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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr Chambers (ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that there is no consulate of the United States of America in Adelaide and great difficulty is caused to people in South Australia in attending personally at a consulate, as is required, to obtain an Americanvisé?

2.   If so, will he ascertain whether the Commonwealth passport officers in Adelaide could do what is necessary so that the personal attendance of a South Australian at Melbourne or Sydney may be avoided?

3.   If this is not practicable, will he see whether some other arrangement could be made so that, in particular, air travellers from Adelaide to America will not have to make a special trip to Melbourne beforehand or spend unnecessary time in Sydney before departure?

4.   Is Australia the only dominion which insists on a visé for the entry of French residents; if not, what others are there?

5.   Is Australia the only dominion whose residents require a vise to enter France?

6.   Can some arrangements be made with France as, for instance, was made with Italy, whereby Australians do not need vises to enter France?

7.   If not, what are the obstacles?

Mr Townley - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   It is a fact that there is no consulate of the United States of America in Adelaide at present. My department has not had previous advice of great difficulty being thereby occasioned to residents of South Australia; but the fact that difficulty would be caused is of course appreciated, since personal attendance at a United States consulate is necessary to obtain a vise. 2 and 3. My department is at all times prepared to do what it can to help Australian travellers in such matters, and the question of what arrangements, if any, can be made is being taken Up with the Department of External Affairs.

4.   No. Other British Commonwealth countries which require French citizens to obtain vises are South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. It is also relevant that, although by a vise agreement between France and New Zealand their citizens do not require vises to visit each other's territory, this does not eliminate the need for French citizens to obtain " Permits to Enter New Zealand " before embarking for that country. Such permits, which are required for all persons not of " British birth and parentage ", would serve the same purposes as vises.

5.   No.

6.   The Commonwealth Government has made repeated efforts to secure with France a vise agreement similar to those which have been concluded between Australia and thirteen other countries of Europe. These agreements enable Australians to pay visits to those countries without first obtaining vises. In return the nationals of those countries may secure vises for Australia free of charge and good for any number of journeys to Australia; and special steps are taken to ensure that the nationals of those countries may obtain vises to visit Australia at short notice.

7.   The French Government has indicated that it cannot enter into such an agreement unless Australia exempts French citizens from the need to secure vises for visits to Australia. Australia has not been able to agree to this because -

(a)   as an immigration country Australia has a special need to ensure that people do not come here, without check of their background, in the guise of visitors but with the real intention of staying permanently; the same considerations do not apply, for example, to European " countries of emigration "; it is significant that countries in a position comparable to Australia's - such as the United States of America - have also kept their vise system (or similar precautions) intact; it is true that Canada exempts French visitors from the vise requirement, but there are, of course, special historical ties between Canada and France;

(b)   Australia's remoteness from Europe makes it very desirable that a traveller's eligibility to enter should be established before he undertakes the very long journey;

(c)   Australia's size and sparse population makes it more difficult here, than in smaller and densely populated European countries, to check the movements of aliens and ensure their departure; the vise requirement enables Australian overseas representatives to ensure that persons claiming to be visitors are genuine in their claims; and so lessens the need for very close check on visitors once they are here;

(d)   if French citizens are exempted from vise requirements it will be very difficult to refuse similar concessions to many other aliens.

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