administrative expenses, totalled £3,406. The balance of the Trust Fund at 30th June, 1965 was £739,154, of which £720,000 was on interest bearing deposit with the Reserve Bank of Australia.

That shows the position as at this date. The background that I have given indicates the reason why the legislation was introduced.

The Minister for Immigration in his second reading speech said -

The purpose of the present Bill is to revise the Temple Society Trust Fund Act of 1949, so that, without any change of principle or policy, the fund may be administered in the light of experience and development.

In other words this legislation is merely to bring the Act up to date and into line with what has happened during the 16 years or so since the original Bill was introduced. The Act is to be made retrospective to 28th October 1949 and the principal clauses include provision for payment to the Fund from compensation, with interest earned on compensation as well as proceeds of the realisation of the assets of the migrants. A new clause is inserted providing for the Minister to make payments to certain classes of persons who are not eligible or not clearly eligible to receive payments under the principal Act. I will not outline all of the clauses as the Minister clearly did so in his second reading speech. An important change in the legislation makes it essenial for the Minister to have regard to conditions relating to such payments in agreements between Australia and the countries from which the moneys have been received, for instance, the German-Australian agreement dealing with compensation received from Israel. Moneys originally appropriated by the Palestinian Government for the evacuation and rehabilitation of German nationals were charged to the so-called " administrative " moneys. These charges will now be made against the Fund. Those are broadly the terms and conditions of the legislation which might be termed a simple administrative Bill which is introduced to keep the Act in line with the changes that have taken place since the legislation was originally introduced.

Without being political in any way I might mention that there is one significant feature in this legislation which might well be applied to many other aspects of legislation in this country.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is that?

Mr DALY - It is to be found in clause 2 which provides -

This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the twenty-eighth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine.

I make reference to this in passing, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Those honorable members who have tried to get pensions backdated for six months will see that it is not impossible in this day and age to backdate payments not only for six months but for 16 years. I congratulate the Minister for Immigration on awakening the Government to the fact that this can be done advantageously in legislation that comes before the Parliament. The purpose of that clause, of course, is to legalise and validate anything that has been done during that period for which there may not be legal doubts at this stage. I mention this matter, in passing as I think it is worth placing on record.

I do not wish to quote the full text of the Minister's second speech at this stage but I understand that ultimately between £5 million and £6 million will be involved all told. Is that not so, Mr. Minister?

Mr Opperman - That is the complete total.

Mr DALY - Claimants in Germany will receive more than £2 million and there are approximately 1,500 former German residents of Palestine or Israel who have migrated to Australia. There has been no cost for their passages or the administration of their funds and most of them are now naturalised Australians. By agreement or indemnity there has been no charge on the Australian Government at all under this legislation introduced in 1949. At this particular time 500 others still remain overseas in Germany or elsewhere. There is a need for this legislation and I think it is a tribute to the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who was the first Minister for Immigration that the original Bill was drawn up so effectively that it has not been necessary to change it during the last 16 years.

Before I conclude, as the word " Templars " is an unusual term, and one which takes a bit of fossicking out, and one about which our knowledge might not be as extensive as we might wish I turned up the " Encyclopedia Britannica " and I found out something about Templars. It is interesting, and I think it might well be included in " Hansard ". It is as follows -

The Knights Templars, or Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon . . . formed one of the three great military orders, founded in the 12th century. Unlike the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights it was a military order from its very origin. Its founders were a Burgundian knight named Hugues de Payns and Godeffroi de St. Omer, a knight from Northern France, who in 1119 undertook the pious task of protecting the pilgrims who, after the first crusade, flocked to Jerusalem and the other sacred spots in the Holy Land. They were quickly joined by six other knights and soon afterwards organised themselves as a religious community, taking an oath to the patriarch of Jerusalem to guard the public roads, to foresake worldly chivalry, " of which human favour and not Jesus Christ was the cause" and, living in chastity, obedience and poverty, according to the rule of St. Benedict, " to fight with a pure mind for the supreme and true King".

There are several pages of it. I do not want them incorporated in " Hansard ", but they provide an interesting background to the Templars. I thought it was worth placing on record. Of course, if the Minister is interested he can bring himself right up to date. The article goes on to speak of the Rule of the Temple, the Fall of the Latin Kingdom, the Suppression of the Order, and the Power and Influence of the Order.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Could I ask one question? How did they manage to survive during the generations if they were committed to chastity?

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