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Tuesday, 5 July 1949

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has, at times, rendered great service to Australia in his administration of the Department of Immigration, but he is in grave danger of cancelling out at least portion of the credit that is due to him for that service by harsh, and and apparently inhumane action in one or two individual cases. He has said that this bill, and therefore this clause, would not have been necessary had it not been for the judgment of the High Court of Australia in the O'Keefe case. That is quite true. I take no exception to the clause as it stands, or to the granting of power to a Commonwealth Minister to deport certain persons ; but I do say, and I believe that here the majority of the people of Australia, keen as they are on the maintenance of the White Australia policy, will agree, that justice should be tempered with charity. This bill is aimed substantially at Mrs. O'Keefe and one or two others; it is in respect of these individuals that the Minister's power will be exercised. Mrs. O'Keefe went to the High Court and won her right to remain in Australia. That should have been sufficient for the Minister, but apparently he is determined to show the High Court and every one else who has opposed him on this issue, particularly the newspapers, that he is the Minister for Immigration and that he intends to carry out his original intentions. The law is being amended to vindicate the Minister's point of view. I am reminded of what happened in Great Britain when Gerhardt Eisler, a communist leader, arrived there as a fugitive from the United States of America. The United States of America obtained an extradition order against him but he appealed to a Bow-street magistrate, who held that, as Eisler had not committed any offence against the laws of Great Britain, he could remain free in spite of the fact that he was wanted by the authorities in a country which was most friendly to the United Kingdom. Subsequently Eisler escaped to the Continent. Although the decision had been given by only a magistrate, it was upheld. No special session of the British Parliament was summoned to pass overnight a law to permit the arrest of Eisler. The British Parliament stood by the existing law, and permitted Eisler to take advantage of it. The Australian Government should stand by the decision of the High Court in the Q'Keefe case. The Minister, however, has decided that he will administer the law rigidly and without the exercise of discretion. He believes that it is mandatory upon him to deport every one of the individuals concerned. But do the Minister and his colleagues administer other laws in the same way? If they did, many people would be found guilty of offences against our arbitration laws and even the Crimes Act. We all recognize that our laws are not made to be administered in a cast-iron fashion as the Minister proposes to administer the Immigration Act. He has said that within two months of the passage of this measure by the Parliament, every one of the individuals concerned will be outside Australia. By that declaration he has disclosed his hand. He has done more damage to the White Australia policy by this pretence of upholding it than he could ever have done had he been an opponent of that policy. The White Australia policy cannot be maintained by 7,000,000 people alone. It must have the backing of some world opinion, and particularly the opinion of white races. During World War II., the then Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, appealed for American assistance to i his country. He appealed not to the President or to the American Congress, but to the American people, and amongst the troops who came from the United States of America to defend White Australia were several negro divisions. It is to America that we should have to turn again if we were assailed in the future. The population of the United States of America is not entirely white. There are people of many colours, including a large number of negroes. I am not suggesting for a moment that the power sought under this clause is not necessary. The clause reads-

The Minister may make an order for the deportation of a person to whom this Act applies and that person shall be deported in accordance with the Act.

Honorable members will observe that the word "may" is used. It is not mandatory for the Minister to make such an order. The White Australia policy and the Immigration Act have been administered by Ministers of all political parties, all of whom have had to face problems, if not parallel to this, at least of a similar humanitarian character. I recall placing before one Minister for Immigration - I think that he was a Minister of the Liberal party - the case of a missionary and his wife who had gone to Fiji and there had adopted a Fijian baby. Eventually they brought the child back to Australia and she was allowed to remain in this country under permit. She went to an Australian school and was brought up as a member of the missionary's family. However, the immigration authorities finally rooted the case out, and said that the girl, then seventeen or eighteen years of age, would have to be returned to the islands because she was a Polynesian. But the Minister did not send her away in spite of the advice of his departmental officers. He allowed the child to remain in this country. I have no doubt that the present Minister for Immigration himself has exercised his discretion at times in a similar way. I hope that when this measure has been passed - it will be passed because the Government has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament - the Minister will not be harsh and unreasoning, particularly to the O'Keefe family. I do not know any of them, nor do I know anything about them except what I have read in the newspapers, but I know that they had the: courage to take their case to the highest tribunal in the land, and were upheld by it. This measure seems to be an attempt by the Government to assert its authority over a decision of the High Court. I hope that these people will not be made victims of this clause. I am of the opinion that if the O'Keefes, and a handful of people like them, who .were the friends of the Dutch, are sent back to Indonesia after seven years to what will be a completely foreign environment, their lives might be forfeited within a short time of their arrival there.

Mr Calwell - What would be wrong with the Dutch taking them back to Holland?

Mr ANTHONY - What would be wrong with allowing them to remain in Australia? I am not going to join issue with the Minister over the question whether a vote against this clause would be a vote against the White Australia policy. No one on this side of the committee advocates any alteration of that policy, and during the last fifteen year9 there has certainly been very little evidence that it is being broken down. In 1933, there were 22,000 Asiatics in Australia, and in 1947 there were only 21,000, including the 800 refugees now under, consideration. The White Australia policy is not being endangered by the presence of such a small number of Asiatics. I trust that the Minister will exercise with mercy and discretion the power with which this measure will invest him.

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