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Thursday, 12 April 1973
Page: 1441

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) - by leave- The Opposition welcomes and agrees with the statement. As the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) said in his concluding remarks, for which I thank him, this policy was endorsed by the former Government when I held the portfolio of External Territories. Therefore, I am pleased indeed to support the Minister's statement today. The Minister's statement is largely factual and I do not disagree with it at all. It is a recognition of the problems which will face the residents of Christmas Island as the phosphate deposits become exhausted. I regard the provision for health and character checks referred to as one aspect of the Minister's statement as being essentially a control measure and not necessarily a means of excluding from entry to Australia applicants who might, as a consequence of the checks, be the subject of adverse reports.

In those cases where it is clear that Australia should should accept obligations for the resettlement of the persons concerned, entry will not be denied, should objection arise. provided arrangements can be made to safeguard the interests of the Australian community by the provision of suitable controls or supervision either prior to or following movement to Australia. The only matter I query is that it is my recollection - I have not been able to check this out - that the previous Government agreed that, in line with the Citizenship Act, young people who were on the island when Australia took responsibility on 1st October 1958 and who can now opt for Australian citizenship at 21 years should be allowed to opt at 16 years with parental consent. Not many would be in this category. Perhaps the Minister could advise me outside the chamber later regarding this small matter. I do not ask for it to be dealt with now.

There should be no significant problems associated with the Government's decisions. The fact that the decisions have been formulated well in advance of the ultimate depletion of the island's deposits will mean that with proper administration the best interests of the island residents should be served. From 1st January 1958 Christmas Island became a separate Crown colony until 1st October 1958 when it became a Territory of Australia by Acts of the British and Australian Parliaments. At infrequent intervals a number of correspondents offered the view that the Government of Australia, of whatever complexion, would face an embarrassing dilemma regarding the resettlement of residents of Christmas Island. This prediction has not been proved correct. The previous Government was prepared to deal with the matter in the only human and moral way possible. I express my thanks to my colleagues in the former Ministry who supported my view that this decision should be taken. This new Government is implementing our decision which, as the Minister kindly mentioned, we endorsed late last year. Naturally we support this action.

Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.

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