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Tuesday, 16 September 1958
Page: 1284

Mr DOWNER (Angas) (Minister for Immigration) . - Prima facie, what the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has said would have some appeal, and I sympathize with him in the point of view that he has advanced. Undoubtedly, we could get many desirable citizens - men with a spirit of enterprise and fine characteristics who .are seeing Australia for the first time and would like to desert from their ships - =if we were prepared to allow them to remain.

Mr Thompson - These are not hypothetical cases; they are real.

Mr DOWNER - In my relatively short time as Minister, I have had to deal with quite a number of them myself, but when you advance every argument you can think of in favour of the deserter and allowing him to remain, I suggest that you have to look at the problem in relation to the overall immigration policy of Australia. If you are going to let it be known that you will not take action against deserters, you will encourage that very process. The word will be spread around, not only in one shipping company but throughout the crews of every line trading to Australia. The Government would soon receive the most widespread protests from all shipping companies, quite apart from any other disadvantage accruing therefrom. I should think that there is a strong need to proclaim our policy to deter this sort of practice from becoming general.

Mr Thompson - The bill will preserve the position as it is now?

Mr DOWNER - Yes. There is no substantial change in this provision, but I am trying to explain the reasons for it. In my own time as a private member of the Parliament, I was attracted by this sort of argument. I think one can look at it correctly only if one tries to envisage Australia's immigration policy in terms of being a balanced1 and most carefully planned programme. If you are, in effect, going to underwrite the whole business of desertion and wink an eye at it, so to speak, you will do something to undermine that policy and throw it into imbalance. Therefore, by enforcing the present system of dealing with deserters, we may lose some desirable types of immigrants, it is true, but looking at the matter in its totality, it is wiser to adhere to the present policy and continue in the actions we have taken in the past.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9-

Where an immigrant who is the holder of an entry permit leaves Australia, the entry permit has no force or effect in relation to him upon or after his re-entry into Australia.

Mr DOWNER (Angas) (Minister for Immigration) , - I move -

Ar the end of clause. 9, add the following subclause: - " (2.) The last preceding sub-section does not apply in relation to a temporary entry permit upon or after a re-entry of the holder into Australia after having left Australia if -

(a)   within six months before that re-entry, an authorized officer made a notation on the entry permit to the effect that the permit would not be invalidated by absence of the holder from Australia; and

(b)   at the time of the re-entry, the entry per mit has not, or had not, expired or been cancelled.".

Sir, thepurpose of this amendment is to obviate the need for fresh temporary entry permits to be issued to Asian students each time they return to Australia after vacation in their home countries. Whereas the normal entry permit granted to migrants will, as the committee by now knows, take the form of simple stamps placed in their passports, temporary entry, permits, issued to. Asians, entering Australia for prolonged periods in order to study or operate as merchants or in other respects, will be issued as separate documents identifying the holders and setting out the conditions of their admission.

I think the committee will agree that, it will be much more convenient for the holders, and certainly more efficient from a departmental point of view, if such permits, once issued, can be made good for the whole period of the applicant's stay here:. For example, in the case of Asian students the permits would be for the whole period of their courses of study, without being invalidated by absence from Australia.

As honorable members will realize, quite a large proportion of the 5,000 and more overseas students in this country naturally desire to return to their homelands once a year for the long vacation, and quite substantial effort will be saved all concerned if they can apply to an authorized officer before leaving to have their permits kept valid pending such time as they return.

I do not think it would be particularly desirable if this facility were to be extended to absences for a long period, and so the amendment I have moved contemplates a maximum absence of six months. I think honorable members will agree that that is time enough for the purposes that I have in mind.

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