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Wednesday, 30 November 1960


Mr FOX (Henty) .- It is not my intention to delay the committee long at this hour. I shall not take more than a few minutes of its time. I have a good many friends amongst the migrant population of Melbourne and two reasons have been advanced to me by them for not taking advantage of Australian cittizenship. I believe that these reasons have not been dealt with by previous speakers. The first is that quite a number of migrants are still not sufficiently clear about what they have to do in order to become naturalized. Quite a number of them believe they have to consult a solicitor. They can neither afford the solicitor's fee nor the time off from their employment to see him. I know that the Government has abolished the fee for naturalization and has made the procedure as simple as possible. Also, the department writes a letter to migrants who are eligible for citizenship, but I do not think that we are getting through to a sufficient number of them. I consider that the solution of the problem is to be found in personal contact.

The second reason given to me applies only to nationals of certain countries, one of which is Poland. It is that there are agitators .moving among migrants from Poland and some other iron curtain countries, advising them against becoming naturalized on the ground that they would be betraying their native countries. I think that, in this regard too, personal contact would go a long way towards eliminating this problem. I believe that the department could profitably employ a field team, perhaps in conjunction with the 'Good Neighbour Movement, to call personally on migrants who have been resident here for five years but have not applied for naturalization.

Mr. BEAZLEY(Fremantle) [12.7 a.m - I ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) a question which is underlined by the second point made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox). I think it is a serious one. What does naturalization mean if we make it revocable, as in fact we have made it revocable in the Crimes Act and in the Nationality and Citizenship Act? The significance which we attribute to naturalization may well be a protection to naturalized Australian citizens and British nationals from treason trials by a foreign power.

Let me, for example, give the case of an Italian who was naturalized in Australia before the Second World War and who fought against Italy. Had he been put on trial by Italy for treason, we would have strongly complained and we would have asserted that our naturalization was real, that he had renounced his former allegiance and that he was now our citizen. To-day the Soviet is claiming that Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Ukranians are Soviet citizens. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) some years ago protested when the Soviet Embassy attempted to get such people to register. This question of what meaning we attribute to naturalization is very important, in that naturalization may well be a protection for those people who have accepted new allegiance to this country, should they ever be in conflict with the country to which they formerly owed allegiance.

Many of these points came up in the trial of William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw, who apparently had never been a British subject but who was a naturalized German. There was very strong sentiment in Britain that it was ludicrous that he was being tried for treason, but he was caught on the technicality that he had a forged passport, which put him under the protection of George VI., and that by possessing that -forged passport he owed allegiance to George VI. That was a ground that could never be advanced against bis wife. In view of the fact that naturalization was one of the angles discussed in that case, if the honorable member for Henty is right in saying .that Polish nationals are being terrorized and told that they will be regarded by Poland as traitors if they become naturalized, obviously we weaken our stand by the provision whereby we make naturalization revocable. Why should a foreign power take back a criminal who has renounced his allegiance to it? By this very act, we admit that such persons are still citizens of their former country. We send them back, and we say to their former country, "You are responsible for them ". If we do that, why should a foreign country with which we are at war refrain from trying as traitors naturalized citizens of this country who formerly owed allegiance to that country?

If they are taken prisoners of war we undercut the protection of naturalization by making it revocable. A foreign power may legitimately say, " If you return to us people convicted of a crime, whom you have naturalized, thereby declaring them not to be British subjects or Australian citizens, but to be our subjects, why should we acknowledge the naturalization of those whom you do not return? " Surely naturalization should be the subject of close scrutiny before it is conferred; but once it is conferred it should be irrevocable. If it is irrevocable you protect the state of people who have entered into a new allegiance as Australian citizens and British subjects. You can always get an easy cry in this country, " So and so committed a crime; send him back "; and ignore the effect that it may have on the status of valuable citizens of this country, many times more numerous, who commit no crime. I would like an elucidation of that point by the Minister.







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