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Tuesday, 5 July 1949

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) .- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) sees an enemy behind every tree. He believes that every hand is against him, and that every criticism of his administration is inspired by malice or party political consideration!}. That means, of course, that every public man and every clergyman in Australia who has dared to suggest that the Minister might have been wrong in his administration of our immigration policy has been speaking maliciously or in bad faith. The fact is that every criticism of any substance that I have heard or read has been only of the manner in which the Minister has administered a policy with which everybody in this chamber agrees. The Minister claims that the policy must be administered' in the same way as it has been administered by his predecessors; but everybody knows that throughout the 48 years of Australia's immigration policy there have been countless exceptions made in individual cases. The telescope has now and then been put to the blind eye. The very fact that thousands of people came to Australia in wartime and that the Minister is now attempting to deport some of them is an admission that discretion has been exercised in the past. Yet he says that he must never exercise discretion. I shall draw the attention of the committee to a recent case in which the Minister did what he now claims he must not do. Everybody in this chamber is familiar with the case of Gwen da Yee. a Chinese girl of seventeen or eighteen years of age, who was born in China and was brought to this country with other members of her large family by her Britishborn Chinese father. A couple of years ago, her father decided to take his family back to China and made arrangements to do so. The family had required landing permits upon arrival in Australia. Gwenda wanted to remain in this country and she ran away from home. There was a newspaper story that she was to be taken back to China to marry a Chinese. The Minister announced his intention to enforce the law against Gwenda Yee and', in the jargon of the courts, he sought to have her "picked up" so that the dictation test could be applied to her.

She was in love with an Australian soldier, and there was a great public outcry by various people, including members of returned soldiers' organizations, who wanted her to be allowed to remain in this country. Her father still wanted her to return with the family to China and the Minister sided with him. Subsequently, officers of the Crown Solicitor's Department appeared in the police court proceedings at which the girl sought leave to marry, and leave was refused with the Government's support. The attitude taken was that the girl must go. Public agitation continued, and another application was made for leave for the girl to be married. Once again the Crown was represented, but this time not to oppose the granting of leave, but to urge that the matter be left to the court.

Mr Calwell - Does the honorable member know why?

Mr BEALE - Yes, we all know why.

Mr Calwell - It was a disgraceful business.

Mr BEALE - It was disgraceful for the Minister to say one thing and then to do the very opposite and now say that he must not do so. However, the girl was eventually given leave to marry, and the Minister abandoned his previous attitude and permitted her to remain in this country and marry the Australian soldier. I am not saying whether the Minister was right or wrong in doing that.

Mr Calwell - Why not?

Mr BEALE - At one stage I took the view that the father's wishes should prevail and that she should return to China. However, that is neither here or there. I do not complain because she is now here and is the wife of an Australian citizen, but I do draw the attention of the committee to the fact that the Minister - quite properly perhaps - did exercise his discretion, and permit the girl to remain in this country. I shall offer no opinion on that decision. The fact remains that he took action under the Immigration Act which he now says hs had never taken. Both the Minister and I know that special circumstances were associated with that case. However, if the Minister's action was proper in that instance, why should he not exercise his discretion on other occasions when the facts justify such action? The Minister now says that he cannot exercise his discretion, and that every one must be placed on the same footing. That is nonsense. No two cases involving human beings are identical. Every case must be considered according to its special circumstances as was done - although the Minister denies it - in the case of Gwenda Yee

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