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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 212

Mr PUNCH(6.22) —When I first became a member of this Parliament I laughed at the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) but I now feel sorry for him. It is certainly my privilege to speak on the Migration Amendment Bill and the Migration (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) has put to this House. Might I say as a new member that the Minister, Stewart West, is a Minister who is active in, alert to and sincerely concerned with the problems of the ethnic communities of this country. It would be well for others if some of those qualities rubbed off on them. Those remarks lead me to set out as a prelude to my speech why we are here to make these changes to the legislation. The lead-up to this legislative action is found in two cases. The first is the Pochi case. I mention that case in passing as I do not want to dwell on what the previous speaker said. I simply make the point that in both the Pochi case and the Barbaro case Liberal Ministers intervened to stop the deportation of those gentlemen. Those cases are about as close as we can come to examples to relate to the wild rhetoric of the honourable member for Denison.

In the Pochi case, notwithstanding the facts of the matter, an important issue of principle arose in sharp focus. That was whether there should be substantial differences in the law pertaining to the rights of Commonwealth or non- Commonwealth immigrants. The second matter that followed concerned the spirit of recommendation No. 10 from page 4 of the Human Rights Commission's report entitled 'Human Rights and the Deportation of Convicted Aliens and Immigrants' of June 1983, which, as honourable members should know, states:

The definition of 'alien' should be repealed or reworded to remove the discrimination between non-citizens on grounds of national origin.

Those two matters were of fundamental importance when they came before the Australian public and particularly before the ethnic communities of our great country. They put in sharp focus the very real problems that those communities have when friends, relatives and other new settlers come to our shores. This legislative action by this Australian Labor Party Government occurs in conjunction with the proposal of a broad package of measures designed to defeat not only the legal discrimination that exists against migrants in this country but also the social and economic elements of discrimination against new Australians in varying degrees. It is worth while mentioning, one day after the Budget was presented, that the mini-Budget in May started this process in a financial sense. Last night the Budget saw a 14 per cent increase in dollar terms in the area of immigration and ethnic affairs. That increase cannot be ignored in the context of the broad, sweeping reforms that this Government will be making in the area of immigration and ethnic affairs.

I should point out some facts about this Bill, as opposed to the rhetoric of the honourable member for Denison. They matter to new Australians, whether they be of Greek origin, Arabic origin, or whether they be from any other non- Commonwealth country. Importantly this Bill means that there will no longer be a second class of non-citizens in this country; there will no longer be that acute discrimination amongst ethnic groups in this country. It is worth while mentioning to the honourable member that the largest ethnic blocks in my electorate are non-Commonwealth migrant groups. I refer specifically to Arabs, Greeks and other southern Europeans, mainly Yugoslavs. It would be well for the honourable member to visit my electorate once, talk to those people and see their real problems as I see them.

It is important to note that non-citizens of Greek, Arabic and southern European background pay taxes. They are equal before the law in all cases except those we are describing tonight. They may be equal before independent judiciaries. They may sue; they may be sued. They may be liable for torts and crimes under the law.

The changes we are talking about tonight render it impossible for them to be deported in a semi-cavalier manner, in comparison with the rights of other non- citizens in this country.

This is twentieth century legislation in that it recognises that crime exists in all modern societies and that crime must be dealt with in a rational way. Highly charged emotional speeches have never solved anything in the processes of law-making. Doubtless that will be realised as the case when the Bill is voted on in this House.

The Bill recognises that the most fundamental of crimes which render non- citizens unacceptable in this country are those against the security of the state. It is important to point out, particularly to listeners of this debate, that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has realised this fact in an appropriate manner. This legislation also takes us away from a real, lasting vestige of the white Australian policy and all that that discrimination means. The amendment to section 13 sub-sections (b) and (c) of the Migration Act is of particular interest to me and is, I believe, particularly important. Honourable members may or may not be aware that section 13 states that where an immigrant:

(b) has been convicted in Australia of an offence by reason of being a prostitute or living on the immoral earnings of prostitution and

(c) is, within five years after any entry by him into Australia, an inmate of a mental hospital or public charitable institution, the Minister may order the deportation of the migrant from Australia.

