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Friday, 29 October 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney) .- I have pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for' Batman (Mr. Brennan) to omit the word " five," with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " two." I also support the contention that has been advanced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). This is a matter to which I referred last evening when speaking on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. It is admitted by the Minister (Mr. Poynton) that this measure1 will take away the right of those who are not British subjects to become naturalized under the existing law on a residence of two years in Australia. Tinder this Bill a man will not be able to secure naturalization except on a residence of five years.

Mr Poynton - I hardly know of a case in Australia that would be adversely affected by this provision as to five years' residence

Mr RYAN - It will not prejudice those who have been residing here for at least five years; but in regard to those who come here in the future the whole policy of the Government in regard to immigration is affected by this proposal. At the present time a person who is not a British subject, on coming here from abroad, may become naturalized after a residence of two years. The Commonwealth for quite a number of years has thought that to be a sufficient residence. There is ' nothing in our experience to show that such a policy was wrong. On the contrary, I think most of those who have become naturalized in Australia have proved, as the honorable member for Batman says, to be very useful citizens. In so far as naturalization in Australia is concerned, why should we depart from a policy which we deliberately adopted at the beginning of Federation, and have found to work out usefully? The only reason advanced for the change is that it is suggested that our naturalization should be Empire wide. That could be secured, as the honorable member for Hunter says, by allowing those who become naturalized in Australia to make application, after five years' residence if they so desire, for Empire-wide naturalization. But why should we, a selfgoverning Dominion, depart from what we have found to be the right policy for Australia? We are departing from it in regard only to those who have been our Allies in the recent war, because clause 7 provides that the Governor-General may naturalize them if they have been resident in the Dominions for five years. If they have not been he will have no power to naturalize them. In addition to that, he may refuse to naturalize them, and the Minister has admitted that he does not propose to naturalize, even after a residence of five years, persons coming from countries which were recently at war with Great Britain.

Mr Poynton - As a matter of fact, such persons cannot come here.

Mr RYAN - Some of them are already here, yet the Minister tells us deliberately that he does not intend to naturalize them after five years' residence.

Mr Poynton - I have not said that.

Mr RYAN - The honorable gentleman has admitted that the policy of the Government at the present time is not to admit to naturalization persons from countries which were recently at war with the British Empire, even if they have five years' residence.

Mr Poynton - I have not admitted that. What I have said is that every case will have to go before the Cabinet.

Mr RYAN - But surely the Government has some policy in regard to the matter. Has not the Cabinet a policy? If it has, we ought to know what it is.

Mr Poynton - I have said what it is; apparently the honorable member was not listening.

Mr RYAN - I listened carefully to the honorable gentleman, and heard him say that, shortly put, each case would be dealt with on its merits. I should think every case would be so dealt with.

Mr Poynton - I did not even say that.

Mr RYAN - But I heard the honorable gentleman make that statement.

Mr Poynton - The honorable member misunderstood me.

Mr RYAN -Then will the honorable gentleman be good enough to let me know what residence in Australia will be necessary to the naturalization of persons from a country which has been at war with the Empire.

Mr Poynton - I have already told the honorable member.

Mr RYAN - The Minister says that I misunderstood him. Surely he will again give me the information. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has said that twenty years' residence will be required, and that the applicant must be fifty years of age. That is not denied.

What I am arguing is that in the administration of the measure this clause, requiring, as it does, five years' residence, will apply only to those who were our Allies in the recent war, or to citizens of countries that were not at war with us. In respect of all such persons, so far as our own Dominion is concerned, we ought to be able to allow the law to stand as it is, and to permit them to become naturalized after two years' residence here. I am not going to consent to the Government's proposal. They may, and probably will, pass it without my consent; but I am not going to assist in placing obstacles in the way of French and American citizens becoming naturalized on the same terms as were open to them before the war. That is contrary to international sentiment, and certainly contrary to the spirit that should exist between those who fought side by side in the recent war. Here we tell the people of such countries that we are going to set up a barrier against them, and that we are not going to admit them to citizenship on the terms on which they were admitted before the war. The position in regard to Empire naturalization is different. If the Imperial Parliament thinks that there should be a longer residence in order to secure Empire-wide naturalization, that is its right, and I am not questioning it. But it is our admitted right-Great Britain does not challenge it - to say that, so far as Australia is concerned, after a residence of two years or such other period as we decide upon, a person may become naturalized under our law, and be entitled to the full rights of citizenship. For these reasons I am supporting the amendment, and I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the Minister, with the assistance of his officers, could easily so amend this clause as to enable Australian naturalization to be given on the existing conditions, and Empire naturalization on the condition of five years' residence, which the Imperial Parliament itself lays down in its Naturalization Act.

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