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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1623

Senator MACKLIN(11.00) —The Australian Democrats will not be supporting the Opposition on this amendment. It is not that we are wildly enthusiastic about the Government's propositions in regard to the two to three years provision, but it seems to be a marginal proposition one way or the other. If we were talking of a radical reduction from 10 to five, I think that probably we would be able to have some type of general discussion. Already the period required for residency in this country is quite small. I think the additional reason one would be inclined to accept that position is that the historical pattern of settlement in Australia has tended to be very much on the basis of people seeking citizenship because they had made a deliberate choice when they came here. It is not so much a matter of their coming and then deciding to be citizens, as occurs, for example, in the historical pattern in many countries of the European Economic Community, and even in the United States of America. The historical development of Australia has involved people making a deliberate choice to come here to settle permanently. Those people tend to take citizenship at a later stage.

The other point to be borne in mind is that this legislation is looking at our largest group as well, and that is British citizens. Again, the historical development has been that they have made a deliberate choice in coming to Australia. Taking up citizenship is a purely voluntary matter. There is no obligation once one is able to settle here to take up citizenship. Hence, because it is a voluntary matter, I think historical development in Australia would indicate that the time frame is nowhere near as important as it is in many of the other countries we have discussed in this debate. It is peculiarly Australian inasmuch as it derives from our geographical isolation in the past, and that is still the case as a nation that exists on one continent. By and large the vast number of people who eventually take up citizenship have made a decision to settle permanently in Australia at the first occasion. Therefore, the discussion of the residency period in the Australian setting is somewhat academic. The number of people who may decide one way or another on the residency qualification will be small. It was on that basis that the Australian Democrats decided to support the Government and not so much on whether or not the period is two or three years. It just so happens that is the way Australia has worked in the past and is still operating. At some stage in future, of course, particularly with the growth in travel and the development of the size of the Australian population that may very well change, but that may be a matter for another parliament at another time.

Question put:

That the paragraphs proposed to be left out (Senator Martin's amendment) be left out.