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Tuesday, 17 November 1959

Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that a young British migrant named Nibre, with his wife and baby daughter, endeavoured some months ago to return to the United Kingdom as stowaways aboard the Orient liner " Oronsay ", because he could not obtain work in Australia?

2.   Had the baby received hospital treatment for the effects of malnutrition?

3.   Was the family returned to this country from Aden?

4.   Was Mr. Nibre. upon arrival in Australia, charged and fined £15 as a stowaway and sentenced to imprisonment for two weeks?

5.   What government department, or officer, initiated the action against these migrants?

6.   Has any action been taken by his department to assist these British migrants; if so, what are the details?

Mr Downer (ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Immigration) - Mr. and Mrs. Nibre have obtained a good deal of publicity of their own seeking, both in the United Kingdom and Australia, which is factually quite incorrect. I am reluctant to make public adverse information in the possession of my department about any individual migrants, but as the honorable member's question is framed in a manner which could suggest that Mr. and Mrs. Nibre have been unfairly dealt with I feel obliged in this instance to depart from my usual handling of such cases. 1 am able to give the following answers to the questions specifically asked by the honorable member: -

1.   Mr. and Mrs. Nibrearrived in Western Australia in April, 1959, as assisted migrants. They were nominated by a relative in that State with whom they resided only twelve days after receiving every help and co-operation from their nominators. They stowed away on the " Oronsay " in August, 1959, in an endeavour to return to the United Kingdom, but not because Mr. Nibre could not obtain work in Australia. Assistance to Mr. Nibre to obtain employment was given by the State Immigration Authority, the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Good Neighbour Council and the Western Australian Government Railways. On three occasions employment was offered by the railways but not accepted by Mr. Nibre. He was advised of other jobs also but there is no record of his endeavouring to obtain work. The utmost consideration was given to this family, but they spent their time going to various organizations seeking financial or other help rather than employment.

2.   I am informed that the child of Mr. and Mrs. Nibre was admitted to hospital in July suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection. She was then underweight, but that was not the reason for her admission.

3.   4 and 5. The family was returned to Fremantle from Aden by the Orient line on SS. " Strathaird ". No Australian Government department or officer initiated this action. It is established practice of shipping companies to return stowaways to the port whence they stowed away. Mr. Nibre upon arrival in Australia was charged and fined £15 as a stowaway and sentenced to imprisonment for two weeks. He was also convicted of larceny of a radio set valued at £44 and sentenced to 28 days' imprisonment. It appears that he bought the set on hire purchase shortly before stowing away and, after paying a few instalments, sold it for £10.

6.   This family received assistance both to find employment and by way of social service benefits prior to stowing away. On 22nd April, 19S9, six days after arrival, the Nibres applied for financial assistance at the Fremantle office of the Child Welfare Department. They were paid £5 12s. 6d. and when social service (unemployment) benefit was commenced the following week at the rate of £6 2s. 6d. per week, the child welfare assistance was reduced to £1 lis. 6d. per week, making their total benefit then £7 14s. per week. On 5th May, 1959, the Nibres registered for assistance at the Child Welfare Office, Perth, declaring that no previous assistance had been received. They put over such a convincing story of hardship that they were immediately paid £5 12s. 6d. and for that week they also obtained social service benefits of £6 2s. 6d., a total of £11 15s. When this fraud was discovered an adjustment was made, but no further action was taken against the Nibres in regard to the false declaration. From April until they stowed away on 11th August, 1959, they received total governmental assistance of £7 14s. weekly. There is also other information on record about the Nibres which I feel it unnecessary to disclose but which shows that their case is without any redeeming feature. It is a great pity that such publicity has been given in the United Kingdom and Australia to these people because it tends wrongly to detract from the success of the many thousands of fine British migrants who have settled happily in Australia and also misrepresents overseas what the Government does to assist migrants in obtaining employment and in other ways when they arrive here.

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