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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1486

Senator WALTERS(8.00) —Tonight we are debating the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1984. This is an attempt by the Government to scrub from our oath of allegiance all reference to the Queen. While not wanting to make a great song and dance about it, Senator Macklin has just said that the Australian Democrats do not believe that there is any need to change the oath. So the Government will be thwarted in its attempts to do this, and I am delighted to hear it. Senator Macklin challenged me to say that we, on this side of the chamber, believing that this is republicanism through the back door, are not stating the facts as they stand. He went to great lengths to say that a referendum was needed to change the status of Australia to a republic. All I can say is that Senator Macklin was not here in 1975. He obviously did not take a great deal of notice of what occurred during those dreadful years of the Whitlam Government. I acknowledge that it does take a referendum actually to change Australia and turn it into a republic. In the Whitlam years we watched the removal of photographs of the Queen and photographs of Mr Whitlam being put up, the change of titles of government buildings and all the other steps that were surreptitiously taken at that time. We realise that what is going on today is just one more step in that line.

We all know that Mr Hawke, before he came into the Parliament, was very public in his ideas about how Australia should be governed. He spoke at the Boyer lectures. From the speeches that he made we know that he believes in a centralised government. We know only too well that he does not understand the meaning of State's rights. He has said that there should be no State governments because Australia is overgoverned and, indeed, Australia should be governed by the central government. He did not add that the leader of that central government could then become a president, but that was well on the way. He has not resiled from that. Indeed, he has said that while he believes in a republic, it is not one of his priorities at the moment, or not before the election anyway .

Things have been happening since this Government came to office; some little, some major. Some people call them little things, such as when they want to get a new passport they find that the crown has been removed from the front of the passport; the crown has just disappeared. No-one mentioned it; it just happened that one day directions were given to the Department of Foreign Affairs. When a person handed in an old passport with the crown on the front and got back a new passport without the crown he was not meant to notice. That is just one more little step in getting rid of all connotations about the Queen of Australia, just one more step on the road to republicanism. Senator Macklin went to great lengths to pooh-pooh the suggestion that that would occur in Australia. I am saying-I told Senator Macklin that I would be speaking on this matter-that when a country reaches a certain stage it does not take much to push it just that little step further, to hold a referendum and say: 'What is the use, we are there already, we may as well become a republic'.

Let us have a look at what has happened. The other day we spoke on the flag. During that speech I mentioned that while many people in Australia think it might be a good idea to have a purely Australian national anthem with no reference to Her Majesty, it is not the prerogative of one man to stand up and say: 'We will change the anthem and, by the way, I do not like the words of the new one, they are too sexist, so we will change those too'. On that occasion Senator Grimes said: 'Don't you know we have had a referendum?' Of course, he spoke later and, in his usual fashion, deliberately confused the situation, and deliberately referred to the referendum as a referendum on the national anthem. It was not a referendum on the national anthem; it was a referendum that was held to see what the Australian people would choose as their national song, which would be played at the Olympic Games and functions of a national character . It did not have anything to do with the national anthem. To say so is a complete distortion of the facts. Senator Grimes knows this, but he is so used to distorting facts that it is really quite beyond his power to recognise when he is doing so.

I believe that all Australians think that the changing of the anthem should be debated in the Parliament by the people who were elected by them to represent them and their ideas. But that is old hat to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). He likes to be the man who stands up and says: 'I will change it'. Indeed, that is what he did. We know that committees have been set up to look at alternative patterns for the flag. There is no doubt that that is what the Prime Minister will do and, indeed, is doing slowly but surely and in the most surreptitious fashion. He is already putting up new colours for the bicentennial flag. I would love to know the cost of that exercise. We have not been told the cost of changing the colours of the bicentennial flag but, no doubt, we will get those answers in Estimates committees. Senator Macklin and many people sit back and complacently say: 'Look, there has got to be a referendum. We have not got to worry about a republic, a referendum has got to be held in Australia before that can occur'. Let me just warn these people that by the time a referendum is called, if this lot are in power for much longer, it will be such a small step that no one will care any more. That is what the plan is and that, indeed, is what is happening.

