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Thursday, 4 July 1946

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister- for Information) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Under existing nationality law, an essential requirement for the grant of a certificate of naturalization is that an applicant shall have resided for a prescribed period within the British Dominions. The Territory of New Guinea does not form a part of the British Dominions for the purposes of nationality law, and residence in the territory cannot, therefore, be counted as residence for the grant of naturalization. This means that the only way open at present to a person living in the territory to acquire British nationality, which will be recognized in Australia, or other parts of the Empire, is to abandon his domicile there and take up residence in Australia or some other part of the British Commonwealth. The purpose of this bill is to enable a resident of the territory to qualify for naturalization as a British subject while maintaining his residence in the territory. The right of the Commonwealth to legislate for the grant of naturalization to residents of New Guinea is not in doubt, as in 1922 the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, in reporting on the national status of inhabitants of territories under B and C mandate, under which the Territory of New Guinea was classed, stated - It is open to Mandatory Powers to whom B and C mandates have been entrusted to make arrangements in conformity with their own laws for the individual and purely voluntary acquisition of their own nationality by inhabitants of these territories.

The Commonwealth has long realized the desirability of making provision which would enable certificates of naturalization to be granted to persons resident in New "Guinea who have for a considerable period been much more closely associated with this country than with any other country.

The matter of amending the United Kingdom Nationality and Status of Aliens Act to permit of residence in B and C mandated territories to count as residence in His Majesty's Dominions for the grant of naturalization was brought before the Imperial Conference in 1923 at the instance of the Commonwealth Government. The conference recommended that the power of granting imperial certificates of naturalization be extended so as to cover persons residing in B and C mandated territories and also in protectorates, and a draft bill was accordingly prepared in 1924 for intro.duction in the United Kingdom Parliament. Although representations were made by the Commonwealth from time to time, nothing was done by the United Kingdom authorities to give effect to the bill until 1926, when a revised draft was submitted to the Imperial Conference held in that year. The revised draft wasapproved by the conference, and also by the Commonwealth Government. The introduction of the revised bill was, however, deferred, as the United Kingdom Government took the. view that with the passing of the Statute of Westminster in relation to the position of dominion mandated territories, certain drafting amendments of the bill were necessary on technical grounds to secure that (a) where the respective dominion parliaments had made appropriate provision for the grant of certificates of naturalization to residents in their mandated territories such certificates should be duly recognized ; and (fe) residence in such mandated territories should be treated as residence within His Majesty's Dominions for the purposes of the United Kingdom Act.

The Commonwealth endeavoured to secure the passage of the bill by the United Kingdom Government, but in 1937 was advised that the matter of introducing legislation on the lines indicated was still under consideration and that a decision in regard to it had not been reached. As it 'seemed unlikely that the United Kingdom Government would introduce this legislation at a comparatively early date, consideration was given to the amendment of the Commonwealth Nationality Act so as to extend it to the Territory, of New Guinea as if that were a part of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the act. Cabinet approved of this in 193S. But the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities have expressed the opinion that it is not possible to grant to residents of New Guinea naturalization which would be effective throughout the British Dominions. The Government has decided that the next best should be given to residents of the territory; that is, that they shall be accorded the privilege of qualifying for the grant of British nationality which will have effect in the Commonwealth and its territories. The bill makes that provision.

I am confident that all members will share the Government's belief that residents of a territory which for so long has been closely linked with Australia, should no longer be denied the opportunity of becoming eligible to acquire British nationality. I have no hesitation in commending the bill to their favorable considers tion.

Mr Abbott - Are some of those people stateless?

Mr CALWELL - No ; they retain the nationality that they brought with them.

Mr Abbott - Supposing they were Austrians, what then?

Mr CALWELL - They would still be classed as Austrians.

Mr Abbott - But Austria has disappeared !

Mr CALWELL - They would be regarded legally as Germans, although they are really Austrians, because it has been the practice in this country to regard as Germans everybody who was in Austria even before the Anschluss effected by Hitler in 193S. The only people in this country who are regarded as stateless are those who were so declared by* Hitler when they were ejected from Germany, or those who have been so classified in consequence of turmoil in various countries in Europe. Since 1916> we have had in this country people who were residents of Czarist Russia but are regarded as stateless because they claim that they have never been citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The number of stateless persons in Australia is comparatively small, if we exclude all of those who were driven out of Germany and were refused German passports. The fact that they were refused German passports naturally made them stateless.

Mr Abbott - Who are the people who hold Nansen passports?

