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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1492


Senator ARCHER(8.41) —In considering the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill, it is appropriate to go back and look at how all this started in Australia. Act No. XIII of 1825 was 'An Act to Naturalise Timothy Goodwin Pitman '. That Act was passed on 5 July 1825.


Senator Peter Baume —In which Parliament?


Senator ARCHER —In the Parliament of New South Wales. It states:

Whereas Timothy Goodwin Pitman a citizen of the United States of America hath been for some time resident in the Colony of New South Wales and is desirous of settling therein. And whereas it is expedient that certain of the advantages and privileges which are enjoyed by His Majesty's natural-born subjects should be extended to him the said Timothy Goodwin Pitman. Be it therefore enacted by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales with the advice of the Council that when and so soon as the said Timothy Goodwin Pitman shall have taken and subscribed the oaths and shall have subscribed the declaration directed and appointed in and by a certain Act passed in the first year of the reign of His Majesty King George the First entitled 'An Act for the further Security of His Majesty's Person and Government and the Succession of the Crown in the Heirs of the late Princess Sophia being Protestants and for extinguishing the Hopes of the pretended Prince of Wales and his open and secret Abettors' (which said oaths and declaration the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales is hereby required and empowered to administer and receive in manner and form as in the said Act is prescribed) and when and so soon as the said Timothy Goodwin Pitman shall also have complied with all other the provisions in the said Act contained and enjoined he the said Timothy Goodwin Pitman shall thereupon be deemed taken and esteemed a natural-born subject of Great Britain and be entitled to all the rights privileges and advantages which are conferred on foreign Protestants by the said Act or by any other Act of Parliament now in force for naturalising such foreign Protestants and others as are settled or shall settle in any of His Majesty's Colonies in America save and except only the holding or exercising of any place or office of trust in the Courts of Law or what relates to the Treasury of the said Colony or its Dependencies.

And be it further enacted that the said Chief Justice shall immediately after such oaths shall have been taken and such declaration subscribed before him as foresaid certify the same and cause the certificate thereof to be recorded in the Supreme Court of the said Colony and such certificate shall be deemed and taken to be a sufficient proof of the said Timothy Goodwin Pitman being a natural-born subject of Great Britain to all intents and purposes whatsoever save and except as aforesaid and as such shall be allowed in every Court within the said colony and its Dependencies.

That was the way in which the naturalisation process started in Australia. I will not go to the extent of reading the oaths that were appended, because they are considerable and even more ponderous in their wording. But this goes to show the importance with which Australian citizenship started-and we look this evening at what it has got to now. It virtually means that one can almost acquire citizenship between aeroplanes as one passes through. It is another example of the great destroyer at work. The standards of pride and prestige that used to be held with Australian citizenship are destroyed by the fact that it now takes so little time to acquire, it involves so little recognition, and it can virtually be administered by almost anybody.

By our Constitution, we are a monarchy. No amount of huffing and fluffing by the government of the day can overcome the fact that, whether it likes it or not , the Constitution provides for it, and there is no way of going round it and no way that the people of Australia will allow it to be gone around. I have made every effort, without success, to find out what other monarchy will allow naturalisation without even having to swear allegiance to the sovereign. I believe that that is fairly important. I do not know of one other nation which is a monarchy where one does not need to swear allegiance to the monarch.

It is not only sad; as I say, it is another example of the great destroyer at work. It is a matter of residence of convenience; clause 13 makes that not difficult. Plenty of people come here on a work permit that would entitle them to citizenship. One has only to take note of the activities in this building and in certain States and other places to see that not everybody in Australia is completely honest, and that all sorts of people in Australia would take all manner of trouble to obtain a passport if it would suit their purposes. Not all of the people qualified under this arrangement to conduct naturalisations may be above some sort of examination, let alone the people that they are examining. Anyway, whose qualifications, anywhere, are weaker and of less consequence than those in Australia?

I do not see this as an oath of allegiance. It is no tie to people to say, 'I renounce any current citizenship and all allegiance to any State other than Australia, and I pledge that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution, obey the laws and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen'. It is just an absolute nonsense. At one stage I wrote to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr West. A couple of paragraphs from his reply are well worth recording . He made much of a report which stated:

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 and persons who maintained that they were not republicans.

What a sweeping generality! A little later, he went on to say:

Many such people have made it clear that their reluctance to become citizens results from their unwillingness to swear the oath in its current form.

