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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1229

Mr MAHER(10.13) —I raise tonight a problem concerning an Australian lady who went to Canada with her husband, settled there and subsequently took out Canadian citizenship. I have two similar cases in my office at present. The first concerns the mother of an Australian lady. The mother lives in Five Dock in my electorate and she has now become ill. She had had both of her knees replaced in operations and she needs her daughter to look after her. The problem is, of course, that the daughter unfortunately has become a Canadian and she receives no consideration at all in relation to returning with her husband to settle in Australia. The mother is extremely distressed and has seen me on a number of occasions. She has been told by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: 'Your daughter can come back if you can get her husband a job'. An elderly lady walking on a stick with infirm knees cannot go from one firm to another trying to get a job for her son-in-law. In addition, there are no jobs in big cities. It is really a very futile exercise.

This elderly lady in my electorate is totally frustrated as to what to do about her daughter who for no reason at all took on Canadian citizenship, believing that for the rest of her life she would live in Canada and that she would be able to vote in Canada and have the same nationality as her husband. Indeed, if this lady had come to Australia she would be able to enrol and vote in Australia because Canadians are deemed to be still eligible to get on the Australian electoral roll and vote in elections. But when it comes to migration, even though she was born and bred in the electorate of Lowe, this woman is debarred from returning and again taking up her Australian citizenship.

Quite extraordinarily, I had a second case with almost the same facts referred to my office last Saturday when I was interviewing in the electorate. I raise this matter tonight because these situations where Australian women have abandoned their citizenship, having married a British or a Canadian national, are very difficult. They fall between two departments. They are somewhere between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Neither Department wishes to become too involved or extend more than the usual limited amount of sympathy. But I have to face this elderly lady who is in desperate need of care, whose only daughter is living in Canada and cannot return to Australia. Women who go overseas and change their citizenship never really appreciate that that stops them from coming back. They were born here and they regard themselves as Australians who just happen to be living overseas and who, by filling out a form, have changed their citizenship.

The lady in Five Dock found that her daughter was taken totally by surprise. She could not return to Australia whenever she wanted to care for her mother. I raise this case tonight. The lady in Canada is Mrs Murphy. She writes to me regularly from Canada. She does not know what course of action to follow. She realises her mother cannot get her a job here and that she cannot return. The Department of Foreign Affairs says that she can become an Australian again when she returns and waits the necessary time. But she cannot return because she cannot migrate without employment for her husband. That is why I am raising these cases tonight. I hope that the two Ministers concerned will sympathetically consider these matters and use the discretion that they have under the legislation to allow these cases to be dealt with in a more sympathetic manner than at present.