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Tuesday, 16 September 1958
Page: 1288

Mr DOWNER (Angas) (Minister for Immigration) . - I know that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has long been interested in the effect of clause 13. I recall that he adverted to it in his speech on the motion for the second-reading of the bill. I told him then by way of interjection-

Mr Clarey - You did; you said you would give a satisfactory assurance.

Mr DOWNER - As my honorable friend says, I said that the assurance would be satisfactory. I hope, Sir, that he will find it so to-night. These problems have been considered for some time by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, of which the honorable member for Bendigo is a distinguished member. Both sides of the Parliament are represented on the council. The committee may be interested to know that the council has recommended to me that deportation should take place under clause 1 3 (c) only in those cases where the disease existed prior to the entry of the migrant to Australia and the migrant - this is the effective part - knowingly and deceitfully concealed the existence of the disease in order to gain entry.

Mr Barnard - Would the department not have that information before the migrant came to Australia?

Mr DOWNER - Not necessarily.

Mr Clarey - Not if he concealed it.

Mr DOWNER - That is the whole point of what .1 am saying. I should .like to assure the .committee that long before these points were raised, I adopted the recommendation of the council. The proposition of the council has been practised by me for some time already. But I should like to utter a caution here. There is one aspect of the matter that can be, with the best intentions in the world, overlooked. One must envisage the circumstance that it could be in the interest of the migrant that deportation should proceed. For example, an unfortunate inmate of one of these mental institutions could .have, as does happen from time to time, no close relatives or friends in Australia. If application were made by close relatives in, say, England, for his return to that country, it could well be that his mental condition, if it could not be improved, could at least be alleviated there. Therefore, although I agree with what honorable members opposite have said, that it could be inhuman in some circumstances to deport an unfortunate wretch so stricken, I point out that it could be equally inhuman not to deport him if it could be shown that it might be some slight help to him to send him back to the country of his origin where he could be close to relatives and people who would be able to give him whatever measure of care and consideration are available to people in such an unhappy situation.

So I say to the committee that, while I have already accepted the recommendations of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council on this matter, I propose on somewhat mature consideration of this delicate point to order the deportation of inmates of mental institutions in the circumstances that I have just outlined, when it can be clearly shown that it would be to their advantage to be sent back to their country of origin because they have close relatives there and that they would receive some care and attention which would improve their lot.

Mr Clarey - On the other hand, if relatives here do not want them sent, they would not be sent?

Mr DOWNER - That is so. But so many of these deportation cases - indeed, I would add, all of them - must be considered on their individual merits, within the peculiar circumstances relating to each one.

If the Minister, whoever he happens to be, is not prepared to do that, then, of course, he is failing in this part of his functions as Minister for Immigration.

The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O'Connor) asked me how many inmates of mental hospitals are affected by these clauses. He may be interested to know that over the last three years the average number of those who have come within this category is approximately 30. I have not the figures with me to go back further, but that will give the honorable member some idea of the scope involved in this proposition.

Earlier in his remarks, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) touched on the question involved in paragraph (a) and, of course, nobody could disagree with what he said as to the implications of that paragraph. The honorable member mentioned a certain deportation case which is pending at the moment, and I deliberately wish to avoid having to discuss a matter which, in my own mind, is not concluded, for fear that I should prejudice whatever fresh evidence may be given to me; and I hope that will be given soon.

The whole question of deportation involves the ministerial discretion. It goes back to the personal factor, the personal equation, the type of Minister you have, and what standards, what principles he is willing to bring to these very important individual cases that come under his notice. I think honorable members will agree that my two immediate predecessors, the present Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley) and the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), just to take the two gentlemen who were administering this department within my own memory and within my own experience in this House, showed very fine discrimination and great humanity in the exercise of their powers of deportation. Those standards I am endeavouring to follow and to adopt; but it should always be remembered that in certain cases one superficially may appear, perhaps to some critics, to be hard, when they are not in the position of knowing all the facts, all the innermost circumstances that, in this particular department, can be known only to the Minister who has to exercise a discretion and who, in the last resort, has to make a judgment.

I ask the honorable member for Bendigo not to have too many fears on this score while I am the Minister. If it is my good fortune to continue in this position after the election - I am sure my friends opposite hope that such will not be the case but, nonetheless, I equally hope that it will be the case - I can assure him that if ever he thinks that I am slipping from the standards which I endeavour, in all humility, to set myself, he will be quite entitled to hold me to account.

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