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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 1104

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - I wish to refer tonight to a matter relating to the Department of Immigration. I informed the office of the Minister of Immigration (Dr Forbes) that I would be raising this matter and I had hoped that he would have been here. The matter concerns a constituent of mine, Mrs Larraine Carbonaro who has had her 18-months old son abducted and taken to Malta by her estranged husband. Her husband, who is a Maltese national, had been in Australia for 9 years. He married the girl 2 years ago but they separated by mutual consent. They had a child during the period of the marriage and the child was 18 months old as at last May when he was abducted. The father visited the child regularly and returned it early in the evenings. On 31st May this year he collected the child as normal but, unbeknown to the mother, he took the child on a Qantas flight on Maltese passport No. A 12999 and flew to Malta.

He was able to do this because the child was endorsed on his Maltese passport. I telephoned the Maltese High Commission, and the passport officer told me that it is within the provisions of Maltese law that a father can endorse his son on his own passport without the mother's consent. We have permitted a Maltese national to abduct an Australian child with impunity. The child was not subject to any court order in Australia but, had it been, our court order would have been nullified in deference to the immigration laws of another country. I think this is a hopeless position. I have spoken to officers of the Department of Immigration and they have informed me, rightly or wrongly, that the Department has no responsibility in this matter. Had the father been travelling on an Australian passport the Department would have accepted some responsibility, but, according to the officers to whom I spoke, because he was travelling on a Maltese passport the Department had no responsibility. Because of this we have the situation where an Australian child, born to an Australian mother, was taken from Australia on a Maltese passport, without her consent, and she is left in Australia with her 18-month old child in Malta. I do not know the provisions of the immigration law relative to this matter, but I should not think they would be so loose as to allow that situation to occur. If they are not so loose as that, the Commonwealth has acted at least negligently in permitting the child to be taken from Australia.

In any. judicial separation or divorce proceedings custody is always given to the mother. Even in many cases where the mother has been a woman of ill fame the court still has given custody of the child to the mother. But we find in this case, regardless of the mother's character, the child has been taken from the country. I ask the Minister to investigate this matter and take whatever steps are necessary to have Mrs Carbonaro flown to Malta at the Commonwealth's expense and to provide her with legal assistance to enable her to secure a court order in that country for the custody of the child so that she may bring him back to Australia. I suggest that this should be done at the Commonwealth's expense. If the Australian immigration laws have no provision which will prevent a Maltese national registering a child on his passport without the permission of his wife or the child's mother, that loophole should be closed. Otherwise any Maltese who took a liking to an Australian child could falsify documents to prove that it was his own child, go to the Maltese High Commission and have the child's name endorsed on his passport, and take him from Australia with impunity. If this is how our immigration laws stand at the moment they contain a serious loophole which should be closed. I ask the Minister to act in this case as quickly as he can. If he requires further information on the matter I shall be very glad to supply it to him.

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