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Wednesday, 9 September 1903

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that although de jure the honorable and learned member for South Australia may be correct in his assertion as to the existing rights of naturalized subjects, de facto he is wrong. A short time ago a man resident in my electorate complained to me that, although he had taken out letters of naturalization in Queensland and had subsequently secured employment in the railway service of New South Wales, he had been told by the Railway Commissioners that he would have to cease work because he was not a naturalized British subject. In that respect, therefore, he certainly suffered some disability. I informed the man that he would have to wait for the passing of this measure, which, I felt sure, would recognise the naturalization papers which he had obtained under the Queensland law, and that under this Bill he would be enrolled as a naturalized subject of the Commonwealth. With regard to the point more immediately under discussion, I desire to say that I favour the Prime Minister's proposal to omit the words mentioned by him, but that I fail to see any reason for inserting any other words. I was a strong advocate of the measure designed to prevent the immigration of this class of people into the Commonwealth, but I consider that in our own interests, as well as in the interests of those who have been admitted into the Commonwealth and have qualified themselves in other respects, as provided for by subsequent clauses in this Bill, no obstacle should be placed in the way of their naturalization under the Federal law. Once having admitted them to the Commonwealth, it would be unjust to place any embargo upon them.

Mr Kingston - This provision applies chiefly to the future.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But there are many of these people in the Commonwealth, and from day to day they will be applying for naturalization under this law. Notwithstanding what has been said by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs as to the number of people who are being naturalized, I feel confident that in New South Wales many applications for naturalization papers have been refused, chiefly on the ground that the Commonwealth Parliament are dealing with this subject, and that in the meantime the State Government think it unnecessary to issue any certificates. Many of these people are reputable citizens permanently established here, and it would be a gross injustice to refuse the privileges which they seek.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - This Bill will not take away their privileges.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I fear that if these words are allowed to remain they will prevent many people from applying for naturalization papers. Under clause 7 the Governor-General may for good reason withhold a certificate of naturalization, and that appears to me to be a sufficient protection against the naturalization of an undesirable person. It would be grossly unjust on the ground of their nationality to refuse letters of naturalization to fit persons whom we have .already admitted into the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that we may have declined to al low -any other people of like nationality to enter Australia.

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne).I trust that the Prime Minister will reconsider his proposal to omit the words relating to aboriginals. As the clause stands we except clearly specified classes whom we desire to except, but if we say that any person who is of "European descent" may apply for a certificate of naturalization, a number of difficulties may arise. ' There are some, very excellent members of this House who cannot claim to be of European descent. I have been asked whether a Turk - and a Turk is hardly likely to come here - is of European descent, and it seems to me that he is essentially an Asiatic. In the circumstances I think it would be safer to allow these words to stand. Under clause 8, unless there be a specific Act of Parliament limiting the rights of voting, and the rights of naturalized subjects-

Sir Edmond Barton - I have been discussing that matter with the honorable and learned member for Indi, and we think the clause might be advantageously amended so as to preserve the application of States laws.

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