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Wednesday, 10 April 1957

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- I heard the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) remark that somebody ought to " tell the bureaucrats ". Let me say that that remark strikes a note, because in 1 949, when the Labour Government relinquished office, we had been accused of setting up a great bureaucracy. But we had not been long out of office when this Government, which had had much to say about bureaucracy, and the supporters of which are still talking about it, set up an organization, to wit, a company known as Commonwealth Hostels Limited with functions pertaining to the welfare of immigrants. This organization was called Commonwealth Hostels Limited in order to convey to the public of Australia that it was a private enterprise concern when, in fact, its capital was comprised entirely of Commonwealth moneys and assets, plus one £1 share held, I think, by the manager, and one £1 share held by some other individual. The Government created a great bureaucracy with the deliberate intention of handing a very difficult problem over to a company, thereby avoiding all the slurs that could be cast against, and difficulties that could bs created for a government department and, finally, for the Minister for Immigration himself.

The inevitable result of this action is that Commonwealth Hostels Limited is now firmly entrenched, and when a representative of the people in this Parliament lodges a complaint he does not receive a satisfactory reply. The complaint may have been made, not as a result of his own personal inspection, observations, deductions and conversations with immigrants, but as the result of the deductions, remarks and reports of responsible citizens whose integrity and public standing cannot be doubted, whatever may be the public standing of the member of Parliament who makes the complaint. I mention only two instances - the Ministers Fraternal of the City of Williamstown, Victoria, representing ministers of religion in that district; and the Williamstown City Council, which is not a Labour council.

When the complaints, observations and deductions of these people were brought to the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) by their parliamentary representative, what happened? The parliamentary representative received a long screed from the Department of Immigration which told him certain facts, socalled, which the Minister informed him he had gleaned from departmental officers or from the officers of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. The letter ended by telling him that if he wanted to know more about the subject, he had better see the management of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. J. want information, and I want decisions to be made, not by Commonwealth Hostels Limited, but by the responsible Minister of this Government which taxes the people in order to obtain the money to enable it to deal with this allimportant problem of immigration. 1 aired this matter in this House as far back as October, 1956. I have sent telegrams to the Minister for Immigration. I have pointed out that three children and their parents are living in a room not exceeding 9 ft. 6 in. by 7 ft. 6in., with seven 7 ft. high walls in front and 9 ft. high walls in the rear, with the footpath on the level with their living quarters. Families of three and four have two rooms of this size. Medical authorities and municipal authorities have condemned these premises. But what am I told? I am told in a letter from the Minister which has been drafted, of course, either by officers of Commonwealth Hostels Limited or departmental officers, that if they make conditions too comfortable for the immigrants, there may be difficulty in getting them out. Is not that lovely I ff. - f2R]

All immigrants are entitled to the same treatment, whether they come from foreign countries or the United Kingdom. It has been stated that if conditions in these hostels are made too comfortable, there will be difficulty in getting the immigrants out of them. What a policy of hopelessness! ls it beyond the capacity of Commonwealth Hostels Limited or the Minister for Immigration to formulate a policy for getting rid of immigrants who do not wish to leave the hostels, without penalizing the others? No sensible person will assert that there are not individuals who desire to stay in the hostels forever. That is inevitable. But a policy that penalizes those who desire to get out but who cannot get out in order to get rid of those who do not desire to get out is most unchristian and inhuman. 1 repudiate it. 1 am horrified to think that this Government, which prides itself on its Christian treatment of immigrants, should allow this unchristian state of affairs. I am horrified that it should allow its bureaucrats to act in this way. I have never used the word " bureaucrat " in a derogatory sense, although Government supporters have done so.

As I have said, I have been told that if conditions in the hostels at Williamstown, Portland or Broadmeadows are improved this company will never get rid of these blighters. That is what the letter to me means. It represents a policy of insolvency and barrenness. I am horrified. I have asked, in a telegram addressed to the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is responsible for living conditions, that they personally inspect the Williamstown immigrant hostel. They have not done so, despite the representations of ministers of religion and of a responsible city council. Leave me out of the picture altogether, if you like, and say that I am a political advocate. But other representative citizens at least are entitled to be heard and to have their representations considered. The excuse given by the Minister for Immigration is that the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, or some other body that is represented at conventions here in Canberra where its representatives have a mighty fine time - and I do not discount the good work that these conventions do-

Mr Aston - Ah, hal

Mr POLLARD - The honorable member and his colleagues may laugh. They should be made to live in a few of these places with their wives and children. The excuse is that a body such as the one I have mentioned approves these living conditions. That is absolutely horrifying. In answer to a question that I asked about these hostels the other day, the Minister for Immigration said that the meals are as good as, or better than, those that are available at Parliament House. I know that the weekly cost for food only - I am not talking about administration - in the hostels in Victoria is reckoned at £1 ls. 6d. I have never complained about the food and the dietetic scale on which the meals in the hostels are based, but a stage has now been reached at which the inmates live on hash and the poorer cuts of meat and receive only a very limited number of eggs.

Mr Hulme - But they still want to stay there.

Mr POLLARD - I know all about it; I have the documents. Does the Minister suggest that, for an expenditure of £1 ls. 6d. a head a week, the immigration hostels in Victoria can provide better meals than are provided in the parliamentary refreshment rooms, where it costs honorable members about a guinea a day for food?

I am not concerned with making party political capital out of this matter, but I am concerned about the attitude of the bodies that serve as a buffer for the Minister - Commonwealth Hostels Limited, the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, and others. The representatives of those organizations should have to spend a little time in these hostels themselves.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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