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Tuesday, 16 September 1958


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) .- At the time that the sitting of the House was suspended for dinner, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) had just spoken. In the course of his speech he said some sensible things, mainly in paying a tribute to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), but for the rest of the time he made some most remarkable statements. He made the principal error in his address of saying that the screening of migrants should be properly done overseas and that once a migrant arrived here, what he thought politically should have no bearing. This is a demonstrably wrong impression. We could, because of the kindness of the nation-, find ourselves the victims of some infiltration. I speak, for example, of the Hungarian refugees who' came to this country in great numbers after the conflagration of their country. It would have been an extremely simple matter for some foreign power whose ideas are alien and bitter towards us to infiltrate an agent amongst those refugees, and inevitably a great deal of time would elapse before the truth of the matter would be ferreted out. To suggest that, because a person with such ill-intent had arrived in Australia he should be free from deportation or other action is a quite wrong and unjustifiable opinion.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh went on to say that this Government had adopted the attitude that it will take no Cypriots at all. I need do no more than to suggest to the honorable member that he refer to the statistical bulletins of the Department of Immigration or, indeed, to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician. There he will find that this is not so at all. He spoke of cherished freedoms. I could not help but wonder whether the cherished freedoms of which the honorable member spoke would be accorded to an immigrant upon joining the union to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh referred in a speech to this House during the last sessional period.


Mr Haylen - He would be more likely to get them into a union than into the Liberal party.


Mr SNEDDEN - We wonder whether an immigrant would have the cherished freedoms of which the honorable member spoke in a union that had czars, " yes "-men and the politbureau development of policy.

I join with previous speakers in this debate in paying a great personal tribute to the Minister for Immigration. The job he has done since being appointed to the portfolio has been magnificent. I feel that he has approached the matter with humanity and with courage. There have been occasions when, apparently, the Minister has seemed to act hastily. On these occasions, subsequent events have proved that he not only acted properly but, indeed, that he acted speedily and with courage. Without diminishing in any way the praise that is due to the Minister, I feel that a great measure of praise is due to his departmental officers. I have had some experience of the way in which they perform their duties, and I have found that universally they are particularly fitted to their work and very ably led by the departmental head.

The question of immigration is one which is peculiar to every country in its own relationships with its population, with its industrial development and with the countries to which it looks as possible sources of immigrants. Australia is in a completely separate position. Its geographical location bears no relation whatever to any of the other major receiving countries. Only three other countries are at all comparable with Australia. They are the United States of America, Canada and Brazil. The United States and Canada, of course, are entirely different in that they are in another hemisphere. Brazil is different from Australia in that its historical evolution, its social structure, and its entire history and manners are completely different from those of Australia. The United States has taken some 40,000,000 immigrants since records were first kept in 1821. That again is quite a different consideration from those applying to Australia.

Perhaps the most significant difference between Australia and all other receiving countries is the greater need Australia has to attract immigrants. Canada is in the same hemisphere and relatively close - a mere five days' voyage - from western Europe. This makes it easy to reach and easy for people to return to their homelands if they experience any disappointment. Australia, notwithstanding the extraordinary development of aviation, is still a long way from western Europe, to which it looks for the greater part of its migrant intake. We therefore must seek to attract migrants and to make Australia a better country in their eyes than the other countries that receive migrants.

Mr. Deputy Speaker,I feel that this bill is a truly great improvement on the conglomeration of acts which had built up since 1901 and to which a person had to look to know what the migration law of the country was. It is significant, however, that this is the first consolidation of the Migration Act since its first passage through the Parliament in 1901, some 57 years ago. For that reason, I am impelled to say that I do not believe this bill goes as far as it should go. As a consolidation, it is excellent; as a statement of the law on migration, it falls short. I should have liked to see placed before the Parliament what might be more properly described as a bill for a code on migration. Such a code should be as near as possible to a comprehensive statement of the rights and obligations of migrants. This would have a two-fold effect. It is important to the people in Australia who may wish to nominate migrants, and it also has a vital role in being important to people overseas who may wish to migrate to Australia.

As to the first consideration, it is important for a resident of Australia who may wish to nominate a person overseas to know whom he may nominate. It is important for him to know who in Australia can register the nomination. It is, of course, obvious that there will be changing policy. There will be a time when we are seeking to take in a greater flow of immigrants than we would at other times. So I say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a code should be as comprehensible as possible, bearing in mind that policy changes of the day may make it absolutely impossible for a nominator to bring in a person of whom he knows nothing or whom he has never met. However, I believe that we should include in our legislation the inviolable right of family re-union. Such an accepted principle should be incorporated in legislation, preferably in a code. Such a code should clearly enunciate also the exclusions that will prevent a person wishing to nominate another from having a nomination considered.

