Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 30 November 1960


Mr L R JOHNSON - I agree with you. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Honorable members just do not know what they are missing. I think that most honorable members have had the experience of a new Australian coming to them as a last resort and asking them to provide a reference of character for the purposes of naturalization. Most people like to maintain the value of a reference. They like to put their names to references for people with whom they have some very close association. Often, of course, new Australians do not have close associations with old Australians, because the barriers mitigating against such close associations have not been broken down. Such things as the language difficulty have prevented them from making the friendly associations that are characteristic of the Australian way of life.

If a system is abortive by its very nature we might as well abolish it. The fact of the matter is that, because of language and other barriers and, for that matter, because of housing problems, many new Australians have not become naturalized. I think that many honorable members will have observed the sort of thing that I have observed. New Australians have arrived here without great economic resources and have found it necessary to live in temporary dwellings. They live humbly and quietly in the community and make no close associations with people in the neighbourhood. As a result, they are reluctant to seek naturalization because of the requirement to have three certificates of character.

The legislation will also eliminate the need for an intending citizen to make a statutory declaration. We can appreciate that this provision will be of great assistance to our new Australian friends, who quite often have a wrong idea about the judicial level of justices of the peace and other people who are required to sign such declarations. Proposed new section 36 will limit the personal details that will have to be submitted by new Australians seeking naturalization. These will be limited to such things as names, addresses, occupations and places of birth.

The honorable member for Bass was very concerned over the fact that so many people eligible for naturalization have not availed themselves of this very enticing proposition. So he should be. I think every honorable member would view with some concern the fact that there is a considerable section of our community whose members could become Australian citizens but have not availed themselves of the opportunity so generously extended to them. Of course, we hope that Australia will not be involved in a war, but we must recognize just the same that, if war eventually comes, a high incidence of un-naturalized people in our population would be a matter about which the Australian Parliament would be genuinely concerned. So we have to look at this matter very closely indeed.

The honorable member for Bass was extremely reluctant to identify any of the issues which might be deterrents to the seeking of naturalization by new Australians. I think he might have been oversensitive about this sort of thing. Of course, new Australians are sensitive about seeking Australian citizenship at present. We might be disappointed about this, but I feel that the attitude taken by the Labour Party in this place over the difficult years when naturalization policy was being formulated was very realistic. There are many new Australians who come here without much in the way of economic resources and find it difficult to find a house. I think that lack of housing has been an effective deterrent to new Australians seeking naturalization. Lack of employment in past years particularly, has also been a deterrent. I also think that such issues as those with which the Parliament has been concerned in recent months might give new Australian people some cause for speculation, and might indeed be a deterrent to their seeking naturalization. New Australians in my electorate have expressed concern about a number of things - for example, telephone tapping, some of the provisions in the Crimes Act, and discriminatory legislation which does provide to some extent for a type of second-class citizenship.

Only this afternoon, at question .time, 1 availed myself of the opportunity to direct the. attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is now at the table, to the continued existence of this sort -of deterrent. It has been perpetuated in one of the most recent measures Which has come before this house - the Crimes Bill 1960 - and in the Crimes Act itself. As honorable members are well aware, the act and the bill are two separate considerations. I think that we should consider these things with which I am dealing very seriously. Not very long ago - in 1958 - the Minister was tremendously enthusiastic about overcoming a difficulty to which the slate Terce Clarey and other honorable members had directed attention - the existence of secondclass citizenship in this country. -It prevailed at that time, and it prevails even to-day.

In 1958, a number of new Australians were concerned about this second-class citizenship, and they demonstrated their concern, especially in the Bendigo constituency, and also in other electorates, when they came to recognize that under the Nationality and Citizenship Act new Australians were discriminated against even if they were naturalized. I cannot recall whether the present Minister for Immigration held the portfolio at that time. I see now that he nods his head to indicate that he did. I and all other honorable members were pleased to see removed from the statute-book the obnoxious provision which discriminated against new Australians. In my electorate in particular, Dutch nationals who had come to this country became greatly concerned when they realized that, under the terms of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, they could be deported from this country if they committed a particular offence for which the prescribed penalty was five years' imprisonment, whereas Australian-born citizens were liable only to the term of imprisonment. The situation has now been retrieved, of course, and we on this side of the House are very pleased with that development.

We have to recognize that in naturalization matters we are dealing with an issue about which there is a general and uniformly enthusiastic accord on both sides of the Parliament. The immigration programme was initiated by one major political party in Australia and it has been carried on fairly faithfully by another. I always take the opportunity to make that point at naturalization ceremonies. I think that, generally, it is a good thing to put naturalization and immigration matters above the level of party politics, and I endeavour to do that this evening, because I know full well the great humanitarian ideals that motivated the Labour Government in 1945 when, it initiated the immigration programme and turned its attention to these matters. I know that that Government was not inspired by selfish considerations. We all recognize (Mr. Calwell) have followed this great conception as enthusiastically as did the initiator of the immigration scheme.

