Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1845


Senator SIBRAA(4.45) —Senator Martin stated in her speech that Mr Macphee's statement of May 1982 still captures the Opposition's attitude towards the proposed legislation. I wonder why she is running away from the statements made by shadow Minister Hodgman when leading for the Opposition in the House of Representatives during the second reading debate. I also congratulate Senator Chipp, who spoke earlier in this debate, for what I consider to have been a very courageous speech. I make one small point for the benefit of Senator Scott. I really do not think it is un-Australian to want a new flag for this country.

What we have to ask ourselves this afternoon is why we are having this debate and treating it virtually as a matter of public importance on a parliamentary broadcast day. What reason does the Opposition believe that this issue of citizenship and pro-British sentiment is a vote winner? One needs only to point to the disgraceful display in the House of Representatives yesterday for evidence of that belief, a display orchestrated by the Opposition.

The Liberal Party of Australia recently went on a retreat to Thredbo. As the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) described it, 'threadbare at Thredbo'. It was reported that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Peacock, said: 'There will be no post- mortem as to why we lost the next election', which was a Freudian slip-


Senator Martin —What has this to do with the Bill?


Senator SIBRAA —That was what was written in the paper. I quoted a report. When the Liberals examined their prospects for the next election, they had to take account of the fact that we have an expanding economy, which is producing lower inflation, providing more jobs and less unemployment. Further, they would have examined the most recent Gallup polls--


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Haines) —Order! The Chair has allowed a fairly wide-ranging debate on the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1984. However, I suggest to you, Senator Sibraa, that references to unemployment are going a little outside the ambit of the debate. I ask you to confine your remarks to the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill.


Senator SIBRAA —Madam Acting Deputy President, I accept your ruling, but I am leading to the reason why debate on this sort of issue is getting priority.


Senator Martin —Citizenship.


Senator SIBRAA —I will get to citizenship. We have heard two other speeches this afternoon in the same vein. I must say that Senator Chipp's speech did not deal very much with citizenship. What the Liberals were looking at at Thredbo was the prospect of another election defeat if an early election were held. All of those facts added together to produce a desperate Opposition, an Opposition desperate for an election issue. I believe that it reached into the bottom of the barrel and found immigration policy. It has been linked with the speeches all over Australia on citizenship. The Opposition believes that it can run on these issues.


Senator Bolkus —I take a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. The honourable senator who is speaking has been continually harassed by the shadow spokesperson for the Opposition who has attempted to interject. I ask you to call that honourable senator to order.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Sibraa has the call. Senator Martin had her turn a little earlier. I call Senator Sibraa.


Senator SIBRAA —I do not mind the interjections that are being made. I believe that the tragedy for the Liberal Party is that if one goes back to Harold Holt he can be seen as the Prime Minister who broke down the White Australia barriers . I believe that excellent work was done by former Fraser Government Ministers Macphee and MacKellar, to name only two of them. They carried on the bipartisan tradition.

At a citizenship ceremony in Manly-Warringah, the area in Sydney in which I live, Mr MacKellar stated publicly that it was only a bipartisan approach that had kept the delicate fabric of our immigration policy in place. We know of many examples in the past of prejudice that has been shown against Italians and Greeks. I grew up in a small country town in New South Wales, where there was a campaign against people from southern Europe who were Catholics. It was said that they owed their allegiance to the Pope and that they should not take out allegiance to Australia. We know that that was nonsense. Both sides of politics in this country stood firm, and Australia is a better place to live in as a result.

When Mr Millar, in the other place, ranted and raved about the evils of multiculturalism, he should have taken a closer look at the present Australian community. Forty per cent of Australians were born in another country, as Senator Chipp said this afternoon, or have a parent who was born in another country. Only Israel has a higher proportion. I am staggered by the hypocrisy of people in this community warning about the supposed dangers of increased Asian immigration. Let us look at the figures. When members of the Opposition were in government, they originated the Indo-Chinese refugee program. One only has to look at these rounded off figures: 1977-78, 7,000; 1978-79, 12,000; 1979-80, 15, 000; 1980-81, 16,000; 1981-82, 15,000; 1982-83, 13,000; and 1983-84, the first full year of this Labor Government, 10,000-the lowest figure since 1977-78. All honourable senators would be aware that this was handled in a bipartisan way, as it should have been. Those Asians who migrated during this period did so as refugees escaping from the war in Vietnam. They were mainly ethnic Chinese who believed that they were escaping a communist dictatorship. Last year this Government reduced the immigration intake from 93,000 to 70,000, with an emphasis on family reunion. As Senator Chipp said this afternoon, if we brought these people to Australia, we cannot turn round now and say that we do not want to reunite them with their families.