Why would the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) and the Prime Minister decide to alter the oath of allegiance? I believe that what the Minister has said was the biggest insult to the ethnic community, to those groups of people who have come to Australia because we are a stable society and their own country was unstable, and for so many other reasons. Mr West said at a meeting of 25,000-odd migrants: 'You will not have to swear allegiance to a monarch living in a foreign country'. What a disgraceful thing for a Minister of the crown to say! That was his excuse for changing the oath of allegiance in this legislation. The Queen is not a monarch living in a foreign country; she is the Queen of Australia, and I am very proud of the fact that we have a Queen of Australia. Whether Mr Hawke, Mr West, or indeed any of the socialist rabble opposite believe in swearing allegiance to a monarch in a foreign country, the people of Australia know that that is not the case.

Of course, last year the Government was not only considering scrubbing reference to the Queen from our oath of allegiance but also considering scrubbing the religious connotations. The bishops acted on that and said that they believed this was tremendously wrong. They were able to get enough support from the people of Australia to make the Government change its mind. So we now have the Minister saying in his second reading speech:

. . . we recognise that many people wish to swear an oath before God when giving allegiance to their new nation.

A Prime Minister who says that he is an atheist has suddenly decided that people might like to swear allegiance to God even if this Government was going to scrub reference to the Queen. I wonder why he suddenly decided that? It is all out of context with his thoughts.

Senator Colston —He has a lot more tolerance than a lot of Christians.

Senator WALTERS —I will tell the honourable senator what tolerance he has. A poll showed that 85 per cent of Australians have religious connections. That is the sort of tolerance he has-a real vote tolerance. He backed off because he saw from the poll that 85 per cent of Australians would not like it. That is the sort of tolerance that this man has and this is the sort of legislation that he wants to put through. As far as the Government is concerned the legislation before us at the moment is a half-baked proposition. The Government is not getting rid of the lot; it is only getting rid of the Queen.

As I said earlier, I believe that this is the greatest insult to our ethnic community that we could possibly have. Indeed, there was considerable reaction to it. Ethnic groups denied that they wanted this change. They did not want to be used as the Prime Minister's excuse for changing the oath of allegiance. I know; I have had very irate calls from some members of the ethnic groups. I have had irate calls from people saying: 'Don't let them get away with it. Don't let them say that it is us who want this change'. I would like to read from an article in the Mercury of 25 October which is headed 'Move on oath upsets council'. It states:

The Good Neighbour Council of Tasmania will protest to the Federal Government about any move to delete allegiance 'to God and the Queen' from the oath of allegiance.

The annual meeting of the Council at Launceston on Saturday voted to write to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, 'strongly objecting' to the proposed change.

The State secretary, Mr A. Schluter, of Glenorchy, said last night that he and many other new settlers felt very strongly about the issue.

''We have a system that has worked for many years,'' he said.

''We don't want change for the sake of change.''

Mr Schluter said many settlers were against the presidential government system.

''And we feel deleting 'God and the Queen' from the oath of allegiance is a step towards a presidential government, he said.

In his annual report, the council president, Mr E. Baulis, of Launceston, said withdrawal of Federal Government support five years ago had been 'a surprise and shock' to members.

So it is no use this Government trying to blame the migrants for changing the oath of allegiance. As Mr Schluter said, they came to Australia because we had a stable monarchy. They do not want it changed. It is this Government, with its presidential-type ambitions, that wants it changed; no one else.

What will take the place of the oath of allegiance? According to the second reading speech of the Minister, the wording will be:

'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'.

Senator McIntosh —Ah, the Constitution.