I turn now to several particular matters, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My colleague, the honorable member for Bass dealt with deterrents. That is a matter that we must consider very seriously. I understand that something like 47 per cent, of the new Australians who have come to this country have not applied for naturalization. This is a matter of great concern.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is 47 per cent, of those who are eligible.


Mr L R JOHNSON - That is so. I think that something like 416.000 is the number given in the very good report made available by the Department of Immigration.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Perhaps they contemplate returning to a country with a better government.


Mr L R JOHNSON - Frankly, my view is that even a bad Liberal government in Australia is probably better than are governments in most other countries.


Mr Downer - Most of those who return to their own countries want to come back here.


Mr L R JOHNSON - I think that is the case.

On 1st September, I directed to the Minister several questions about naturalization. 'They were answered on 20th September. I asked--

How many applications for naturalization have been unsuccessful during each of the last ten years?

The answer to this question has been referred to at some length by the honorable member for Bass, who led for the Opposition in the debate on this measure. The figures are astounding. They establish that there is a growing incidence of rejections of applications for naturalization. Between 1st July and 31st December, 1950, 45 were rejected: in 1951, 103; in 1952, 76: in 1953, 152. The figure moves up steadily and eventually attains a very high level. In 1954, 238 applications were rejected; in 1955, 645; in 1956, 757; in 1957, 1.290; in 1958, 1,312; and in 1959, 2.531. Between 1st January and 30th June, of this year, 972 applications were rejected. A total of 8,121 applications for naturalization have been rejected over the last ten years. That is a pretty serious state of affairs.


Mr Curtin - Why have these applications been rejected?


Mr L R JOHNSON - The honorable member is justified in asking that question. Many people throughout Australia, also, are anxious to ascertain the reason, because they cannot help but feel that this record of rejected applications for naturalization fits into a pattern which is characterized by telephone tapping, measures like the Crimes Bill 1960 and other repressive legislation, and various pernicious practices. We want to know why these people have been refused naturalization.

Let us have a look at the nationalities of those whose applications for naturalization have been rejected. Applications from 4,076 Italians have been rejected. I notice that 209,000 Italians have received the benefit of assisted passages. We might be justified in wondering how many of the 4,076 whose applications were rejected came out on assisted passages at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. A total of 913 Polish applicants have been refused naturalization, and 76,000 Polish people have come to Australia on assisted passages. Have we granted assisted passages to Polish people who have come to Australia only to reject on some ground which is unknown to Australians generally their applications for naturalization?


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You can blame the faceless informers for the rejection of the applications of those people.


Mr L R JOHNSON - That could be so, and I shall make a few comments about that proposition shortly.

Applications from 714 Greeks have been rejected. I notice that 70,000 Greeks have received assisted pasages. So the situation is rather serious. I remember that, not very long ago, I suggested to the Minister, at question time in this House, that migrants whose applications for naturalization have been rejected suffer unduly and unjustifiably as a consequence of the rejection. That is a fair proposition. Migrants may have relinquished their jobs and their homes in order to come to this country. Indeed, they may virtually have been enticed to come here. I know that the Minister for Immigration recognizes that throughout the world immigration is competitive to-day. We want to get people who will fit into the Australian developmental programme and who can work for its success. We want young and healthy people. Other countries which are seeking migrants look for the same categories of people. We worked very hard to get a good type of immigrant. Recently the Minister went overseas-


Mr Downer - With very fruitful results.


Mr L R JOHNSON - I think the Minister's visit probably did have fruitful results. I think he means that our overseas immigration posts were made smarter so that they could do a good job in enticing people to come here. The Minister recognized that Australia is competing with other countries for immigrants and he wanted to make sure that our overseas immigration posts were capable of attracting a good share of the available immigrants. Having resided here for five years, the immigrant applies for naturalization, but for some unknown reason many applications are rejected. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) is interjecting. I do not know whether he maintains a close association with his constituents, but those of us who do know that many applicants for naturalization are not told why their applications are refused. Who rejects their applications? I think any of us would agree that police authorities in Australia or elsewhere in the world cannot be completely trusted. All of us know that police prosecutions have often been upset by unbiased people sitting in judicial positions in our Australian courts. I have a great deal of respect for the police, but I would not like to put my faith in them if the reputation of my family, my social prestige and my job were at stake. Not very long ago I suggested to the Minister that he set up an independent tribunal of, say, retired judges, to inquire into rejections for naturalization. Applications for naturalization are made the subject of security reports. Unfortunately the Minister has not so far agreed to my suggestion. I know that he has made good headway and I think that he would be helping further to break down the barriers if he considered my suggestion.

