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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West) (tern Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [6.3].- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

The principal objective of this measure is to provide for certain alterations of the law dealing with , the national status of married women. It also contains several amendments of a formal nature with respect to the authority to be invested with certain powers and functions under the principal act. The alterations regarding the national status of married women are primarily designed to give effect to articles 8, 9 and 10 of the convention on certain questions relating to the conflict of nationality laws, which was concluded at The Hague in 1930. Those articles read as follows: -

Article 8. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality on marriage with a foreigner, this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring the nationality of the husband.

Article 9. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality upon a change in the nationality of her husband occurring during marriage, this consequence shallbe conditional on her acquiring her husband's now nationality.

Article 10. - Naturalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except, with her consent.

Their purpose is, briefly, to overcome, as far as possible, the problem of statelessness which sometimes arises when a British woman marries a foreigner. I think the desirability of carrying such purpose into effect will not be disputed.

The bill provides for the substitution of a new section for section 18 of the principal act. The proposed new sub-section 1 repeats the existing provision that the wife of a British subject shall be deemed to be a British subject and the wife of an alien shall be deemed to be an alien. Proposed new sub-sections 4 and 6 reenact the existing exceptions to the general principle, and proposed new subsections 2, 3 and 5 add new exceptions. Proposed new sub-section 2 deals with a British woman who marries a foreigner but does not thereby acquire his nationality. It provides that whether she was married before or after the enactment of this provision she will retain her British nationality. Proposed new subsection 3 makes a similar provision for a British woman who, having married a British subject, is liable to become stateless when her husband has become naturalized in some other country. Proposed new sub-section 4 also applies to a British woman whose husband changes his nationality after marriage ; but as the result of the provisions of proposed new subsection 3, this provision will, in future, apply only in cases in which, under the law of the foreign country, the woman acquires her husband's new nationality. Proposed new sub-section 5 is intended to give effect to article 10 of the convention, which provides that naturalization of the husband during marriage shall not. involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent. Proposed new sub-sections 3 and 4 dealwith this provision when British women are concerned, but proposed new sub-section 5 applies to an alien woman whose husband acquires British nationality by the grant to him of a certificate of naturalization. After March next, such a woman will be afforded an opportunity to declare whether she too desires to acquire British nationality.

A clause that will be welcomed by those organizations which have been striving for some time past to secure recognition for the principle of the equality of the sexes, deals with, the case of a woman who, whether before or after the commencement of the proposed new section - section 18a - was a British subject, and who, by reason of her marriage, lias acquired the nationality of her husband. The object of the hew section is :.o enable such a woman still to enjoy, within Australia, all the privileges of British citizenship. I emphasize that those privileges will be enjoyed as a matter of law in Australia only. Strictly speaking, she would still be regarded in the eye of the law as an alien outside Australia, but so long as she remains in the Commonwealth, or in any territory, she will be eligible to enjoy every right and privilege enjoyed by a British subject - for example, rights as to voting and pensions. By adopting the proposed section, the Commonwealth will have gone a long way towards meeting, in Australia at all events, the wishes of those women's organizations iu relation to the national status of married women. A similar alteration of New Zealand law has been made.

Other amendments are of a formal character. Instead of the GovernorGeneral being the specified authority in several sections of the act, it is proposed to vest the Minister with powers and functions with respect to the grant of certificates of naturalization and similar matters arising under the act. The passage of this measure will remove a hardship and avoid the confusion that results from the existence in several of the selfgoverning dominions, but not in Australia, of laws similar to new section 18.

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