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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) . - I feel that I must enter into this question. I want to make some comments in relation to Division No. 270 - Administrative. From time to time I have raised matters relating to the administration of the Department of Immigration. To my mind, this is one of the most shameful departments in respect of its operations and is being used by many other departments and the Government to keep people out of this country without giving reasons. When people are refused admission to Australia by the administration of this Department, this immediately raises the query: "Why? What is there against the particular individual? " The Department, in the main, has been silent on the question. Many a person, perhaps many an intending migrant, has had some aspersion cast upon his character or his previous life by the action of the Government, which will not disclose reasons for his exclusion. The same situation applies to those whom we will not permit to remain in Australia; reasons are not disclosed. I have dealt with the individual cases myself previously and I do not want to be guilty of tedious repetition. I simply want to voice my protest.

I turn now to the administration of the Department of Immigration. Apparently, this Department is able to decide that certain delegates to a peace conference in Sydney cannot be admitted to Australia. Apparently, the only reason is that these delegates intend to attend a peace conference. This is contrary to what was stated in the Senate by Senator Gorton representing the Attorney-General. Senator Gorton said he was not concerned with who attended the peace conference but had a responsibility to tell the Australian public the facts about the peace congress. If they then decided to attend, he said, they could do so. But we find that three important delegates to the conference from overseas have been refused the right to enter Australia on the score that they come from Communist countries and perhaps are Communists. It is obvious, from a reply given by the Minister for Works this morning, that three students from Moscow have been studying at our university here so we have not a ban on Communists coming to Australia. It is the purpose for which they seek to come to Australia to which the Department objects. ls it wrong, in the opinion of the Department, for anyone from a Communist country to desire to discuss peace? Is it a shameful thing for people from those countries to want to come to Australia to attend a peace conference? One is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church whose exclusion the Minister has sought to defend because this dignitary is not a certain bishop who was entertained by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nevertheless, he is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. Is it wrong for him to advocate peace on earth and good will to all men according to the teaching of the founder of the Christian religion? Is it wrong for Communists to discuss peace? Will these people be allowed in for other reasons although they are refused entry to Australia on this occasion because they want to attend a peace conference? 1 do not want to delay the Committee unnecessarily but I want to voice my protest and to tell the people that the Department of Immigration is inconsistent on the question of who is to be permitted to enter Australia. What matters is not who the person is but the reason for the proposed visit. Today we have seen reports of the successful negotiation of a wheat contract with China. Those who negotiated this contract will not be unwelcome when they return to Australia. They will be welcomed wilh open arms because they have concluded a commercial transaction. But it seems that if they wanted to discuss peace it would be a crime in the eyes of the Government and the Department of Immigration and they would use their powers to ensure that these people were not permitted to enter Australia.

I.   direct the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) who represents the Minister for Immigration to an editoral which appeared in the Adelaide " News " of 20th October. It sums up the position concerning the ban on the Russian delegates to the Sydney peace congress and states-

Is the way to preserve freedom by restricting freedom? Would these two Russians really corrupt, convert or brainwash many Australians? Or would more damage be done by building an image of Australia as a nation which bans books, talks, and people?

I ask the Minister lo reconsider his attitude to those who wish to attend this peace congress and to make a decision in keeping with the statement of Senator Gorton that we are not concerned about who attends the congress so long as the facts about it are known. I have previously referred in the Senate to the case of Mr. von Elm who has been refused permission to enter Australia by the Department of Immigration. I do not want to go into this matter at length but I cannot believe that the Department is keeping Mr. von Elm out of Australia because it is afraid that he will corrupt or brainwash any Australians.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator McKellar).Order! The honorable senator is getting wide of the estimates under discussion.

Senator CAVANAGH - With due respect, Mr. Chairman, I say that the whole question of administration of the Department of Immigration is under consideration.

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