These are two amazing indictments of the previous Government. It did not see these very real problems. It did nothing to solve them. Sub-section (b) which relates to prostitution means, in effect, that a non-citizen born from a Commonwealth country is more entitled to make a living out of prostitution than a non-Commonwealth migrant, for instance! That is what the law means in effect as it stands. I would be interested to hear what honourable members on the other side of the House have to say about that.

Mr Hodgman —You would know more about that subject than we would, Gary.

Mr PUNCH —Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark .

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m.

Mr PUNCH —Mr Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting I had asked the honourable member for Denison to withdraw a remark that he made which was most unsavoury and untrue. I am quite prepared, if he so wishes, to leave it on the parliamentary record. I would then mail it to every newspaper in his electorate for them to see. I was dealing with section 13 paragraphs (b) and (c).

Mr SPEAKER —Order! If the honourable member has sought a withdrawal of remarks because they are offensive to him, I am required to request the honourable member for Denison to withdraw them.

Mr Hodgman —May I say, without hesitation, I will do so. May I also say--

Mr SPEAKER —No. You may not also say. You must withdraw.

Mr Hodgman —Would you pardon me for one moment, sir. It is not improper. I wish simply to say that the Deputy Speaker was going to speak to you. If you had not mentioned the matter it would not have appeared in Hansard, and now it will.

Mr PUNCH —Such is life. I was dealing with paragraphs (b) and (c). I was saying they discriminated against persons of non-Commonwealth migration background. Paragraph (c) specifically refers to people within five years being placed in mental hospitals and such institutions. It is interesting to note that a New South Wales Government report entitled 'Statistics of Inpatients in Psychiatric Centres' shows the disproportionately high and differing ratio of mental illness amongst the different ethnic groups. The report goes on in table 2 to show, in quite definite terms, what should be obvious to all honourable members; that is, that particularly non-British migrants coming to this country are placed under different forms of stress as a direct result of their background, cultural upbringing and the like in the Australian context. Because of these stresses, a disproportionate number of these people, who offer no harm to society in the main, find themselves suffering a good deal of mental illness. That section of the Act quite obviously leaves them open legally in a most unacceptable manner.

Related to the report are the 1970 figures that were released in 1973 by the then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs showing that more non-British immigrants tended to be convicted of crimes-albeit mostly petty crimes-under our judicial system than Anglo-Saxon Australians or British immigrants. Taken with what I previously said regarding mental illness, that shows that the ethnic groups do have some problems upon arrival in Australia. This shows up how discriminatory the system is against them. In my opinion paragraph (c) would deny these people natural justice through an independent body to judge each case .

A most worthwhile amendment is to be made to section 7 (4). It goes all the way down the track to stopping the incentive that currently exists for people to come to this country, go underground and stay undetected for five years and then be free from any prosecution by the law and deportation. The amendment will have the result that illegal immigrants will remain illegal immigrants in the law permanently. Therefore, it removes the incentive that currently prevails in the Act to break the law.

The Minister has also foreshadowed an amendment to section 16 to widen the discretion of the Commonwealth if an immigrant's entry documents are false or misleading. Such a person will be subjected to greater scrutiny and his immigration may be declared illegal. Similar legislation in the United States allows civil court action to expel illegal immigrants to be based on statements made in entry documents. It is interesting that the United States has had some success in expelling a number of previously undetected war criminals by using a Federal provision not dissimilar to the one now proposed here. The Minister is putting nothing outrageous to this House. Rather he seeks to correct very many previously unfettered curtailments of civil liberties. Amendment of the provisions to which I have referred is long overdue. I commend the Bill to the House.