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Tuesday, 21 March 1972
Page: 760

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I rise to ventilate 2 facets of immigration in which I feel that either the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) or the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) should have taken a more positive role. The first instance deals with relations between Australia and the newly established nation Fiji. In passing, I think all honourable senators agree that some of the problems that had presented themselves between Australia, Cook Island and Fiji were probably ironed out when our Prime Minister conferred recently with the Prime Minister of Fiji. I was concerned that while the Fijian Prime Minister ventilated certain grievances our Prime Minister, for some reason best known to himself, did not take the opportunity to examine the policy of the Fijian Government as it affects Australian nationals. I am fortified in my reservations by a recent article in the 'Australian Financial Review'. The Fijian Government, as it had every right to do, has adopted a system of bonding Australian nationals and other Europeans who enter the country. They have to declare that they will not become a charge on that country.

The point at which I take umbrage - it is based on an article written by a journalist named John Stockhouse - is that there is a difference between native born Australians who visit Fiji and those visitors who have acquired citizenship by naturalisation. I instance the case of a Mr Maas. He is a naturalised Australian of Dutch origin. I do not know this gentleman; I have never met him. The principle I am expounding is that apparently when he entered the country he was requested to put up a bond of $1,800. The Fijian authorities looked at his passport and checked on him. They saw that he had been born in Holland. Therefore they considered that he should put up a bond that would enable him to be flown back to Holland and not to Australia, the country of which he had acquired citizenship, if he got into economic difficulties. This is not a new problem that is confronting Australia. Some honourable senators will be aware that 4 or 5 years ago when there was an exodus of workers from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to New Zealand there were similar problems. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin occupied the position that Senator Greenwood occupies tonight. We were able to get the New Zealand authorities to accept that all who had Australian citizenship were intended to be equal at least in the eyes of the law. Assuming that this article is substantially correct. I voice my criticism because I fail to understand why our Prime Minister, when he met the Fijian Prime Minister, was not briefed so that he could explain that we expected our Australian nationals to be given treatment equal to the treatment given to people visiting Australia.

I submit to the Minister that if action has not already flowed as a result of this article it is time that action was taken. I think there was justification for arguments to be advanced about the reception and rights of people coming into Australia, but the status of Australian nationals overseas has not always been dealt with as quickly as it should have been. I suppose honourable senators will know that it took considerable time for me to get an answer from the Prime Minister on the status of Australians in the United Kingdom in the light of privileges afforded to nationals of European Common Market countries. I hope that we will be given an assurance that top level discussions with the Fijian Prime Minister will mean that if there have been injustices - I think there have been some at times - in respect of people from the western Pacific region, in order to redress the balance there is an obligation to ensure that Australian nationals who also labour under injustices have their grievances rectified. I am sure that Senator Cavanagh will agree with my remarks in that respect.

The next matter to which I refer is more involved. Honourable senators will recall that at the instigation of the Professional Musicians' Union of Australia I sounded out the Minister for Immigration to see whether there was any truth in the assertion that the relative labour employment codes of the United States and Australia were such that undue preference or privileges accrued to American musicians or non-Australian musicians in Australia when compared with the treatment given to Australian musicians overseas. The report that I received via Senator Greenwood indicated that although in a given 6 months there could be a high preponderance of overseas musicians in Australia, at the end of the 6 months there were generally no more than 10. In making this reference I have in mind a promising young Australian pop singer who was in the pop scene in the United States. At the end of 6 months the American laws became somewhat difficult for him. I am not canvassing that incident as such, but that situation was a line ball and something that should be watched very closely. When I conveyed to the Union representing people in these categories the information I had obtained through Senator Greenwood I received an interesting letter from Mr John McQuaid, New South Wales Secretary of the Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees' Association. He referred to the contention that we were over-solicitous in regard to some short term visitors to Australia and the employment opportunities available for them in contrast with what Australians could expect in other countries. In this case he was referring to the United States. His letter stated:

We do have a similar problem but principally in relation to foreign film technicians coming into this country.

In referring to this matter it is interesting to recall that Senator Douglas McClelland has mentioned what he refers to as our fledgeling film industry. Whilst to some degree we are giving some form of financial assistance to this industry, the hard core of the problem is still job opportunity. Mr McQuaid went on in his letter to point out that he had had correspondence with the Australian Minister for Immigration and the United States Consulate in Australia. He said:

One of the worst situations occurs when United States film technicians come into Australia armed with cameras and sound equipment, etc. and they are officially classified as tourists. They may not be here for very long - in some instances they are here for only a matter of days - and they shoot film which is rightly the province of Australian workers in this area. We have documented instances of this situation occurring, and it is deplorable that it does occur because the motion picture production industry in Australia is a struggling one.

