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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 2045

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) (12:58 PM) - I rise simply to make submissions at the behest of Mr Robert Jago, the President of the South Coast Branch of the Federated Ironworkers

Association of Australia on behalf of a MiNick Papatheofanous who is an FIA member employed as a rigger by Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd at Port Kembla. The case refers to what I regard as not enough activity by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr Papatheofanous has children aged 4, 6, 7, 10, 13 and 14 years. Recently he was advised from his native country, Greece, that he was a beneficiary to the extent of $800 in a legacy. Of recent times he has acquired Australian citizenship. Without going into too many details, he has sought to obtain this money. He has had discussions with the Greek Consul-General in Sydney. I quote the relevant paragraph from the letter of the Greek Consul-General. It states:

The Monetary Committee examines each case individually, and accordingly decides whether to approve or not, the transfer of money overseas.

In this case the Monetary Committee rejected the application. In view of the discussion that we had earlier, I think even Senator Hannan would agree with me that a rigger in the steel industry in Wollongong who has 6 children and who receives a legacy of $800 would regard it as something of great value. It may be rather egotistical to quote one's own speeches, but last Sunday I had the honour of participating in an immigration seminar at which the Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes, was present. At that gathering I said:

The classic area of double standards, however, involves the cases of Greeks and Spaniards either naturalised or unnaturalised who approach Commonwealth parliamentarians with problems which involve their dependants in those countries. Possibly at the behest of our Foreign Affairs Ministry one is sternly told it is purely a domestic matter for each of the Governments concerned.

I put it to Senator Wright who has waited so patiently tonight to hear my submissions that obviously a certain amount of money flows back to Greece and other countries from people in Australia. As an internationalist I do not have any objections about this. I am quite happy to see the flow of capital from one nation to another, particularly when it benefits the battlers of the world. Obviously the case I have mentioned vindicates my reservations about the policy in connection with which I expressed those fateful words at Picton last Sunday. I fail to see why the Australian diplomatic representative in Athens could not speak up about this virtually open door policy on the flow-back of money from Australia to Greece. I am not passing judgment on the Greek Government. 1 could say a lot about the Greek Government but I am not going to rock the boat at this stage. However, I believe that our Ambassador should take a much stronger line. Senator Wright would be aware of the number of occasions when heads of State meet and when Ministers go overseas to countries from where migrants come. There are times when we have to speak up for the equity of people of various nationalities who acquire Australian citizenship. I and other senators have attended virtually hundreds of naturalisation ceremonies at which we are told about the privileges, responsibilities and rights of people becoming citizens of this country. I believe that the interests of these people should be looked after.

I believe that the case I have mentioned is one of many occasions on which our diplomatic representatives should at least tactfully suggest to the Greek Government - and I would Jink the Spanish Government in this matter - that it might be a different thing if the person involved was a Greek-Australian multi-millionaire who had enough economic fat to live on. However, the person I am concerned about works in one of our basic industries. He has a sick wife and 6 children 14 years of age and under. He is a quiet Australian citizen and I think that at least we could express a view to the Greek Government. I do not say that in a patronising fashion. I think that our diplomatic representatives should get away from the niceties and be forceful about what can be done. Whatever way we approach this situation, if the Greek Government replies that we should not interfere in its affairs I think the Australian Government has an obligation to suggest to it that we might have to do the same as some of the NATO powers have to do at times, notably in the case of the Scandinavian countries.

I know that it is now early morning. Notwithstanding that, when Mr Robert Jago, the President of the South Coast Branch of the Ironworkers Federation approached me I felt that this was the place to ventilate the matter about which he was concerned. I hope that we will have a much stiffer attitude in discussions with the Greek Government. After all - and I say this quite respectfully - when we give leave of absence for Ministers to go overseas I think that the problems of the little people should be discussed, although they are too often ignored. I will leave the matter on that basis for Senator Wright's reply.

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