Senator WALTERS —Senator McIntosh says: 'Ah, the Constitution'. As Senator Macklin pointed out a little earlier in this debate the Constitution indeed acknowledges the Queen. So why take out the reference? What is the Government's excuse for taking it out? We are told that at all the meetings of all the ethnic communities that went on all round Australia, all these groups were saying how obnoxious it was for them to be swearing an oath of allegiance to a foreign Queen.

Senator Crichton-Browne —That is a lot of rubbish.

Senator WALTERS —We know that it is a lot of rubbish. We know that it is not only rubbish but also untrue. We know that the Department put this up and honourable senators opposite grabbed that chance to do it. I will tell honourable senators opposite what I also know. The Queen visited Australia when the present Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, was a member of parliament; he certainly was not Prime Minister. Of course, he is meant to be a great republican and he is now deleting the Queen's name from the oath of allegiance. When the Queen visited Australia he made sure that he was not just in the crowd; he pushed his way through the crowd. We all stood back and watched him make such a fool of himself. It was absolutely incredible to watch as he pushed his way through the crowd to make sure that he met the Queen. Having pushed his way through he took up so much of her time that the then Prime Minister had to ask him to leave. He then rushed over and met the Duke. I do not think any other person in that room met both the Queen and the Duke, but Bob Hawke made sure he did. It really made me quite sick to watch it. He really does debase himself. Of course, he took the oath, publicly, to become Prime Minister.

Senator Colston —Affirmation, didn't he?

Senator WALTERS —No, he did not take an affirmation. He is such a hypocrite that he took an oath and, as an atheist, that cannot be anything else.

Senator McIntosh —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. Fun is fun but that is going a bit too far.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I will rule on the point of order shortly. Senator Walters, you should withdraw that remark. You cannot make reflections of that nature on a member of the other House.

Senator WALTERS —I withdraw, Mr Deputy President. A man who says that he is an atheist and then takes the oath has great question marks over him. Let us get on to other matters in this Bill, which also provides that a person must be a resident for a period before being permitted to become a citizen of Australia. That period was three years. That has been reduced to two years. We are the only Western country with such a low residential qualification period. In America it is five years; in Canada, three; in France, five; in Germany, 10; in Greece, three; in Italy, five; in Sweden, five; in Switzerland, 10; and Australia has reduced hers from three to two. It is quite incredible to care so little or to consider the matter to be so light that we are the only country of those I mentioned to make that period so short. We were told by Senator Robert Ray today that we were talking about the good old days. I suppose we are talking about the good old days.

Senator Grimes —Indeed you are.

Senator WALTERS —I am sorry; I did not hear the Minister's interjection.

Senator Grimes —I agreed with you.

Senator WALTERS —I believe that we are talking about the good old days, or, as Senator Sir John Carrick said, the good old standards that this Government is dragging down further as it goes. In this Bill the requirement regarding the ability to speak the English language has also been changed. I am not quite sure what the purpose of that is. I am not quite sure of the difference between ' adequate' and 'basic'. No doubt we will learn the difference at the Committee stage.

Senator Grimes —If we ever get there.

Senator WALTERS —We may not get there. As I said, the English language clause has been changed. The thing that concerns me is that we are allowing people who are not able to write English to become Australian citizens. In other words, they do not have to be able to fill in all the necessary forms such as drivers' licence applications, voting forms and all other things that I believe essential when one becomes an Australian citizen. They do not have to be able to write English. They do not have to be able to converse or communicate very well. They do not even have to be able to understand English very well. I do not believe that is in their best interests. I believe it is in the best interests of Australian citizens to encourage them to speak and understand the Australian language before they become Australian citizens. It may be more difficult, but I think encouragement is necessary. I believe that unless we do that we will not be doing things in the best interests of Australians; indeed, we will be doing the opposite. I think that the Government has gone too far on this occasion. It is not going to pass the legislation. It is going to have to back off. It will have to bring forward all those consequential amendments that will be necessary. It is going to find that the people of Australia are completely disenchanted with the fact that the Government is not able to put forward a good excuse for wanting to get rid of the Queen from our oath of allegiance.