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Thursday, 2 November 1967

Mr SPEAKER - There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr CLEAVER - Your Committee's inquiry into the Department of Immigration was made, not because the Department has been the subject of criticism by the AuditorGeneral, but because of the significance of immigration as an important element of population growth in an expanding Australian economy and because, in the discharge of their responsibilities, many members of the Parliament find themselves engaged frequently with the Department of Immigration on behalf of migrants and organisations concerned with migration problems in their constituencies. An additional factor was the significant increase in the level of expenditure by the Department over the years. Your Committee believes that this Report which, in dealing with the accounts of the Department also of necessity traverses much of the Department's detailed administration, will prove to be a useful source of information for members of the Parliament and the public.

In the course of its inquiry, your Committee was impressed with the general level of efficiency found to exist in the operations of the Department. Nevertheless, there are certain matters arising from our inquiry to which your Committee would invite attention. The conclusions and findings relating to the extensive coverage of the public inquiry conducted by your Committee are located in chapters 22 and 23 of the Report.

With regard to the aliens register maintained by the Department, the Committee is of the opinion that the present form is inadequate and that in the interests of efficiency and protection against loss, the register should be converted to an appropriate mechanised system with minimum delay. The failure to make regular inspections of overseas posts by officers of the Department of Immigration, disclosed by evidence, is not satisfactory and your Committee believes that an effective system of inspections should be established in the interests of departmental efficiency. Recommendations have been made in respect of the control of the use of subscriber trunk dialling telephone facilities, interdepartmental payments, internal audit work, qualifications for auditors, and compliance with Treasury regulation 77 (2) (b) which deals with advances for travelling expenses.

Your Committee's inspections during this inquiry included both old and modern accommodation provided for migrants by Commonwealth Hostels Limited in Queensland and New South Wales, as well as the holding centres controlled by the Department in Benalla and Bonegilla, Victoria. Your Committee recommends that the holding centres at Benalla and Bonegilla should be closed as soon as possible. We felt that this action could well have received earlier scrutiny within the Department. The announcement by the Minister for Immigration on 10th August 1967, that the Benalla centre will be closed by 8th December 1967, has been noted with some satisfaction.

With regard to subsidies paid to Commonwealth Hostels Limited, your Committee believes that arrears should not be permitted to accumulate in subsidy payments made by the Department of Immigration in respect of accommodation provided by the company for migrants and that the existing arrangement under which Commonwealth Hostels Limited is subsidised, and which does not include a maintenance component, should be examined critically by the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Immigration.

In respect of the administrative costs of the Department, your Committee noted that extra duty payments made had increased from $72,122 in 1959-60 to $221,655 in 1966-67, and we were informed that the Department does not make a practice of applying to the Public Service Board for additional positions as soon as a need begins to emerge. Whilst your Committee would commend the Department for this conservative approach to the question of staffing, it would make the comment that, unless carefully controlled, overtime can result in a diminution in the quantity and quality of output per man hour worked, and at the same time can create a sense of false values as to the work output that can be reasonably expected from the officers concerned and, perhaps more importantly, from officers who replace them on promotion or transfer.

Recognising the role of immigration in the development of the Australian population and economic expansion, your Committee trusts that managerial skills, including automatic data processing, will be applied wherever practicable within the Department, in order that the highest level of administrative efficiency can be maintained.

I move:

That the Report be printed.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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