The principal ' requirement in a code is the need to make perfectly clear to . any prospective immigrant, who may consider Australia as a country of residence, just what he may do. He wants to know who may apply directly to the Australian officers stationed overseas or to the Australian Department of Immigration by letter. Once again, provision must be made for changing policy on the type of person who can come in. I refer especially to assisted migrants. Such a code must state clearly the exclusions. It must state the persons who in no circumstances can come here and those who, other things being equal, can come. I think such a code, for the benefit of prospective migrants, should state very clearly what will be their political rights in Australia. It is most necessary for such a code to state clearly what will be their rights of naturalization, what time must necessarily elapse before they can apply for it and what the exclusions are to their receiving it upon application. I think it should include also a very definite statement, in legislative form, of what their social benefits will be upon arrival in Australia. Most people in Australia know, in fact, to what social benefits migrants are entitled upon arrival in Australia, but the migrant himself may not know and he may not take the opportunity of finding out.

Certain pensions are available to migrants upon arrival, and also child endowment and unemployment benefit. These matters should all find their way into a statement in legislative form. And, perhaps more important than anything, a definite statement in legislative form should be provided to the migrant showing that he is free from any discrimination and shall enjoy social equality. A matter with which honorable members on the opposite side would agree is that the migrant should be guaranteed absolute rights in his industrial activities, in his work-a-day world.

I feel that such a bold statement in codified form would be very good in that it would be attractive to residence in Australia and migrants would know precisely what their powers and limitations would be. It would be most important for potential migrants to Australia to know these things. Such a statement would, to a great extent, free some of the immigration law from administrative alteration and, therefore, would be welcome. It would be of great assistance also to the immigration officers stationed overseas in their duties of screening and interviewing and carrying out all those duties which are necessary pre-requisites for the admission of migrants to Australia.

It is necessary to recognize, at this time of the world's history, that there must be very great redistributions of the world's population. This is a country with a population of about three persons to the square mile. Another great receiving country, Brazil, has seventeen persons to the square mile and Canada about four. But in western Europe the situation exists where the small country of Holland, about half the size of Tasmania, has a population of 10,000,000. The need for a truly great redistribution of the world's population is upon us and must be recognized. Australia must play its part in it, and I believe that such a code would assist that process.

Another matter in this bill on which I wish to speak is the question of ministerial discretion. I know that ministerial discretion is inevitable in any piece of legislation of this kind. In the main, it is properly exercised; and certainly that has been the case .over the last decade. But this bill appears to greatly reduce the amount of ministerial discretion that can :be exercised under its terms. For example, there is the proposed abolition of the dictation test. I do not believe that this is, in fact, a liberalization. I believe that the alternative which is now to be brought in, a simple statement by the Minister of " Yes " or "No", is, if anything, a contraction. In the case of the dictation test, it was necessary actually to administer the test, and if the applicant failed it was then necessary to convict the person at a public hearing in court with all the paraphernalia of the press present. That will not now be required, and, therefore, I do not believe that such a provision is in any way a liberalization.

An important provision in the bill is contained .in clause 14. Under this clause, before the Minister can deport a person he can be required by the person to refer his case to a commissioner. Sub-clause (8.) reads -

When a notice has been served on a person under sub-section (3.) of this section the Minister shall not order the deportation of that person under this section unless -

(c)   a Commisioner reports under this section in relation to that person that he considers that the ground specified in the notice has been established.

Subclause (1.) of this clause provides that an alien may be deported by the Minister, subject to the qualifications appearing later in the clause. An alien may be deported at any time. Sub-clause (2.) provides that an immigrant may be deported if, not more than five years previously, his conduct has been such that he should not be allowed to remain in Australia. A very great difference between an alien and a migrant is obvious. An alien can be deported at any time, and for virtually any reason; but an immigrant has the benefit of the limitation of five years. Paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.) provides that an immigrant may be deported if -

(b)   He is a person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or .of a State or of any ether civilised country or of all forms of law, or advocates the abolition of organised .government or the assassination pf public .officials, or advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property or is a member of an organisation which entertains and teaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this .paragraph.

