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Wednesday, 20 April 1966


Sir KEITH WILSON (Sturt) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) attempted to ridicule certain very distinguished members of this House by stating that they had changed their attitude. He declared that the Government had travelled a long way since the original measure was introduced. We live in a changing world. One virtue of the present Government is that it will change its attitude to meet changing conditions in a changing world. The great trouble with the Australian Labour Party is that it will not change its attitude to meet changing conditions. It still clings to its outdated and discredited policy of Socialism. The honorable member mentioned a statement by an honorable member on this side ox the House which was made in the debate on the original measure and which related to the possibility that the British Empire would be liquidated. However we may describe the circumstances, Sir, we have to recognise that the world has changed. The British Empire became the British Commonwealth and the British Commonwealth became the Commonwealth of Nations. The present Government is always wise enough to change its attitude to meet the challenge of changing world conditions. So there is nothing unusual in the fact that the Government and honorable members on this side of the chamber now support the concept of British nationality and Australian citizenship.

The honorable member for Grayndler also criticised the proposals relating to the renunciation of foreign allegiance that are embodied in this Bill. The British law and the Australian law on this subject are abundantly clear. If a person swears allegiance to our Queen and becomes a British subject with Australian citizenship, he is automatically deprived of any foreign nationality. Therefore, all that is proposed in this Bill is to put into words, for the benefit of migrants, the effect of their act in acquiring Australian citizenship. Why should we mislead them? Why should we not put all our cards on the table and say to a migrant: " You are now becoming a British subject and an Australian citizen. At the same time, you are renouncing allegiance to any foreign sovereign or any foreign state."? I quite agree that the renunciation could be omitted and that its omission would not make the slightest difference. But I am one of those who believe in being candid. I do not believe in misleading people. There is a possibility that if the words of renunciation were omitted a migrant might imagine that, for example, he could still have Dutch nationality and at the same time acquire British nationality. Under our laws, that is not possible. Honorable members may want to know the cases on the subject. There was the case during the last war of Lord Haw Haw, or Joyce as his real name was, who was dealt with for treason and who put up the defence that he had two nationalities. Then there was the older case of Sir Roger Casement, who claimed that he was Irish as well as British. I do not want to say any more in reference to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grayndler. I wholeheartedly support the Bill as it is and I oppose the amendment, not because of any difference in attitude but because I believe in being candid and letting migrants know not only the words but the effect of what they are doing.

I propose to spend some time on what 1 believe to be the real subject matter of the Bill. I wholeheartedly support the provision in the Bill that enables a husband and wife, at the one time, to become British subjects and Australian citizens. I. believe that our way of life in Australia depends upon family life and that we should do everything possible to prevent a division in families. We should not have a husband of one nationality and a wife of another if we can possibly avoid it. This Bill enables a husband or a wife, if the spouse is an Australian citizen, to become an Australian citizen immediately. Prior to this, the spouse became immediately entitled to apply for citizenship but could not receive citizenship in the same ceremony. The Bill enables both husband and wife to obtain citizenship in the same ceremony. Once the husband is naturalised, the wife can immediately take the oath and become a British subject and Australian citizen. The converse is equally true. I believe, therefore, that the Bill has everything to commend it; it is carrying out the main principle of the Australian way of life.

Mycomplaint about the Bill is that it does not go far enough. We in Australia are trying to build a great nation as fast as possible. We are trying to build it partly from our own natural born people and partly from the migrants we get from overseas. Most of us believe that we need to build our nation very quickly, that we must build up our population. We cannot fail to be somewhat alarmed at the very substantial fall, particularly in recent years, in the natural birth rate in Australia. If our natural birth rate falls, we will have to increase the number of migrants substantially in order to maintain our rate of growth. We should ask ourselves: " What kind of a nation do we mean to build?" I believe that we want to build an integrated Australian nation in which all people, or substantially all, are Australian citizens. We should not, therefore, have any unnecessary barriers on the obtainment of Australian citizenship. But at present we do have these barriers.

We accept persons for permanent residence in Australia. We vet them before they come here. We satisfy ourselves that they are the type of people who are likely to be successfully integrated into this community and become good Australian citizens. Having done that, why should we deny them Australian citizenship for a period of five years? I believe that this is quite unnecessary. I consider that 12 months, or two years at the most, is adequate to enable us to satisfy ourselves that migrants whom we have already vetted and accepted before we issue them with visas are of the type that we are prepared to admit to Australian citizenship.

