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Tuesday, 21 March 1972
Page: 765

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - Senator Mulvihill raised the question of. whether there had been discussions between the Prime

Minister of Australia (Mr McMahon) and the Fijian Prime Minister when they met recently. I think he assumed, quite correctly, that there had not been these discussions. He was -concerned because in Fiji the migration policies, as he understood them, appeared to work hardship against types of Australians. He instanced a report which had come from a correspondent in Fiji in relation to a gentleman by the name of Maas. I can only say that there was no discussion between the Prime Ministers of Australia and Fiji on the respective immigration policies of their countries. The question of discrimination between Australian born and Australian naturalised citizens visiting Fiji and the amount of the bond which some have to give was therefore not discussed. I do not know whether the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) has been drawn to the matter concerning Mr Maas. Certainly Mr Maas himself has not raised the matter with the Department of Immigration or with the Minister. I say that on the information which has been provided to me. In those circumstances, whatever views one might have of the respective immigration policies, the case of an individual person will not - I think it is a reasonable attitude to take - be taken up by the Minister unless there is some indication that the gentleman himself is complaining. All I can say in regard to that aspect is that Senator Mulvihill explained his case, lt was clearly stated and I shall see that his remarks are conveyed to the Minister.

I turn now to the other matter raised by Senator Mulvihill - the entry into Australia of persons who are film technicians in, for example, the United States of America and who come to Australia to undertake the same activity here. I think he received a letter from the Minister earlier this year setting out the general position. That letter related mainly to entertainers who came to Australia, the conditions under which they were admitted, the circumstances in which they obtained a visa to work and the length of time for which they got that visa to work. The vast preponderance of persons coming in came here for short term stays of less than 3 months. I think the honourable senator knows the letter to which I refer.

The position broadly is that provision exists in Australia whereby persons may be introduced from overseas for . a period of temporary residence to engage in employment. That is as much for film technicians as for entertainers or anyone else who has a short term job here. Applications have been received and are received from a wide range of people with professional; technical and other specialist skills and talents. The consideration of applications in these categories involves initially a special need for the applicant's services and it is upon the applicant or those sponsoring him to establish that need. The normal procedure provides for consultation with the Department of Labour and National Service about such applications and the Department advises on the availability of local labour and, where appropriate, discusses the proposal with the trade union concerned. The procedure is designed to minimise the possibility of industrial problems by ensuring that workers are not admitted on a temporary residence basis to undertake employment in areas where Australian residents with appropriate qualifications are available.

According to the records of the Department of Immigration relatively few overseas film technicians have been granted visas for temporary residence in Australia. Generally those who have been so admitted have been part of an integrated team engaged on some specific short term project. Following an approach by the Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees Association last year - I imagine this is the approach to which Senator Mulvihill referred although I cannot confirm that it is - instructions were issued to all visa issuing posts indicating that all applications by film technicians and similar workers to come to Australia temporarily were to be referred so that the necessary consultations which I have mentioned already could be arranged prior to the issue of a visa. If film technicians are travelling to Australia from the United States ostensibly as visitors but in reality for employment, the Department of Immigration is certainly not aware of it.

I have noted what Senator Mulvihill said had come to him, I think, from Mr McQuaid, who had written to him. It appeared to me that the suggestion was that people had come in with all the equipment, cameras and paraphernalia to suggest that they were film technicians and that they did so on the basis that this was the work that they were engaged to do. That may or may not be so. Certainly documentation of the facts would go a long way, I imagine, towards clarifying the position. On the information available to me the Department of Immigration is not aware that these people have come in under the guise of tourists but in reality for employment. I am sure, from the character of the notes I have, that the Department of Immigration would welcome any information which would suggest that persons are coming in in a guise different from the purpose for which they sought visas. Apart from conveying to the Minister the remarks which have been made I suggest that if the honourable senator has any information to support the suggestions which have come from the Association on whose behalf and in whose interests he has been speaking then 1 am sure that inquiries will be made.

Senator Brownreferred to a matter which has been raised earlier. By way of preface in response to him - I think I mentioned this on the earlier occasion - if there are particular problems relating to individuals who are experiencing delay in getting unemployment benefits or who have been given replies which appear on the face of them to be erroneous replies, I can suggest only that the appropriate course available to him is to contact the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) or someone in the Department directly. I know, and I am sure all Ministers know, that if a senator has a particular problem on behalf of a particular person then the best way is to approach the Minister directly. I do not think that there is a Minister who does not go out of his way to try to do what he can to help. I suggest that in the case of Mr Reay, to whom the honourable senator has referred, that would be a far more efficacious way of achieving relief and immediate benefit, if benefit is what he is entitled to, than by raising the matter in the Senate on an occasion such as this. I will certainly arrange for the Minister for Social Services to have a record of what has been said tonight, and I am quite sure that the Minister will take up the matters which have been referred to.

As to whether or not a person should disclose what his union membership is, I think it is relevant, in the light of a longstanding policy to which- 1 referred on the earlier occasion when Senator Brown raised this matter, that members of a union which is engaged in the dispute which has caused the unemployment or the stand-downs are not entitled to unemployment benefit. Otherwise we would have a situation in which some members of a union were on strike and the other members of the union who were not engaged in the strike would be getting the unemployment benefit. On the aspect of whether or not standing down is unemployment, I am unable to give any answer with regard to the specific matter because I know this is an area in which there, have, been varying legal opinions. I do not think it is unreasonable that one would suppose that such legal opinions and legal difficulties have to be resolved. Is a standing down by an employer temporary unemployment in the sense in which that phrase is used in the Social Services Act and for unemployment benefits? Likewise - I only use this to illustrate the point I am making - is the situation in which a person withholds certain of his labour but is available for other activities to be properly called a strike? In this day and age there are sophisticated techniques and there are events, which occur in which language which has had a fairly time-honoured meaning may not be applicable. I mention that only to suggest that there have been legal questions which I understand now have been resolved, but I will leave it to the Minister for Social Services to convey to the honourable senator what the position is.

I will see that the Minister for Social Services is informed of the other matters which I have not endeavoured particularly to make some mention of. I am quite sure that he will do his best to give as full information to the honourable senator as he is able. As I have said before, I do not think the conduct of the Minister in the way in which his portfolio has been handled suggests that he is in any way dilatory in regard to matters which are conveyed to him or is not prepared when the facts are stated to do what he can to assist. If there are instances which have been referred to where something can be done to remedy the situation, I am sure that the Minister will do it.

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