Mr CALWELL - They are people whom the League of Nations rescued after the turmoil of World War I. Very few -people hold Nansen passports to-day. We have had to devise a new system in respect of those who were caught up in the cataclysms in Europe during the last few years. The people covered by this bill are mostly missionaries and planters. Some of them have given 38 or 40 years of their lives to the service of this country, in one way or another, in New Guinea, yet are still ineligible to acquire British nationality. During the war period, their lack of British nationality was a danger to them. Had they resided in Australia for five years, of that long term of service in New Guinea, they could have acquired British nationality, which would have been recognized throughout every part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. What

Ave propose to give to them is a Certificate of Naturalization which will be effective so long as they remain in Australia or its territories. Should they leave the Commonwealth, they will again acquire the status which they had before their naturalization.

Mr McEwen - Are they mostly German nationals?

Mr CALWELL - They may be German, Dutch or Italian.

Mr McEwen - What are they, in fact?

Mr CALWELL - In fact, there are Americans, French, Germans, Belgians, Austrians and Italians. There are almost as many nationalities in New Guinea as there were nations represented on the League of Nations.

Mr Archie Cameron - I suppose that some of them were in internment long enough to qualify for naturalization ?

Mr CALWELL - Some of them, unfortunately, were wrongly interned. I have no hesitation in making that declaration in this Parliament in respect of both New Guinea and other places. But that is not a matter for discussion here.

Mr White - Does this bill make provision in regard to the German missionaries ?

Mr CALWELL - Yes ; it will embrace all the members of the former German missions, Lutheran missions and Catholic missions. A grant of naturalization is not made to. any person in Australia without the approval of the security service. That is an inflexible rule. The same requirement will be laid upon the security service to approve of the applications of any persons in New Guinea, for naturalization under this legislation, when it becomes effective, before any further consideration will be given to such applications.

Mr McEwen - Could the bill apply to a person of Asiatic origin?

Mr CALWELL - No. Technically it could; but actually no persons of Asiatic origin are naturalized in Australia.

Mr McEwen - This bill will not entitle such persons to become naturalized ?

Mr CALWELL - This bill will not make effective any such application for naturalization. Technically, any person can be naturalized in this country; but it is' a rule of the department that naturalization shall be granted only to persons of European origin or descent. Persons are admitted to this country if they are substantially of European origin. By " substantially " I mean that persons who are more than' one-half of European extraction - for example, an Eurasian who is five-eighths of European extraction - would be admitted to the Commonwealth and would be treated as though they were persons of European descent. That is the practice of the department, over which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) presided for a portion of his ministerial career, and over which the honorable member for "Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) ' held sway in the long, long ago when he was a Commonwealth Minister of State.

Mr Blain - Will this bill be sponsored by the Summer School of Political Science, as a first wedge?

Mr CALWELL - I do not propose to answer the honorable member's aberrations in regard to summer schools, or any other subject. I am presenting a bill that has been considered from time to time by many governments of the Commonwealth. It is a- measure designed to do in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea precisely what has been done by the Parliament of the United Kingdom for persons who have resided in Palestine for the required period of five years. Such persons are entitled to naturalization certificates which, while they continue to reside in Palestine, give them all the rights and privileges of British nationality, but once they leave Palestine the certificates no longer have any effect. In this bill, we propose to grant certain limited rights of citizenship, and 90 per cent, of the .persons who will benefit deserve to do so.

Mr White - Are there not some known Nazis among these people?

Mr CALWELL - There may be, and if so they will not get naturalization certificates.

Mr White - Is the Minister sure of that?

Mr CALWELL - I am sure of it, because I am the Minister who administers our nationality laws. Any one who gets past me has to get up pretty early in the morning.

Mr White - But those girls got back to Manila.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, with my permission. As I have previously said no application for naturalization is considered by me unless it has been approved by the security service. I repeat that that is an inflexible rule. ,If an application is so approved, I then consider the other, aspects of the application which affect the suitability of the person .for naturalization. The security service has approved of many applications for naturalization which I have rejected, not because the applicants were subversive or constituted a menace to the security of the Commonwealth, but because they were anti-social in their activities, and had flagrantly disobeyed the law. Most of those who apply for naturalization are given their papers, but the grant of citizenship is not lightly made. I am not concerned with an applicant's political views. I have no doubt that, under our immigration scheme, we shall have an influx of tories who may be nearly as bad as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but that will not prevent their being naturalized. I trust that, by this digression, I have been able to enlighten honorable members regarding a subject which is fairly involved, and of great importance.

I should like to add that it is not the Government's intention that this shall be the final word on the subject. It is proposed to hold a conference of representatives of the United Kingdom and the Dominions in the near future to discuss certain nationality questions. It is intended to raise at that conference the matter of making provision that residence in New Guinea shall be regarded as a qualification for the grant of a certificate of naturalization which will be effective, not only in Australia- and its territories, but also throughout the other countries of the British Commonwealth.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

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