I think that it would not be an exaggeration to say that a very great percentage of immigrants to Australia from certain of the European countries would fall within the category covered by that provision. The question of ministerial discretion is preserved, in that the Minister will initiate the question of whether or not deportation should be considered.

But a more important matter which arises is the lack of definitive statement of what is an alien and what is an immigrant. I feel that this part of the bill should be more directly defined. According to clause 5 (1.), which is the interpretation clause - " Alien " means a person who is not -

(a)   A British subject;

(b)   an Irish citizen; or

(c)   a protected person.

That is, an alien is somebody who is not one of those three persons and an immigrant, by definition, includes a person who has entered Australia for a temporary stage, who would be an immigrant if he intended to enter Australia for the purpose of staying here permanently. In other words, he is brought within a large group which itself is not defined. The importance of the difference between the terms " alien " and " immigrant " is that the alien can be deported at any time but the immigrant only within five years. It is very important to know whether a person is an immigrant or an alien. I believe that many people who are non-British subjects are probably both aliens and immigrants at one and the same time and therefore subject to either or both sub-clauses 1 and 2 of clause 14 with different consequences.

Subclause (3.) of clause 14 provides that the Minister -

Shall not order the deportation of a person under this section unless he has first served on that person a notice

The migrant can then refer the matter to a commissioner. Sub-clause (6.) provides -

The Commissioner shall, after investigation in accordance with the next succeeding sub-section report to the Minister whether he considers that the ground specified in the notice under sub-section (3.) of this section has been established.

The immediate question to be asked there is whether or not this is, in fact, an appeal; because the commissioner can inquire into a simple single question or he can inquire into two questions. He can, first of all, ask, " Is the allegation of the Minister established? " and answer it "Yes". In that case he is not deciding, as an appeal, whether or not the Minister's discretion was properly exercised on the proved facts but merely whether what is alleged is established. It may be, and I think it would be, the intention of the commissioner to establish first of all whether or not the facts as alleged were proved; and, secondly, if such facts were proved, whether or not the Minister properly exercised his discretion on the proved facts when deciding to order deportation. I believe that in this regard the bill needs some clarification.

I now come to another matter with which the policy of this country has been concerned since federation. I refer specifically to Asian migrants to Australia. I find, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the matter of immigration of Asians still comes within what is generally defined as ministerial discretion. The current policy in Australia has been accepted for half a century. Whether it is time for that policy to be changed, or whether it is not, the fact remains that whether individual Asians should be admitted to this country has always been, and continues to be, a matter of ministerial discretion. In other words, the policy followed for half a century can be reversed overnight by administrative action.

Leaving aside completely any arguments for or against the policy, I believe that this position should not be allowed to continue. I do not believe that a specific provision in legislation, especially the kind of code that I outlined earlier, would give any greater offence than the fact. I therefore feel that the matter should be removed from the category of ministerial discretion and be included in the legislation. I believe that no great offence is being given at the moment. The great influx of students into this country, under the Colombo plan and like schemes, has helped greatly to give other nations an understanding of our viewpoint and our attitude. The present policy Of allowing family reunions, interpreted in the way that it has been, has, I feel, proved to any person who cares to study the matter, that the policy of Australia in this regard is fair and reasonable.

I wish to refer to only one final point. It concerns clause 27.- (4.) of the bm which deals with offences in relation to entry. It provides that, on proof of certain offences, a person shall be convicted. It then provides a penalty and also a right of appeal. Sub-clause (4.) is in these terms -

Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section and appeals against his conviction, he shall not be released on bail unless he 'finds two sureties, each in the sum of Five hundred pounds and each approved by an authorized officer, for his appearand": at the hearing of the appeal.

Only one person in a million could raise two sureties of £500 after being convicted of an offence in relation to entry. There is, therefore, no provision for bail. I believe the intention was to provide for bail, but to ensure that a person so bailed would turn up for the hearing of the appeal, and would not just drift off into the populace and so set a problem for the department, which would have to find him. However, the provision as it now stands must inevitably favour the wealthy offender as against the not-so-wealthy offender.

The purposes of appeal, of course, are twofold - to preserve our long-established British custom that a person is not guilty until so proved, and to give such a person a right to exhaust his avenues of appeal, and, secondly, to allow a convicted person out on bail so that he may properly and adequately prepare his appeal. I feel that the present provision virtually excludes bail, and that the matter should be in the hands of the judicial officer who gives leave to appeal or who would normally be called upon to grant bail.







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