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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 218


Mr HICKS(9.07) —Although my colleagues the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) have put the Opposition's case very succinctly, I will make a few points with regard to the proposed amendments to the Migration Act. I refer, in particular, to some questions posed by the second reading speech of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West). The main purpose of the Migration Amendment Bill 1983, as I understand it, is to remove the discrimination that exists between immigrants and aliens-immigrants, apparently, being those persons who migrate to Australia from the United Kingdom or Commonwealth countries and aliens being those people from other parts of the globe.

As a long standing resident of Australia, I cannot recall the term 'alien' commonly being used to describe a particular person. It obviously appears in parliamentary and legal documents and refers, as I said before, to a resident whose original home was not a Commonwealth country. Having learnt of that distinction, I am pleased to note that the title 'alien' is to be removed, particularly as aliens have been liable to deportation for serious crimes at any time during their stay in Australia, whereas immigrants have not been liable to deportation after they have been resident in Australia for more than five years.

I note that the Minister, in his second reading speech, referred to the fact that the present Government intends to review not only the Migration Act but also the Australian Citizenship Act. I hope that in reviewing the citizenship Act the Government brings about equality, but not by reducing the present three years necessary residence qualification for anyone applying for citizenship. As far as I know, all of those countries with major migration programs, such as West Germany, France, the United States and Canada have much stricter control than exists in Australia for extending citizenship to people who have come from other nations.

It is hoped that the Federal Government does not fall into the trap of issuing Australian citizenship certificates to everyone and anyone, regardless whether they deserve it or not. Citizenship of any country is a valued status and a privilege. I am nationalistic enough to believe that the attainment of Australian citizenship is a particular honour. I believe that no person has a right to citizenship of any country unless, and until, they have shown that they wish to conform to the ways of life in their newly adopted country. This is not to say that Australia does not welcome the richness of the cultures that have come, and are still coming, from other lands. Those cultures have made us the great nation we are today. It means that we wish to live in peace and harmony with our neighbour, no matter what his or her country of origin.

One problem that faces any future government under the Act is the definition of serious crime. What might appear to be a serious crime to one person may not particularly worry another. The term 'serious crime' may be best left as is. Let us hope that the present trend of making light of some crimes, as indicated by the lightness of the punishment meted out for those crimes, does not continue. We should keep in mind that deportation is not intended as a punishment for crimes committed. It is interesting to note that those non-citizens who pose a security risk, including those who are convicted of espionage, sedition and treason will always be liable for deportation. I cannot recall over the last several years any permanent residents who have been charged with any one of those crimes. If these crimes are to be listed, I consider that another horrendous crime, that of dealing in narcotics, should join the list rather than leaving it to run the risk of not being declared a serious crime.

Another problem we hear rumour of from time to time is the intimidation of some newcomers by their fellow countrymen. This is sometimes done on behalf of the new residents' former government. This has to be watched closely and, if there is any evidence of this happening, appropriate action should be taken immediately. The practice of coming to Australia on a visitors visa and then disappearing for a number of years in the hope of obtaining citizenship through an amnesty appears to have been common. I am pleased to see that through this legislation the loophole is to be closed.

In conclusion I would like to pay a compliment to the officers of the Australian Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Certainly I have heard criticisms, but most of them have been caused by the workload imposed on the Department. I have at all times found departmental officers courteous and considerate and they have acted in a humanitarian way at all times towards anyone I have referred to them for assistance. Any moves by the Government to end discrimination in our nation's migration system will certainly be welcomed by me and by the Party I represent. I ask the Minister and the Government to consider seriously the amendments to be put to the Parliament by the Opposition spokesman on immigration.