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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1839


Senator LAJOVIC(4.07) —I rise in support of the Opposition's amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Australian Citizenship Bill. I will not comment on the speeches made by the previous speakers, Senator Bolkus and Senator Chipp. I have no time to do that and they will be dealt with later on. I claim, I think quite rightly, that I am the only member of this chamber who has experienced the trauma and decisions of migrating to a foreign country and renouncing my allegiance of my own free will and taking the oath to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second. People who have migrated to this country have not been forced to come here. We all came here of our own free will because we knew that we would find freedom and a stable government under constitutional monarchy. I attended dozens of naturalisation ceremonies even before I became a senator and I have never heard anyone expressing any doubt or any criticism about taking an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

I wish to deal with only three subjects: Firstly, the oath of allegiance; secondly, the residence qualifications for citizenship; and thirdly, language requirements. Let us look at the real reasons for the changes to the Australian Citizenship Act. Dealing first with allegiance, it is a socialist ideology which prefers a republican system to the monarchy. That is their privilege and they have the freedom to believe that. Secondly, the Government's reason for changing residence qualifications is to give a vote to as many migrants as possible for its own socialist political advantage because it hopes that migrants will vote for it. Thirdly, the reduced language requirement was decided upon in order to keep migrants ignorant, in the dark as to what our democratic system is all about in this country. There will be no incentive for a migrant to learn English . What is more important, it will give the union bosses total control of the migrant workers in the factories who do not understand English.

Why is this being done in this Act? It is a typical socialist ploy to blame somebody else in order to cover up their own aims or their failures. They always blame bad weather for a bad economy or for the failure of their agricultural policies. Migrants are blamed for unemployment. Trade unions almost achieved closing off immigration during the Whitlam regime. This Government claims now that all it is doing had already been proposed by the Fraser Government. But what is cowardly and dastardly in this whole exercise is that this socialist Government tries to blame the migrants for its own desire to change the system in this nation from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. It does not want to admit that this is what it wants because it knows what will be the reaction of the Australian public.

I deal now with the oath of allegiance. Can we take the word of the Government that all these amendments are being made because of the consultative conferences ? I would like to quote from a Government publication issued by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs entitled 'Review 83' which says:

Total attendance exceeded 2000, including more than 400 in each of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

This is a total of 2000 people in the whole of Australia, taking into account that one and a half million migrants are naturalised.The Government purports that the decisions in the changing of this Act are due to the point of view of the people of Australia, yet only 2000 people attended the conferences. I wish to refer again to the same report which states:

The following proposals received some attention during the consultations:

I emphasise the words 'some attention'. The report then lists the subjects as:

British subject status

the Oath of Allegiance

English language requirements

And so it goes on. The report further states:

One speaker rejected the rationale for the consultations, namely, proposed legislative amendments to the Citizenship Act . . .

I stress the words 'one speaker'. This Government is constantly saying what it has been doing. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) said:

These sentiments have been around for a long time. The Labor Government did not invent them, it merely responded to the wishes of the Australian people.

The present Special Minister of State, Mr Young, said in the debate on the ministerial statement on Australian citizenship on 6 May 1982:

Attitudes are changing quite dramatically in that field as well. The Australian Labor Party, at its last national conference, adopted a policy of seeking that, in the long run, Australia should be a republic.

That is where the whole thing lies. This Government does not want to tell the people that that is what it is all about. The honourable member for Macarthur, Mr Hollis, said in the other place during his speech on this debate that many such people have not taken out citizenship because of allegiance to the Queen.

How many are 'many' if the whole consultative process brought only 2,000 people to the conferences? Mr West said on 2 May that the whole thing 'is a divisive provocation to require them'-the migrants-'to swear allegiance to the Queen who is resident elsewhere before they can obtain Australian citizenship'.

How absolutely untrue. What about the one and a half million naturalised Australians who have taken up citizenship? The Minister said further:

The present renunciation of allegiance is ambiguous . . . people are being asked to renounce their previous nationality, their previous language or their culture . . .

If the Minister knows anything about what the word 'nationality' means he would not say that. There are two different interpretations of 'nationality' and ' citizenship'. Nationality is the cultural background of a person. Citizenship is a state which is given by a political entity. There are Swiss citizens who are of Italian nationality or French nationality but they are all French citizens. The Minister shows his total ignorance about that. If we look further at what the Minister said about the monarchy we find that he said:

The monarchy should not be a matter of division.

