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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2644

Mr BUNGEY (Canning) -In listening to the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and his flights of fancy and imagination I get the feeling that if he really believed what he said the Labor Party would be moving amendmentssubstantial amendments- to this Bill. However he indicated that the Opposition was not going to take such action. One gets the impression that the Labor Party, which has been so successful in wrecking Australia, is now also intent on wrecking Christmas Island. I have referred to the flights of fancy and imagination of the honourable member. To be a member of his Party and support the puerile demonstration which took place outside this place today one would have to have a very vivid imagination.

This Bill seeks to ratify an agreement, already signed, between the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government. It will allow the use of the special fund set up under the existing

Christmas Island Agreement of 1958 to meet the resettlement costs of Christmas Islanders in Australia. As was pointed out in the second reading speech by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), a number of Christmas Islanders already have settled in Australia on a permanent and private basis. The Minister said in his second reading speech that about 450 Christmas Islanders were here. I understand that that has happened since 1973. In 1958 something like 685 Christmas Islanders have settled in Australia and, most importantly for Western Australia six hundred and forty-five had settled there. I am reminded that a substantial number settled in my electorate. Of the present population of Christmas Island, which is about 3300 people, long term Christmas Islanders who are eligible for entry to Australia number one thousand three hundred. Short term workers number about one thousand seven hundred and are mainly drawn from Singapore and Malaysia and there are about 300 other people. In effect about 1300 people are eligible in due course to resettle in Australia or some other country of their choice. It is significant that most of them are seeking to resettle in Australia.

I can report to the House that the Christmas Islanders who have resettled in Australia to date are quite happy. The phosphate rock on Christmas Island is expected to run out in 20 years or so and resettlement is to go ahead as soon as possible. I find it rather strange that I was able to get from the Western Australian Parliamentary records and the Western Australian Hansard details of the projected number of people to be moved from Christmas Island to Australia over the next few years whereas this was not mentioned in the Minister's second reading speech. I want to refer to those figures which were projected yesterday in the Western Australian Parliament. They indicate that over the next 9 months some 219 people will come to Australia and in the following 3 years they will be coming here at the rate of about three hundred a year. The final group of about three hundred and eighty is expected over the following 2 years. It seems strange to me that I had to get these figures from the Western Australian Parliament and that they were not made available to the Minister's second reading speech. This seems to me to be just puerile secrecy for no reason. Either the Minister is being secretive or the Department is being secretive for no good purpose so far as I can see. There is nothing to be achieved from secrecy about small things like this. Everyone should well and truly know the program.

Most of the Christmas Islanders have settled in Western Australia. A substantial number, three hundred or so, have settled in Katanning. A number have settled in the Pilbara area and I guess that the next area for resettlement is to be Geraldton. These people have settled very well into Katanning. They have been readily accepted in the community and have become very fine citizens. Most of them work in the Southern Meat Packers Ltd abattoir and have made a substantial contribution to its operations. They are highly regarded as efficient and dedicated workers and have enabled that abattoir to kill and prepare meat to meet the Middle East market where there are Muslim populations.

A number of problems are associated with this scheme. Additional help over and above that which has been suggested may be required for the Christmas Islanders. I read in the Minister's second reading speech that the resettlement scheme embraces resettlement allowances, free fares and other assistance such as scholarships for further education and training. The Government will also assist these people in finding employment and housing. I would point out that housing is a particular problem in Katanning. It may well be argued that there would be housing problems following the establishment of an abattoir in a town such as Katanning and that is right. However it must also be borne in mind that when people are brought into a completely new environment there needs to be special consideration so far as housing is concerned if they are to fit adequately into a community. There have been several other minor problems but generally these people have been very well accepted.

I have some reservation about suggesting that more Christmas Islanders come to Katanning. I think that three hundred in a population of five thousand is quite enough although they have been very well accepted. There have been no complaints and they are happy there and the people they work for are happy. However I hesitate to suggest that additional Christmas Islanders should be concentrated in a small country town such as Katanning. I think it is important that there be a proper attempt to integrate them and I doubt whether concentration in areas like that would effectively achieve that aim.

The debate on this Christmas Island Agreement Bill permits us to raise several other long term matters to which I particularly want to refer. The phosphate on Christmas Island is expected to run out in 20 years or so but there is a substantial amount of C grade phosphate rock there which is not being used at this time. In the future it may be possible to use these deposits. Certain research work is being undertaken by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture in calcinining phosphate and using it for agricultural purposes. There has been a favourable reaction to this in Western Australia. This product may be able to be used in the future. This emphasises the need to place more stress on the development of the Duchess deposits in Queensland and other deposits very soon. Australian agriculture depends on superphosphate and there is no way that this can be avoided at this stage as far as I know. The Government should take active action to ensure that Australian phosphate deposits are used, particularly in view of the running down of the supply expected from Christmas Island.

I have been limited in the amount of time for which I can speak but there is one other point that I want to make quickly. I hope there will be some discussions about the future of Christmas Island once it is vacated by its present inhabitants. I do not want to see Christmas Island traded to some other country. I want to see it remain part of Australia because at some time it may have strategic value for us. This is something which must be considered. I want to see the Australian flag remain on Christmas Island. I certainly-do not want to see the red flag which was flying over the demonstration outside Parliament House today flying over Christmas Island or any other Australian possession in the future. I support the Bill.

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