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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration) . - by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) asked me a question on a newspaper allegation that immigrants were being illegally admitted into Australia. I said that I would make a report to the Parliament on the matter raised by him at the first opportunity.

Allegations have been published in a number of newspapers that there is a widespread smuggling ring to get migrants illegally into Australia. These allegations have been based upon newspaper interviews with an Italian woman described by the newspapers as " Carla ", as interpreted by a Mr. Petronius Kuff. When the charges were brought to my notice, I stated that the Department of Immigration would make an immediate inquiry into the charges and report to me. I have now received this report, lt shows that the allegations are without foundation. I table for the information of honorable members and for the public, the full text of the report.

Since the report was prepared, I have considered the case of the woman, called

Carla " in the newspaper article. As will be clear from the report, she is an illegal entrant to Australia, as she deserted the ship on which she was employed. She has a husband and three children in Italy. In all the circumstances, I have decided that

The woman had been issued with a certificate of exemption, valid for a period of six months. This is a normal procedure which does not necessarily imply that the person concerned is to be allowed to stay for the full period stated in the certificate. I feel it necessary to emphasize this, as prominence has been given by at least one newspaper to the fact of the issue of an exemption certificate for that period, and it has been taken as signifying that she will be permitted to remain in Australia for at- least that time. This does not follow.

I am empowered by the Immigration Act to cancel the certificate of exemption at any time, and, upon doing so, to issue a deportation order. If certificates were issued for much- shorter periods, for example, a week or a month, the necessity would arise in some cases for extension while a passage is being arranged for the person concerned, or while inquiries are in progress. It is important that certificates should not be allowed to expire because power to deport under the section of the Immigration Act by which they are issued can disappear if the exemption is not kept current. The appropriate action will now be taken to cancel the exemption and to arrange for deportation.

It will be evident to honorable members when they read the report of the Department of Immigration that not only is there no substance in the allegations, but they have been based on information supplied by what can only be regarded on the facts as now known as very unreliable sources.

It is to be hoped that the same prominence will be given by the press to the facts as they now appear as was given in the first instance to allegations which reflected on the conduct of members of the Victorian Police Force and officers of the Department of Immigration. Justice demands that it be made abundantly clear that no irregularity of any kind can be attributed to any one of them, nor is there any evidence of an organized racket of migrant smuggling into this country. We, in Australia, can expect attempts to enter this country illegally. Other countries of attraction to migrants, such as Canada and the United States, experience these difficulties also, but the department has its own methods of checking illegal entry and dealing promptly and effectively with such cases as occur.

I lay on the table the following paper: -

Migrants - Alleged Illegal Entry - Departmental Report.

Dr Evatt - Will the Minister move that the paper be printed?

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