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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 219

Mr BLANCHARD(9.11) —Those of us who had the painful experience of listening to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) this afternoon when he gave his usual third rate imitation of Rumpole at the Old Bailey were even further confused when we heard the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) say subsequently in the debate that the Migration Amendment Bill was yet another case of broken promises. We had already learned from the honourable member for Denison that this is one Bill for which we have a mandate. So what the hell are they talking about? On the one hand, one honourable member said that we have a mandate to make amendments to the Migration Act. On the other hand, the honourable member for North Sydney said that this was a case of another broken promise.

Mr Hodgman —No, he said that it was the only promise you had honoured since 5 March.

Mr BLANCHARD —Oh, we seem to have some activity on the other side of the House. I remind the House that control of immigration is linked with the early history of Australia. Its early prime purpose was a racial one-to keep Australia white. The Victorian State Parliament in 1855 imposed restrictions on the entry of Chinese to this country and before Federation all States had enacted laws which prohibited migration in some way on racial grounds. We have in our history the case of the infamous dictation test. The first Commonwealth Government used the dictation test in the Migration Act 1901 as the touchstone of its migration policy. The then Minister for Immigration, Mr Downer, in introducing the Migration Bill 1958 made the following comments:

In recent years, the need for a thorough overhaul of our immigration legislation has become increasingly apparent. The dictation test, however subtle and convenient it may have seemed 60 years ago, must surely appear today as an archaic, heavy-handed piece of machinery, in the category of those singularly ugly museum pieces of the Victorian age, and quite out of keeping with the ideas of the second half of the twentieth century.

The 1958 Bill abolished the dictation test and replaced it with the entry permit . Now 25 years later we are further changing our immigration laws to meet the changing social climate of today. Therefore, I support the Bill which I believe removes a significant piece of discrimination against the one out of five Australian residents who under the existing Migration Act could be regarded as an alien. I refer to the fact that, according to the most recent census, one out of five Australian residents was born overseas. Unless these people have subsequently become citizens they could under the existing legislation be subject to deportation after committing relatively trivial offences. In fact the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has estimated that each year approximately 10,000 migrants commit offences which could result in deportation. Of course, Mr Deputy Speaker, 10,000 people are not deported each year. The purpose of the Migration Amendment Bill is to remove the distinction between Australian citizens and these so-called aliens and to alter the provisions for criminal deportation.

In the year 1981-82 a total of 862 deportation orders was made by the Australian Government on grounds which included criminal offences, failure to comply with conditions of temporary entry, health, and mental health, or cases involving illegal entrants. Of that number, 109 deportations took place on the basis of criminal convictions. In Australia at the moment there are still a further 209 people for whom deportation orders have been issued. These include 17 people presently serving gaol terms. Deportation is an unpleasant but necessary evil. The function of the Migration Amendment Bill will be to provide a balance between the potentially conflicting principles of enabling a Minister to take the action he believes to be in the best interests of the Australian community and ensuring fair treatment for individuals who may be affected. As the honourable member for North Sydney stated in his comments to the House, the purpose of deporting a criminal is to protect the safety and welfare of the Australian community and to exercise a choice on behalf of the community. Deportation is not a punishment. It is not for the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to form opinions as to the adequacy or otherwise of the sentences imposed by the courts for the offences committed. Most Australians would agree, however, that foreign nationals who commit crime in our country can only expect to be told to leave. Australians expect their Government to protect them from criminals who are a danger to society and a danger to the lives, limbs and property of members of society.

Other considerations must also be reflected in the Migration Act. Australian society is composed of people from many different origins. Although Aboriginal Australians have lived on this continent for many thousands of years, the rest of the present population are migrants or the descendants of migrants. These people have come in successive waves, starting with the British settlers. Today 20 per cent of our people were born overseas. Over half of these people came from non-English speaking countries. More than one-third of overseas born people regularly use a language other than English. Sections 12 and 13 of the present Migration Act actively discriminate against persons from countries outside the British Commonwealth. The Act labels these people as aliens and makes them liable to criminal deportation until Australian citizenship is acquired. In contrast, persons from Commonwealth countries are subject to deportation only in respect of crimes committed within five years of entry to Australia.

The Human Rights Commission, in its review of the Australian Citizenship Act, considered the term 'alien' to be inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act because it discriminates in favour of persons of certain national origins, that is, the British and Irish nationals. Clearly, this is inconsistent with the Government's policy of removing discrimination between different foreign nationals. It is also inconsistent with the Government's policy that all non- Australian citizens permanently resident in Australia should cease to be liable to deportation after a specified period of residence. The inequity built into the Migration Act 1958 was highlighted by the appeal to the High Court of Australia by Mr Luigi Pochi, of whom we heard from the honourable member for Lowe (Mr Maher) a little while ago. Mr Pochi came to Australia as a young man 23 years ago and made Australia his home. He married an Australian citizen. His children are Australian by virtue of being born in Australia. However, Mr Pochi was never naturalised. At one stage his naturalisation was approved but he was not informed of that fact and so the official ceremony was not held. In 1977 Mr Pochi was convicted, as has been stated in this debate by the honourable member for Lowe, of supplying marihuana and served a 12-month gaol sentence. He was then ordered to be deported. He subsequently appealed and eventually his case was heard in the High Court-I repeat, in the High Court. The High Court ruled in favour of Mr Pochi. Mr Justice Murphy, in giving his decision-I want the House to note these words-said:

The power to deport should be exercised in a way compatible with Australia's position as a humane and civilised society.

He concluded that to deport in a case which resulted in a family being broken or children having to leave their homeland was a misuse of power. These judicial sentiments are reflected in the Migration Amendment Bill. The Bill reflects current administrative policies, as in 1973 it became official Australian administrative policy that in selecting or admitting migrants there would be no discrimination on nationality, race or certain other grounds.

In concluding, I feel that the Pochi case demonstrates the necessity for firm, just and humane decisions in this very sensitive area. After that case statements were made which seemed to indicate that there had been interference by the Minister concerned. In the interests of justice and in the interests of civil liberties we must ensure that what has happened in the past does not happen again. I commend this Bill to the House.