I point out that he uses the words 'a struggling one' in referring to our motion picture production industry. There is no need for me at this time of night to regale the Senate with the shortcomings of State legislation in this field. We know that in the. documentary film industry we have first class technicians. If I may digress slightly, I mention another field in which I could be' prompted by my Western Australian colleague Senator Hartley Cant. I refer to the fact that trade unions have agreed that in highly specialised diving in the pearling industry we have agreed to the employment of some Japanese divers. Yet when it comes to the question of film technicians 'the issue in not clear. It could be said that the film technician coming into Australia is a supervising film technician, who of course should be permitted to come here, but how many supernumaries come in on the same basis? As Mr McQuaid points out, the point could probably be made that motion picture production, of its very nature, is an international industry. I do not think there' is one honourable senator on this - side of the chamber who would not claim to be an internationalist. Senator Wheeldon particularly has always advanced thoughts on this plane. But when we say that we are internationalists we assume that every country will be given an equal break. The letter from Mr McQuaid to which I have referred is dated 14th March 1972. I retrace my steps to 22nd April 1971, which was the. date of a letter from the present Minister for Immigration. In a very pregnant paragraph, dealing with this question, he said:

In special cases, such as the short term entry of overseas entertainers and musicians, special consultative arrangements have been established under which the relevant union is consulted . . .

The basis of John McQuaid's allegation is that if it is good enough from time to time for other national leaders to confer with the United States' President on equality of opportunity, it is good enough to have consultations in this instance. I instance the running sore that existed between Mexico and the United States in relation to the exploitation of Mexican rural workers in the Californian fruit industry. It was not regarded as infra dig for Lyndon Johnson and the then Mexican President to confer on that problem and to iron it out. Having read this letter from John McQuaid I suggest that it is not good enough for Dr Forbes to pen a letter like this. Either Dr Forbes or the Australian Prime Minister should confer with the appropriate United States authority. I have only to mention comments reported in rather conservative journals such as 'Newsweek' and 'Time'.

Senator Poyser - Did you say 'News Weekly'?

Senator MULVIHILL - No - 'Newsweek'. The point I make is that if it is good enough for the most obscure national leader who visits Washington to deal with these gut issues - that is what they are - and to confer with the United States President, it is beyond my comprehension that our leaders cannot deal with the British Prime Minister, Mr Heath, or the United States President. I have researched some of these matters which involve senior members of the Commonwealth Public Service and I have spoken to senior officers who have told me that memos have been exchanged. There is not an honourable senator here who does not realise that unless a Minister deals with a Minister of another country the memos are merely filed away. As one who has been arguing constantly about the status of migrants coming to Australia, tonight my theme is what I consider to be the dilatoriness of our Government in dealing with the status of Australian nationals in overseas countries. I instance first Fiji. Secondly, I refer to the much more important problem of the protection of Australians in a fledgeling industry in which we can do much better than generalise in the way that Dr Forbes has in the third paragraph of his letter to Mr McQuaid. I extended to Senator Greenwood the courtesy of informing him of the 2 channels along which I would be progressing tonight in the hope that in the not too far distant future something could be done about these matters. I hope that ministerial discussions will be held with the Fijian Prime Minister. As to the second matter, I think the day has gone when a trade union should have to deal with the American consulate. I do not disparage the American consul or even the United States Embassy with which I have had many dealings. But when we deal with them it is not considered good enough. Either the Minister for Immigration or the Prime Minister should deal with the United States on questions such as this. When I talk to the average businessman or consular official about these things, the answer I always receive is: 'But, Senator, your Government has never asked for this'. When I say 'You have heard what the trade union officials have said', the reply I receive is: 'At the ministerial level you have not asked for it'. Perhaps I should say, in an historical vein, that sometimes we argue that non-Labor administrations are over-solicitous in their dealings with British governments. That may be a passing phase. Let me say this to Senator Greenwood: I hope that in our dealings with the United States and when discussing matters with the United States President it will not be infra dig for us to raise matters that concern a very important segment of the Australian community, particularly at a time when job security is not what it used to be.

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