Who asked him to divide the nation on that point? Why does he not let the present oath of allegiance remain as it is? The fact is that her Majesty the Queen is the Queen of Australia. There is nothing un-Australian in swearing allegiance to her. The sovereign is an integral part of our Constitution, our Government, our parliamentary system, our society, our history and our tradition .

I wish to deal now with citizenship. In my view, and in the view of many others , citizenship is a privilege which a nation can bestow upon a new arrival or a migrant. Citizenship should be a reward. Citizenship should not be something where one can go to a post office and say: 'I would like citizenship. Here is my 20c'. Australia is the only country in the Western world which will change and diminish the term of residence before one can become a voting citizen with all that that implies. One has to be resident in the United States of America for five years, in Canada three years and in France five years before one can obtain citizenship. In France it is required that an applicant must be fluent in French . In Germany one needs to be resident for 10 years, and in Greece three years; but there are very few people who can get Greek citizenship. One has to be resident in Italy for five years, in Sweden five years and in Switzerland 10 years. Australia will be the only country that will have a two-year residence qualification. It was proposed at the consultative conferences:

Three years should be the residence eligibility period for citizenship.

Then follows this comment:

Discussion of this topic tended to be in the form of brief assertions rather than by reasoned argument. Some speakers thought that a 3-year requirement was adequate to qualify for citizenship, but others suggested that it be reduced to only a year. It was pointed out that many of the originating countries of Australia's migrants required a qualifying period considerably longer than three years.

At the end of the page it is stated:

No consensus emerged from the rather fragmentary consideration of this topic.

What has the Government done? It has reduced the period to two years. It could not care less what the people say about it. If we look at the ethnic Press we see that on 18 November 1983 the Maltese Herald stated:

Australian citizenship should not be made easy to obtain because it would lose its value. The Australian Labor Government wants to make people, who have been only resident in Australia for two years, eligible for it. This effectively means that one can initiate the process of application following eighteen months of residence. In our opinion this is too short.

It continued:

People who have been through the experience of emigration will argue that one needs more than two years in order to decide what one really wants to do . . .

Australian citizenship should never become cheap or made attractive for political reasons.

Citizenship should become something special to obtain provided that a person has decided to consider this country as his home forever. It is not a decision to be taken lightly or for ulterior motives. When a person becomes an Australian citizen he should enjoy equal rights in all fields.

I have only a few minutes left and I would like to deal with language. I would like the Minister to explain what is an adequate knowledge of English and what is a basic knowledge of English. I wonder how anyone who becomes an Australian citizen will be a juror or obtain a driver's permit. In the night edition of yesterday's 'Dateline News Digest' this statement appeared:

The Victorian Cabinet today decided to upgrade written driving licence tests and to intensify the State-wide random breath testing campaign.

I wonder how a migrant who does not need to know how to read or write English will obtain a driver's permit. How would anyone who does not understand English and who does not know how to read or write English be able to vote according to his wish and ideology? We always hear that there are so many informal votes. It is always the fault of migrants. It is the migrants who do not know how to vote and they vote informally. With this new amendment there will be less incentive for migrants to learn English and to be able to do what is required of them if they become our citizens. I will now speak about what the consultative conferences said about the language requirements. I quote:

Proposal: English is Australia's national language and should be retained as a citizenship requirement. Citizenship Regulations under the Act should include a definition of the English language level required to meet the 'adequate English standard'.

Another comment was this:

This topic was the subject of more discussion than any other at the forums. A division of opinion exists between those who wish to retain the present requirement or some other degree of English language competence and those who wish to abolish it. No consensus or clearly preponderant view emerged.

That is what the report issued by the Government shows what happened at those consultative conferences. The report of the last stage stated:

If present suggestions for watering down the demand for English were to be accepted, this could present an impediment to the development of a multicultural society in which written information in English is one of the basic media of communication.

I now refer to the 'Monash Review' bulletin, 1-1984. It deals with a survey revealing migrant language problems. It states:

The survey findings suggest that while the traditional classroom teaching of English to adult migrants has a role in certain circumstances, in most situations it is not effective and it is not likely to be so in the future.

I finish my speech by totally opposing the measures of the present Government and supporting the amendments moved by the Opposition.