The honorable member for Herbert looks sceptical. A workers' club in my electorate recently rejected summarily an application by a man for membership. That man was a builder, and following the rejection of his application for club membership his reputation collapsed overnight. I venture to say that the same thing will happen to new Australians who apply for naturalization and who are rejected. They have survived the department's screening overseas. I do not think that the department is lax in its screening methods. I venture to say that it has very efficient people inquiring into the bona fides of applicants for immigration to Australia.


Mr James - I seriously doubt it.


Mr L R JOHNSON - I know that many people who have applied to come to this country as immigrants have been refused for security reasons. I submit that f a person survives the department's strict screening overseas and the extensive medical examination, his application should not be rejected out of hand merely on the basis of a security report. Very often intending immigrants have given up their homes, their jobs and in some cases their pensions in order that they may come to this country. When they get here, they do not expect to be dealt with in a cursory manner.

The Minister has told me that a total of 194 applications has been refused or deferred on security grounds. On the face of it that would not seem serious. But probably 194 families are involved, and we should make sure that each of those families has been dealt with justly. It is interesting to note the other reasons for which applications for naturalization have been rejected. We find that 3,947 applications have been rejected because of the applicants' inadequate knowledge of English or of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. Who is to judge whether an applicant has an adequate knowledge of English? I have attended many naturalization ceremonies; I love going to them. On occasions I have seen immigrants stand before the local shire president, who has repeated the various oaths, and at times I have had difficulty in understanding what the migrants were saying. I think all honorable members will agree that many migrants who apply for naturalization do not speak English well. Some applicants are rejected because they have an inadequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. What is the yardstick that is applied in these matters?

I was interested in the speech delivered by the Minister on 1st May, 1958, when he was speaking on the Migration Bill. He was referring to the dictation test, which was applied occasionally. Many people in the community felt that the dictation test was applied unfairly, unreasonably and irrationally. The test has now been modified if not completely eliminated. I suppose the dictation test may be compared with the test of an applicant's knowledge of English. In his speech to which I have referred the Minister said -

This ingenious, but contentious, device had been first applied in the colony of Natal earlier in the same year-

That is, 1897 - and, if my researches are correct, originated in the mind of that inspired liberal imperialist, Joseph Chamberlain, who was then the Colonial Secretary in Lord Salisbury's British Government. As the House will recall, the first Commonwealth Parliament seized upon this precedent, and the dictation test was enshrined in 1901 in section 3 of the Immigration Act, where it still remains.

In recent years, the need for a thorough overhaul of our immigration legislation has become increasingly apparent. The dictation test, bowever subtle and convenient it may have seemed 60 years ago, must surely appear to-day as an archaic, heavy-handed piece of machinery, in the category of those singularly ugly museum pieces of the Victorian age, and quite out of keeping with the ideas of the second half of the twentieth century. It has been used to prevent the entry to Australia of both Europeans and Asians, and also as a means of deporting people within five years of their arrival, even though they were legally admitted to settle permanently. Its clumsy, creaking operation has evoked much resentment outside Australia, and has tarnished our good name in the eyes of the world. The Government, therefore, proposes to abolish it, and to substitute in its stead the neat, simple expedient of an entry permit.

That was a very dramatic and realistic speech about the dictation test. The Minister has shown by the administration of his portfolio that he is a fair man. I put it to him that it is about time that he overhauled some of these obnoxious provisions which enable applicants for naturalization to be bowled out because of their inadequate knowledge of English. We should recognize the fact that many migrants who come before the municipalities and shires for naturalization cannot effectively express themselves in English.

I think that some of the 3,947 people who were bowled out because of their inadequate knowledge of English or because of their inadequate understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship - whatever that means - may have also been the subject of security reports. Surely that is a fair comment. I would like the Minister to explain the dividing line in a test of the responsibilities of citizenship. There were 184 applicants rejected on the ground of mental incapacity. We do not quibble about that. It merely means that there were 184 people who would vote for the Government, but we will not need to worry about that in the future. Then 529 were rejected because of their failure to comply with character requirements. I do not know what that means, and I suggest that the Minister give some consideration to this provision.

I repeat that at present 416,000 eligible migrants have not applied for naturalization. The Minister should look at the large number of applicants who have been rejected. He might well establish that some of them have been unfairly rejected, and this circumstance would become an effective deterrent to others who may be considering naturalization. We can well imagine how this would manifest itself in the minds of people in other parts of the world. We remember how people at the Olympic Games sang -

Come to Australia, back to Australia; Breaks in the hill and the sun shining through; With the slip-rails down and the billy boiling merrily,

Wide open arms are awaiting you.

But are our arms open waiting for them? What happens to migrants who are enticed to this country?







Suggest corrections