He did not mention, of course, the thousands of people who have written to various members of parliament in various States to say that they wanted it. But because the Minister has managed to rough up a handful of people to suit his point of view, he says that people have a reluctance to become citizens because of their unwillingness to swear the oath in its present form. In his final paragraph, he stated:

The Government believes that this pledge of allegiance is distinctly Australian in character, expressing a clear commitment to Australia, its laws and Constitution, and avoiding what is for many people a confusing requirement to swear allegiance to a sovereign resident elsewhere. While there are legitimate differences of view on the Monarchy, they should not be invoked in an Australian citizenship ceremony. My proposals bring everyone together, allowing them all to make a full commitment of allegiance to Australia.

What absolute nonsense. I have never seen anything that has been so divisive in this area as the attempt to remove the important part of the oath of allegiance. I find it quite extraordinary that the Minister could claim that that was the case. I then started to wonder why members of this Parliament were prepared to sign or commit an oath or an affirmation of allegiance. I followed this up with a letter to the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). I said: 'If you are so keen to get the Queen out of the oath of allegiance why do you not take it out of the other Acts where it is required by law?' He favoured me with one of his gracious letters which read:

Thank you for your letter of 6th March 1984 concerning the oath of citizenship and the parliamentary and other serving oaths.

There is no intention on the part of the Government to seek to repeal or amend the Schedule to the Constitution which sets out the parliamentary oath and affirmation of allegiance to the Queen.

Similar oaths and affirmations are contained in some 17 Commonwealth Acts. In relation to those Acts administered by my Department there are no current proposals to remove the reference to the Queen.

I believe that that is a gross act of inconsistency, the likes of which we have come to acknowledge and expect, admittedly. The 17 Acts under which the Attorney -General's Department administers and is responsible for the oath are the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1933, the Bankruptcy Act 1966, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, the Copyright Act 1968, the Defence Force Discipline Appeals Act 1955, the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, the High Court of Australia Act 1979, the Parliamentary Counsel Act 1970, the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972, the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1972, the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971, the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, the Defence Act 1903, the Naval Defence Act 1910, the Norfolk Island Act 1957, the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 and the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920. Why would we suddenly choose to remove the reference to the monarch from the oath of allegiance and then say that we have no intention of removing it from these other Acts? The Attorney said:

There is no intention on the part of the Government to seek to repeal or to amend the schedule to the Constitution which sets out the parliamentary oath and affirmation of allegiance to the Queen.

Why not? If it is so important, if we are so hell bent to distance ourselves from our history, heritage and Constitution, why pick on one Act? If we are so keen on it, why go for one that does not require an amendment to the Constitution. Therein lies the whole story. If it were a matter of applying to get an amendment to the Constitution I think we would find that there was no case for removing the reference to the monarch. But while ever it is possible to sneak it through there is every possibility that it would be done. If those other Acts could be changed in a similar way I venture to suggest that it also would have been done.

I believe that only a couple of other topics would have produced more mail through my office than this topic. It is considerably offensive to a great proportion of the population. It is offensive to people who have been brought up with loyalty, dignity and dedication to the Parliament, to the Crown and to the Commonwealth. It is quite outrageous that a matter such as this should be taken out of the hands of the people without it even having been discussed. I have not had one letter from anybody seeking my support for the legislation. I have had no suggestion that the Government would be prepared to consider having a referendum on this matter in which everybody was given the opportunity to express an opinion. In the circles I move in I find that people are loyal. They do express their loyalty. They are proud to do so. They believe in the Queen and in the monarchy. They believe in the Queen of Australia. I repeat: This disreputable statement that we are left with says nothing.

I wish that there had been more public communication on this matter. I am sorry that the Government believes that what it is doing has sufficient acceptance for it to try to sneak it through in the way it has chosen. I believe there should have been greater option. I believe that those people who wish to establish their loyalty should, at least, have been given the opportunity. It is all very well to make provisions that people may take either an oath or an affirmation and that people who have a belief in God should be able to express it and swear by it, but why not give them the same opportunity-if the Minister were in any way reasonable-to take the oath to the monarch? The Minister established that there was an alternative for those who wished to swear to God and those who did not. But no such opportunity was given to those who wished to express loyalty to the monarch as the Constitution of the country provides.

Apart from that, most of the mechanical alterations in the Bill will, of course , be supportable. It is only the manner in which the legislation was brought forward and what it changes in material ways that I find so objectionable. I felt that the letter I received from the Attorney-General clearly showed that although we are a country of somewhat limited history we at least go back now almost 200 years and we have very strong connections with other parts of the world. We have connections which many people who have come to Australia only in the last few years find very important. It seems to me that the Attorney-General , in particular, takes the attitude that if anything is older than about 9 September 1944 it should be destroyed. To take the attitude that beyond that date something is archaic and should be up only for demolition is what the matter comes back to now. The way that this revolutionary Government, the great reformers, are heading will leave this place in tatters. To destroy the very framework of the society on which the whole country is built is deplorable.