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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4456

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I am sorry indeed that the honourable Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is not in the House. I gave him notice that I intended to raise a matter which concerned him. Perhaps he will be in the House before I have concluded by remarks. It is not very often that I bring into this House a particular matter affecting a constituent of mine but I think that I should put the record straight and say exactly what it concerns. It concerns the Minister for Immigration quite vitally. At the beginning of May of this year a certain person in my constituency to whom I refer as Mr X - the name and the papers are known to the Minister - came to me. He was an immigrant; he was a refugee from a Communist controlled economy. He was qualified as a pharmaceutical chemist but was unable for some technical reason to have his qualifications recognised so that he could practice as such in Australia and indeed in New South Wales. It was important for certain reasons that he should have some support.

I am glad the Minister is now here. Perhaps I will start again. A certain person to whom I shall refer as Mr X came to me. The name is known to the Minister and the file is in the Minister's hands but I do not want to mention the personal affairs of a constitutent by name. He was a qualified pharmaceutical chemist but he was unable to have his qualifications recognised as such in New South Wales and he was asking for the Minister's help in certain ways. I wrote to the Minister on 9 May asking could he please give me some advice as to how best I could assist Mr X to qualify. On 16 May the Minister very promptly replied to me by telegram, as follows:

Have received your representation on behalf of Mr X concerning employment. Am inquiring personally. Will advise.

That was a most proper telegram and I was grateful to receive it, and I passed it on to my constituent. But unhappily nothing happened. In June I wrote to the Minister as follows:

You will recall . . . telegraphing me on 16 May I wonder if you would get one of your officers to look at this matter urgently for me as I understand the closure date for ... examination is in July and Mr X is anxious to have clarity before then.

I believe the Minister may well have been abroad on one of his trips and had not returned to Australia. I received a telegram from the Acting Minister as follows:

Have received your representation on behalf of Mr X. Will write shortly. Douglas McClelland, Acting Minister for Immigration.

Mr King - When was that?

Mr WENTWORTH - That was dated 22 June. It was a most proper telegram, of course, but nothing had been happening. Nothing happened at all, except that I got a letter dated, I think, 4 July saying that they hoped to do something about it; but it was one of these wipe-off, indefinite letters that the Department writes from time to time. My constitutent Mr X was vastly displeased at this, but I heard nothing further until I received representations from him. He came in to see me personally. He said: 'Look! I have written to the Minister by registered letter and the Minister has refused to receive the letter'. This seemed to me to be utterly incredible. He said: 'I have done it twice. I have put the registered letter in another letter, and here it is. It came back to me from the Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, Parliament House, Canberra, marked " Refused by addressee " by the post office in Parliament House'.

So I went down and I interviewed the officer in charge of the post office here. I said to him: What is this all about? This is incredible. Surely no Minister would do this - and do it twice. Incredible'. He said: This is so'. I said: Perhaps the Minister's staff has done this'. He said: 'I can't remember the actual circumstances but I am quite certain that we would not have just marked the letter like that - to be returned to the sender - without some indication that the Minister refused to receive it'. I have the actual letter in my hand.

Mr Bourchier - Not a registered letter?

Mr WENTWORTH - A registered letter to the Minister marked 'Refused by addressee - R.T.S.'. I have not opened it. I am told that it includes the advice that 2 letters - not one - addressed to the Minister have been refused receipt. I am glad that the Minister is in the House because I propose to take the opportunity to deliver the letter to him personally now; and I hope that he will not refuse to receive it. The whole matter is utterly and completely incredible to me; but here is the actual evidence, with the endorsement of the postal clerk in the Parliament House post office. I have been to that post office and been told by the staff that they would not have done this simply because the Minister's staff had told them that the Minister was not available. As I have said, I regard this whole matter as utterly and completely incredible. But here is the perfect proof of it in my hand, endorsed by the post office just below King's Hall Refused by addressee. Return to sender', and with the clerk's initials - H.R. - marked on it. It was returned to the sender and the sender has put it in my hands so that it can be delivered to the Minister personally.

I do not want to argue the rights and wrongs of this case or what the Minister could do about it. I believe that much more should be done to see that the technical qualifications acquired abroad by people who have migrated to Australia are recognised here. I am told that the Minister endorses this view. I am astonished at the fact that this occurs because of some kind of attitude - I could almost say arrogance - and that the Minister refuses to receive a registered letter. I am told that in his electorate the Minister is believed to be quite a phony person; that he says all kinds of things; that he makes all kinds of promises; and that he holds himself out to be a humane man. Yet, here in my hand is this letter - I will deliver it to the Minister tonight - addressed: The Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600'. It was endorsed by the Post Office at Parliament House 'Refused by addressee; return to sender', I have been told - and I do not know what is inside the letter - that this has occurred not once but twice. We talk about beggars on horseback and things like that, but it seems to me that the Labor Ministry has got altogether above itself. When I was a Minister I certainly never refused to accept a registered letter addressed to me by any constituent, or indeed, by any member of the public. A Minister has a responsibility to every Australian, not just to his constituents. I see that my time has almost expired. I take the opportunity now of going down and personally delivering to the Minister the letter that he refused to accept.

Mr Grassby - I have formally received the letter.

Mr SPEAKER -The honourable member's time has not yet expired.

Mr WENTWORTH - No, but I do not think it is necessary to add anything further. I will resume my seat.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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