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Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Page: 8

Mr BROADBENT (1:03 PM) —I rise in the House today in support of the Australian Citizenship Bill 2005 and Australian Citizenship (Transitionals and Consequentials) Bill 2005 and the Howard government’s commitment to bringing the 55-year-old Australian Citizenship Act into line with the reality of modern Australia. Australia is a nation enriched and strengthened by our cultural diversity, a result of successive waves of migrants to our shores. Since 1945, we have welcomed more than six million immigrants to help build the nation we enjoy today. I want to speak on this legislation because of the importance I place on citizenship. This is born out of my own life experiences and those migrant families that have had an influence on my own life.

What I see in the eyes of Vince Madafferi is the depth and breadth of more than four generations of the Italian-Australian tradition. I see oceans of respect for family traditions and for one another, especially for children. I see the love of a patriarch that transcends immediate family and generosity without bounds. I see eyes that mirror a love of country and the benefits his family has bestowed and received. His eyes betray the years of hard physical labour for goals set and met and a life fully lived, exposing the heart of his community and, in turn, soaking up all he surveys with simple, quiet and unsullied pride.

Yes, I see in the eyes of the father the future of the sons and their sons—the eyes of his father, Antonio Madafferi, who, with vision and bravado, launched his family on a new frontier: Australia, the great south land. I see in Vincent’s eyes good soil, rich and fertile, and the planting of a nation ready to flourish in our multicultural landscape. In his eyes I see my life too, moulded by the Venturas, the Todaros, the Adonis, the Di Pietros, the Bombacis, the Bucellos, the Lugistos and the Lamattinas to name a few, and, most recently, the Priscilla Ruffolos of this world, the Thomas Lammanas and the Joe Mirabellas. I see in Vince Madafferi’s eyes a world enriched for his being.

Attending the Italian Chamber of Commerce dinner on Friday, I saw the embodiment of a migrant success story that has been repeated across Australia. The industriousness of these groups is legendary. There was an Italian family that had a small vegetable patch in their yard behind our shop and it was the envy of the neighbourhood. My mother remarked jokingly, ‘If we’re not careful they will end up buying all of our farms in the district.’ So what happened? They eventually bought a farm. And then what happened? They bought the farm next door and the one next door to that. But far from posing a threat to our farming community, these industrious Italian families enriched it. As in other walks of life, they used the often basic skills they brought with them to grasp opportunities that we native-born Australians often failed to see or simply lacked the drive to take advantage of.

And these success stories extended beyond the Italian community, which was perhaps the most visible because of their numbers, particularly in my area. The opportunities offered by a welcoming Australia were embraced by all migrant groups at every level. Their success stories range from the most humble to the most exalted, from the small family businesses to the largest corporations in Australia, some of them now global operations. They include people like Frank Lowy, a native of the former Czechoslovakia, who came to Australia as a 12-year-old and now heads the Westfield property empire, and Polish born Richard Pratt, who came to Australia aged four and is now one of Australia’s leading businessmen and philanthropists.

But the achievement of migrant Australians is not limited to business. Sir Gustav Nossal achieved greatness as an immunologist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne and was named Australian of the Year in 2000. The Victorian Governor, Professor David de Kretser, also had a distinguished career in medicine and research before his appointment earlier this year.

The one thing common to all of their stories is the way in which they embraced their Australian citizenship and made it central to their success while maintaining their links with their cultural heritage. It is the threads of these cultural ties, woven as they are into a vast tapestry, that make up the cosmopolitan community Australia has become. As our national anthem says in the second verse:

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair.

As a people, we come from around 200 countries of origin. Yet, despite our linguistic, cultural and religious diversity, and with 22 per cent of us born overseas, we have worked hard to maintain our strong sense of national unity. As foreign conflicts divide the world, our community seems to have a renewed sense of common purpose, which brings us closer. One key to national unity is citizenship, a glue holding our culturally diverse society more closely together.

Successfully managing our diversity means emphasising the unity we have, and we do this through public citizenship ceremonies. As I move around my electorate of McMillan in Gippsland and attend these citizenship ceremonies, I am humbled by the enormous sense of pride and sense of belonging the candidates for citizenship display. The Australian citizenship pledge is about loyalty to Australia, its people and its democratic traditions; respect for each other’s rights and liberties; and a promise to uphold and obey our laws. It is about responsibilities as well as the benefits of belonging.

The Australian Citizenship Act 1948—originally titled the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948—was proclaimed to commence operation from 26 January 1949. The introduction of the 1948 act took place in the context of establishing Australian citizenship for the first time, while maintaining the status of ‘British subject’ for Australians. In the intervening 57 years the concepts of Australian nationality and citizenship have greatly evolved, and the 1948 act has been amended 36 times. The Citizenship Bill makes a sensible restructuring of the 1948 act in line with recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration in 1994, the Australian Citizenship Council in 2000 and the 2005 Senate committee inquiry into Australian expatriates.

Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. The Australian government, the Howard government, is working with communities to harness this strength to the benefit of all. It is developing innovative policies and programs. This bill will provide a passage for the Australian Citizenship Act 2005 and Australian Citizenship (Transitionals and Consequentials) Act 2005 to be a part of that innovation. Australian Citizenship is the cornerstone of our society and the bond which unites us as a nation. Australian citizenship is the passport to membership of the Australian family.