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Wednesday, 15 May 1957

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- I desire to raise a matter of urgency and importance. It is in relation to the refusal to grant naturalization on political grounds. I have notified the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) of my intention to raise this matter. I say that a police state is in fact being created among some applicants for naturalization in this country and that injustices are being imposed upon many hundreds of people. I have evidence of two cases which are very definite and show clearly what is going on.

The first case concerns a person who has been resident in Australia for eight years and who, for over two and a half years, has faced obstruction and refusal in his attempts to become naturalized. Many representations have been made on his behalf. I have interviewed the Minister and I know that this man has been refused naturalization on security grounds as a result of a security report. I know that for a fact and I can inform the Minister why I know that if he so desires. I wrote a letter on 18th April, in which this matter was set out in detail, but so far I have had no answer. This is only one case in many hundreds.

I asked the person concerned to give me details of any kind of political activity or anything else that the security service could have against him. In reply to that request he wrote to me and I would like to quote his frank statement of his activities. His letter reads -

In what follows I have included activities which normally I would not classify as political, but which I suspect did not meet the Immigration Department's approval.

My interest in politics originated in Greece where, because of historical reasons, interest in politics is as common as interest in sport is in Australia. As a young boy I participated in the resistance against the Nazi occupation of Greece. When I came to Australia I considered it my duty to take an interest in the political life of Australia. As a student at the Royal Melbourne Technical College I was one of the many that maintained that a tertiary education institution should encourage political activities by the creation of political clubs, debating societies, etc. With a group of interested persons I tried to organize a Labour club, but these early attempts failed due to lack of support from the college authorities.

That is one thing which undoubtedly is held against him. It has been reported by one of these many informers who go around informing the security service of activities of this sort.

Government supporters. - Rubbish!

Mr CAIRNS - It is not rubbish. It is fact. There is plenty of evidence if you want it. The letter continues -

At the same time I became a member of the Democritus League, an organization of Greek workers, and as such participated in its political, cultural, and social functions. I represented the Democritus League at last year's Australian Peace Assembly in Sydney.

Undoubtedly that would find its way into the records of the security service -

At one time I acted as the secretary of the Melbourne branch of the League for Democracy in Greece. This organization, which obtained its support from many eminent Australians, was trying to enlighten the Australian public on the Greek Government's undemocratic way of dealing with political opposition at the time and to relieve the political prisoners and their families in Greece by sending parcels of clothing.

As the secretary of the League of Democracy in Greece I had the honour of meeting quite a number of distinguished Australians in the activities of this association.

Mr Haworth - Who were they?

Mr CAIRNS - I will give names in the right place. I am not going to state them here. This letter continues -

Recently I have become assistant secretary of the Melbourne Branch of the Committee for the Self Determination of Cyprus.

That is a frank and complete statement of the activities of this person, for which he has been refused naturalization.

The second case has the same kind of background - eight years in Australia and refusal of naturalization for two and a half years. Again I have had an interview with the Minister and I know this refusal is on security grounds. I will tell the Minister the reason for that if he wishes to know. I have received from this person also a frank statement of his activities. He says that he is an Australian citizen and a staunch supporter of Labour - that in itself is sufficient reason for one of these security reports. His letter asks me to intervene on his behalf in connexion with the rejection of his application for naturalization. He states that he came to Australia from Greece eight years ago and that during the first five years in this country he completed a fellowship diploma in applied chemistry in the Royal Melbourne Technical College. He gives the following details of his political activities: -

During the elections in December 1955 1 went to Shepparton with a group of A.L.P. members for two days leafletting and pasting up for the A.L.P. campaign. I also marched with union officials and wharfies to Parliament House in 1955 in a protest against the Bolte Government's policy on housing, rents, cost of living adjustments, price control, &c.

During the 1956 waterside workers' strike, I went to Bendigo with a group of wharfies and officials of the Waterside Workers Federation, where we met members of the Australian Labour party Bendigo branch, and explained to them the issues of our strike. During this strike many wharfies helped to form local committees. . . . I also hold letters from the Security Police of the Sudan giving good references of character, and from the Greek community there.

They were received before he came to Australia. He continues - 1 am forwarding them to you. For the last two years I have been a regular blood donor. I have never gambled or been drunk in this country and have had no police offences. I support my wife and little daughter and we are buying our home. It is important to me to become an Australian citizen as my wife and baby are, and I have every intention of living out my life in Australia.

Mr Ward - How long has he been in Australia?

Mr CAIRNS - Eight years. The letter continues -

I served four years with the Allies during the last war, with the Royal Hellenic Air Force.

This man has been refused naturalization on the strength of a security report which is based upon political grounds. Most of the information on these two cases, which I have given here in detail, is already in the hands of the Minister. That part of the information which is not in his hands can be placed in his hands. These cases are typical of many hundreds of cases, where political considerations of this sort are used as grounds to refuse good potential Australians the right to become Australian citizens. I suggest that when these security reports are considered by the Department of Immigration, it never inquires into the background. It merely accepts the reports from the authorities concerned and leaves the matter at that

I say that a great injustice is being done, and that these reports are very often made up by men who have cloak and dagger mentalities, whose minds are as narrow as they could possibly be, who have no understanding of politics, who would not know the difference between a Communist and a Christadelphian, who have not the faintest concept of political theory, who are employed because of those characteristics, and who gravitate to that kind of job because they are natural informers and pimps. People of that sort supply information to the authorities concerned, and upon that kind of information decisions are made on men with records such as those I have mentioned, who strongly desire to be Australian citizens.

I suggest that because of these cases, and the hundreds of other cases where political considerations of this sort are being used to discriminate between one citizen and another, an appeal tribunal should be established so that these matters could be brought into the open, where the evidence against these people could be examined, and where some of the pimps and informers upon whose statements the action is based could be examined. In no other way can we have a healthy community. Those people who talk, as honorable members opposite do so often, about the defence of freedom and liberty in this country, are the people who should be supporting moves for an open appeal tribunal, and such a tribunal will come in this country if this kind of police state activity in the matter of naturalization continues. As long as I am present in this House, I shall continue to advocate the appointment of such a tribunal. If there is any fault in a person upon whom these reports are made, it should be possible to examine that fault publicly and properly upon appeal.

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