I want to examine what members of the Opposition are complaining about in this legislation. To achieve our objective of making the citizenship ceremony more reflective of our national identity, the Government proposes to alter the oath of allegiance. The declaration of allegiance incorporates three elements: Firstly, the renunciation of former allegiance; secondly, a commitment to observe the laws of Australia; and thirdly, a declaration of new allegiance to Australia. The incorporation of these three elements within the proposed amendment has been attacked with great vitriol by members of the Opposition, most notably Mr Hodgman and Mr Millar, in the other place. I believe that the hysteria and sensationalism which the Opposition is seeking to evoke through its attack on this provision is out of step with the views of the vast majority of Australians.

In support of that assertion, I draw honourable senators' attention to the report by Professor Jerzy Zubrycki entitled 'National Consultations on Multiculturalism and Citizenship', which was tabled in May last year. I hasten to add that that report was commissioned by the Opposition when it was in government. In that report, Professor Zubrycki noted that Mr Macphee, on 6 May 1982, outlined changes to the Australian Citizenship Act. He stated:

. . . that in a number of ways, the Citizenship Act no longer adequately reflected the current values and attitudes of the Australian community.

Mr Macphee was right in the sentiments he expressed in May 1982. However, we should look further at the conclusions drawn as a result of the consultations conducted by Professor Zubrycki. In a section of the report that dealt with the oath of allegiance, the proposal was that the oath/ affirmation should be reworded. The report went on to say:

Speakers' responses dealt with two parts of the present Oath: the renunciation of former allegiances and the swearing of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors. The strongly-held and predominant view emerging from the consultations was that swearing allegiance to a sovereign, and especially to a named sovereign resident elsewhere, was inappropriate in Australia at its present stage of history. This view was shared by persons from a variety of backgrounds, including holders of Imperial awards-


Senator Lajovic —I know what it says; I have read it too.


Senator SIBRAA —I am only quoting from the report, Senator Lajovic. The report continues:

. . . and persons who maintained that they were not republicans. No hostility was expressed towards Her Majesty, though one speaker did pose the conundrum as to where her own allegiance would lie if Britain came into conflict with Australia. Few speakers were in favour of retaining a mention of the Queen in the Oath of Allegiance, and spoke mainly to register their support, rather than to advance a reasoned case for its retention.

The Government will give effect to those views expressed by the majority of those involved in the consultations referred to. The legislation proposed two new wordings for the pledge of Australian citizenship. The first states:

I . . . renounce any current citizenship and all allegiance to any State other than Australia. I pledge that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of Australia, and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.

The second new wording states:

I . . . renounce any current citizenship, and all allegiance to any State other than Australia. I swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.

Despite the wild claims of Mr Hodgman and others of this Party, the two proposals do not discriminate between people's views on the monarchy, and nor should they do so. I believe that the terms of both the proposed wordings are distinctly Australian in character. Moreover, they resolve the previously unique requirement of having to swear allegiance to a sovereign resident elsewhere. Given the cultural mix of modern Australian society, I believe the wordings I have quoted to be more attuned to the wishes of the Australian community.

Let me return to the current campaign that is being run by some sections of Australian society and by sections of the Opposition. They are trying to appeal to their natural constituency, to some elements of the rural lobby, to the National Party of Australia, and to some sections of the Returned Services League. Mr Peacock on Nationwide last night said that he did not want a reduced Asian refugee program or family reunion program; he just wanted the absolute numbers of Europeans increased. Prior to last night the Opposition clearly implied that the number of Asians coming to Australia was too great. The Opposition is now back-pedalling. It now says that the numbers of Asians are not too great.


Senator Martin —I raise a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. I am sorry to interrupt Senator Sibraa's Press release, but we are debating citizenship. He was not in the chamber when you were in the chair previously and the issue arose. He is talking about immigration policy. What he is talking about is nowhere reflected in the Bill, or in the original Act.


Senator SIBRAA —Speaking to the point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President, I was in the chamber when opposition was taken to statements being made by Senator Bolkus. I was also in the chamber when Senator Chipp made a 20-minute speech on Australia's immigration problems. No member of the Opposition took one point of order during Senator Chipp's speech. Further to the point of order, in some of the statements and some of the speeches-I can quote from the Hansard report from the other place-the questions of immigration, multiculturalism and citizenship have been linked together, and I am doing the same thing.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Haines) —Order! There is no point of order. I draw the Senate's attention to the fact that, without immigration, we would not need a Citizenship Act. By the same token, I suggest to Senator Sibraa that he draws his attention to the subject before the Senate.


Senator SIBRAA —I am coming to a conclusion, Madam Acting Deputy President, and I take notice of your ruling. The tragedy for this Parliament and for Australia is that the Opposition is no longer led on this issue by someone of the strength of Mr Malcolm Fraser. Some critics of the Opposition say that the Liberal Party has become trendy. However, the truth is that its members have moved to the far Right, vacating the centre ground of Australian politics. Another good example of that is the recently announced coalition non-policies on South Africa. Indeed , some Liberal supporters say that Mr Fraser will be remembered for giving Rhodesia to the blacks. If there was one thing that the coalition was not allowed to be under Malcolm Fraser, it was racist.