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Tuesday, 26 August 1980
Page: 755


Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I welcome the appointment of the new permanent head of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I hope that he brings to his position the humanity and consideration for others with which he is credited in the report by the Australian of 8 August 1980- an in-depth study of John Menadue, Australian Ambassador to Japan. I believe, along with many others, that humanity and consideration for others are qualities which have been lacking in some of our immigration policies. Of course, I refer most notably to the Numerical Multifactor Assessment System and family reunion policies.

When Labor is returned to office, after the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) advises us of the date of the election, it will be Labor policy to abolish NUMAS. NUMAS is biased against family reunion and against non-English speaking immigrants. Indeed, the immigration policy in general is biased against any family reunion except that of dependants. There is clearly little justification for such a bias against family reunion. A policy which seeks to allow into this country migrants with no ties and no close family to speak of is a policy which sentences such migrants to a lifestyle without guarantees. Without a network of family ties and associations there can be no guarantee that many of our migrants will assimilate readily into the community. Whilst they may have a knowledge of English and a skill which the Government desires, this is not to say that they will automatically settle into a community whose culture and values may be quite alien. In fact, it could well be a sentence of isolation because a family which comes on its own may have no contacts in this country and may find its situation extremely difficult in a social sense.

The problems of social integration would not arise if the Government's policies were to place more emphasis on the reuniting of families. In our country family ties are important. In many of the countries from which our immigrants come these ties are vital. When they are broken it is very hard for these people to understand the inhumanity of a government which refuses to allow families to be together. Make no mistake, there is little room for humanity in the policies of this Government. The treatment of many immigration applicants is often ruthless.

This applies particularly in the case of female applicants under NUMAS. Female nondependent relatives rarely meet the strict NUMAS criteria. Females are penalised because their economic viability is not considered satisfactory. They may not be employed or have a trade in their home country so their applications are dismissed. This type of attitude can be criticised for three reasons. Firstly, it discriminates against women and may be in contravention of the United Nations convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, recently signed by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). I believe that it is discriminatory to assess all women under NUMAS when quite clearly differing lifestyles require a different form of assessment. Secondly, the application of NUMAS in this way does not take into account the reality of the situation of migrant women in Australia. Whilst these women may not have worked in their home country, many do work when they settle in Australia. Many studies have been done of migrant women workers and they certainly are not an insignificant section of the workforce. Thirdly, the application of NUMAS to some intending women migrants is callous and heartless. I have a constituent whose case I believe shows just how ruthless and inhumane NUMAS assessments can be. I ask for leave to have the correspondence incorporated in Hansard. I have spoken to a Minister about it.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows: -23rd July 1980

Mr J.L. McMahon M.P., Member for Sydney, Commonwealth Parliament Offices, Chifley Square, Sydney 2000

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter to you in answer to your request for me to do so, regarding my efforts and the efforts of my parents, brothers and sisters to try and bring my widowed sister Mrs Ousaline El Azzi and her three children to this country.

The first application was made nearly two years ago when her husband died, and since then, my family and 1 have met with nothing but hardship and continuous refusals from the Immigration Department. Why?

My sister was widowed at the age of twenty three and left with three very young children in Lebanon, a very war-torn country. She has no one over there. No relations and no support from anybody.

Herhusband also had no one over there to help her in raising her family or with financial support. Her parents and all her brothers and sisters are here and she is living by our support alone. Her home was burned and she is living in two rooms, trying to raise her family.

Is this right? A young woman battling alone, in a very unsettled country, trying to live on what we send her.

I will guarantee my sister and her family in all ways, with the help of my parents, brothers and sisters. I have a three.bedroomed house at her disposal and I work at Sungravure My nett wage is $200.00 per week approximately. 1 have the support of my parents, Mr & Mrs Chafic El Azzi, my brother

Elias and his wife, my sisters and brothers-in-law, Tannous and Odette Taouk Maroun and llham Jounieh and Tannous and Norma Nakhle.

My mother will look after my sisters' children whilst my sister works, to help support her children and my family will assist in financial matters. My sister and her children will be no encumbrance on the Australian Government or the Australian people, this I can guarantee fully with no fear at all.

The current system NUMAS, which assesses who is eligible and who is not to come to Australia- could you please tell me, how did my sister fall short? It is all very well to say and I quote 'Mrs Elazzi fell far short of meeting the NUMAS requirements'. How? She is guaranteed accommodation - Anyone from any department is welcome to come and view my house at any time. She has $9,000.00 Australian Dollars which she can bring to Australia with her. Her children have $4,000.00 each Australian in Trust accounts, which can be transferred to this country. She has unlimited assistance from her family and relations.

A list of these good people is available to anyone who would like to interview them from the Immigration Department to verify that what I say is true. My sister will obtain work in a factory and if she has any difficulty finding employment, we will all come to her assistance.

As I said before, I earn approximately $200.00 per week and have $2,000.00 in the bank, which can be checked at any time.

Where has she fallen short? In speaking the English language? This she can learn from Night School, from us and various nieces and nephews, not to mention work.

If after all 1 have told you, my sister 'falls short', then please tell me, who gets to come to this country then? 1 have been in this country eight years and am very happy. I am naturalised, as are my parents and family. We all own our own homes and are all employed. We wish our sister and her children to be as fortunate as we are.

There is nothing left for me to tell you, except this. My sister is twenty five years old, a widow with three very young children to look after. I beg you to please reconsider your decision.

If her case cannot be give a little preference then whose can? We have been trying for two years - before NUMAS was introduced. Why can preference be given to the defectors then. Does my sister have to jump from a Russian ship or defect from a Ballet Company?

I am not a petty person and I say 'Good Luck' to anyone who can get into our glorious country and is allowed to stay, but you do get upset when we see and read of these happenings and a truly deserving case, like my sister, is refused entry.

I beg you all, please reconsider your earlier decision and let my sister and her children come to Australia so our family can be reunited again.

Hoping to hear from you soon. I remain,

Your faithfully, Maroun El Azzi


Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The correspondence is from Mr Maroun El Azzi of 19 East Street, Marrickville. He is a constituent of mine. He has a sister who is living in Lebanon. She is 25 years old, a widow with three small children. The parents and all the brothers and sisters of this woman are in Australia. Her family have guaranteed her maintenance and accommodation. The woman could work when she came to Australia and her family would be available to look after the children. They cannot do this while she is in Lebanon and therefore she is not able to work there. She has a little money saved, which must certainly be to her advantage. She does not speak English but is more than willing to learn. Yet the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has told her that she falls short of meeting the NUMAS requirements. Why does she fall short? She falls short because she is not a tradesman with the skills that this Government requires because it forgot to train its own. She falls short because she is not a ballet dancer or a girl in a red bikini. She falls short because she is a young widow alone in the war torn country of Lebanon with her three little children. She is a woman who has been refused the right to live with the only family she has - her parents and her brothers and sisters, all hard working, naturalised Australians. What kind of Government can countenance such policies? What Government can be so cruel as to force this woman to live in fear, loneliness and poverty away from her family? If this is what the NUMAS policy offers and if this is the best we can do, it must be abolished immediately. Because this lady is an ordinary woman, not a defecting ballet dancer, not a Penthouse pet who can fit through a porthole and not a skilled male worker, her chances of coming to this country to be with her family are nil. It is time that this Government woke up to the fact that its immigration policies are a disgrace.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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