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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1844


Senator SCOTT (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(4.35) -I rise briefly to address myself to the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1984. I preface my remarks by saying that it is appropriate from time to time that we in this country, particularly in the Parliament of this country, should concern ourselves with the requirements, obligations and rights that pertain to Australian citizenship. I strongly endorse the amendment to be moved by the Opposition to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, which states:

'but the Senate-

(a) disagrees with the Government's action in seeking to remove reference to Her Majesty the Queen from the oath of allegiance and the affirmation of allegiance-

It is pleasing to the Opposition to find that the Australian Democrats, as indicated by their Leader, Senator Chipp, propose to support that element, at least, of the amendment-

(b) views with concern-

(i) the Government's deliberate devaluation of the importance of the honour of Australian citizenship,

which is referable to the time required-

(ii) the Government's overall failure to consult properly with the people of Australia before bringing into this Parliament such radical republican legislative proposals, and

(iii) the Government's refusal to put such a fundamental change in citizenship to the people of Australia in a referendum.'

It is pleasing that the debate this afternoon has not resolved itself into a consideration of racial problems or multiculturalism. When I listened to Senator Bolkus in the early stage of the debate I must say that I wondered whether we would spend the afternoon discussing such matters as multiculturalism and the racial problems that confront all countries in the world and that, particularly in the form of multiculturalism, have become part and parcel of the Australian circumstance. However, it has not resolved itself into that sort of discussion. It has been confined, on the contrary, to the matter of Australian citizenship. Of course, there can be no objection to some of the proposed changes. On the other hand, one of the most basic elements of the proposed legislation refers to the oath of allegiance to the Queen. It seems to me strange, to put it gently, that there should be such a proposition from an Australian government. After all , the Queen to whom allegiance is undertaken is the Queen of Australia. She became the Queen of Australia under the socialist government of Mr Whitlam. So it seems strange that there should be opposition to taking an oath of allegiance to the Queen of Australia.

As one talks of citizenship, there seems to be a tendency to reject anything that belongs to the past, certainly to the relatively, in Australian terms, distant past. There seems to be a tendency to divorce oneself from tradition, which is to divorce oneself from the evolutionary process which all honourable senators who have an interest in history will recognise is the only process that has produced any measure of permanence in the progress of mankind, whether he is in Australia, Europe, Asia or wherever. I do not understand why the Government seeks to divorce reference to the Queen from the oath of allegiance. It seems to be a totally illogical proposition. It seems strange that the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, who I thought was regarded at least by himself and by a measure of his own camp as the king of consensus and accord, should have decided to introduce this measure to divorce the Queen from the oath of allegiance, which clearly will have the effect only of creating division in this great Australian society.

The Queen of Australia-indeed, she is the Queen of many other realms-is envied by many nations purely and simply because she is a symbol of the unity of which many nations are envious. I am reminded of an occasion only a few months ago when I had the pleasure and the honour of being an Australian delegate at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. We had discussions with a great number of nations which belonged to the British Commonwealth of nations. Every one of them regarded the Queen with a measure of reverence. But most importantly, I believe, the Queen was a very real symbol of unity to every one of them. It seems strange and almost inexplicable that an Australian government should seek to divorce the Queen from the position she holds in the form of the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

In my view the Prime Minister of this country certainly has no mandate to leave the Queen out of the oath of allegiance, to suddenly decide that her presence in that oath is unneeded. Perhaps that decision relates to his pipe dreams of a presidential style of government. Perhaps, on the other hand it could be seen as some sort of gesture to the left wing of his party in order that he may more successfully pursue his ultimate objective in the field of uranium development in Australia. One does not know. But one has to say that it is extraordinary to see an Australian government seeking to extricate the Queen from the oath of allegiance.

Mr Hawke is obviously confused by referendums. It is not very long ago that he had four or five referendums coming up. He then had none. At the moment I think there are two.


Senator Martin —We are not sure.


Senator SCOTT —As Senator Martin says, we are not sure of that. But at the moment I think it is two. Who knows? It may be none. It may be five. But one thing is quite certain. In spite of the 75 per cent popularity rating that the Prime Minister allegedly had a short while ago, there will be no attempt by him to hold a referendum on this issue concerning the Queen. Indeed, I fear-it is one of the fears that comes out of this sort of legislation-that he may well not have a referendum on changing the flag, getting rid of the Victoria Cross or the Queen's Medal or any other institution of the Australian way of life and our history which is valued by great numbers of Australians within and outside Australia. There will be no referendum to make a decision on issues such as those. The flag is as significant as the Queen is in the case of allegiance, because the flag is surely a representative object of the history of this country. Although things occur in the history of our country and of many other countries of which we may, in retrospect, not absolutely approve, that is no reason to divorce ourselves from them. We are a continuing, a permanent circumstance. The idea of suddenly ad-libbing and, in an ad hoc way, moving away from this and that area which relate to the permanence and the strength of this country is to be abhorred. It is my pleasure to support very fully, and, I hope, a little more fully during the Committee stage, the propositions and the amendments of the Opposition in regard to this legislation.