I think it is also quite unnecessary for us to say that we will not naturalise people unless they can adequately speak the English language. The English language is extraordinarily difficult to speak, and there are some people who have the greatest difficulty in complying with the test. They have children in Australia. Their children become British subjects and Australian citizens because they are born in Australia. Therefore, we divide the familly against itself. We say that the children are British subjects and Australian citizens; but we say that the parents are foreigners and are aliens.

Although we have allowed the parents to come to Australia to take up permanent residence, we say that we will not allow them to become Australian citizens, first, because they have not been here for five years and, secondly, because they cannot speak the English language. The children go to Australian schools. They learn English and English only. They act as interpreters for their parents. I believe that it is completely foolish for us to insist with such rigidity that a first class migrant who successfully settles himself in Australia, establishes himself in a home, obtains a good job and wants to be an Australian citizen should be denied Australian citizenship either because he has not been here long enough - that is, for five years - or because he cannot speak the English language. To me, it does not mean anything that he cannot speak the language. I am quite sure that if I went to Germany or Italy I would have the greatest difficulty in speaking German or Italian. If a migrant has been able to hold a job satisfactorily, has been able to get himself a home and has sent his children to Australian schools, why should we not allow him to become an Australian citizen?

We do not want Australia to be the same as some European countries are today. They are countries of nationals with a whole host of foreign migrant workers. People from Italy go to Germany today not to become German citizens but to earn as much as they can in Germany and then to take themselves and their money back to Italy. We do not want people to come to Australia to earn what they can and then to send their money back to the European country of their birth. The purpose of our immigration policy is to build a nation composed of Australian citizens. For this reason our Nationality and Citizenship Act should be more liberal than it is.

Some little time ago the Government enacted a very great reform when it provided that if one of the spouses was eligible for naturalisation the other spouse would immediately become eligible for naturalisation notwithstanding that he or she had not been here for five years and notwithstanding that he or she could not speak English. The Parliament supported that reform. It is contained in section 15(4.) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. The subsection reads -

Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section or in sub-section (1.) of this section-

They are the provisions dealing with the five years residential qualification and the language test - the Minister may, upon application in the approved form, grant a certificate of naturalisation as an Australian citizen to an alien who has satisfied him -

That is, the Minister -

(a)   that she is the wife or widow, or that he is the husband or widower, of an Australian citizen. . . .

Parliament entrusted the Minister for Immigration with discretion to grant Australian citizenship to any spouse of a naturalised Australian. I would have thought that that wide discretion given to the Minister by this Parliament would have been exercised without any new restrictions. I. was rather shocked to hear the Minister say in his second reading speech on the Bill -

As regards residence, the situation is that where husband or wife is qualified but the partner is not, the eligible party is granted naturalisation and the non-qualified partner, as the spouse of an Australian citizen, then becomes eligible for naturalisation without completing the normal five years residential qualification.

That is excellent and entirely in accord with the Act. The Minister continued -

Much the same procedure operates in respect of the language requirement except that the confession is granted only to the wife.

In other words, having entrusted to the Minister the widest discretion to grant citizenship to the spouse of an Australian citizen, the Minister then imposes restrictions upon his powers. I do not know whether this was done as a result of moves initiated by the Department of Immigration or the Government. Why has this been done? In the case of a wife it does not matter whether she has learned English, but we are told that in the case of a husband, unless he has learned English he cannot be granted the same nationality as has been granted to his wife. Take the case of a woman who is a university graduate and who takes a post in one of our universities. Suppose she is higly distinguished and holds a scientific post in a university. After she has been here for five years she may find that she likes Australia and wishes to bring her husband out to join her. But she will be told she can be naturalised but that her husband cannot. She may become an Australian citizen and a British subject but her husband cannot until he satisfies the language test. I suggest that it is quite contrary to our immigration aims and ambitions to keep a family divided. So, although I compliment the Minister and the Government on liberalising the Act, I trust that it will go further and truly give effect to the spirit of migration, which is to build up the Australian nation.

Once we have approved a person for permanent residence in Australia we should allow him to become an Australian citizen and a British subject at the earliest possible moment. It is quite unnecessary in my view to impose language tests. The five years probation period is unnecessary. Why should it be five years? Why not ten years if you must have a set period? The qualifying period should be no longer than is necessary to enable us to look at the prospective citizen. After all, he has been vetted in Europe before coming here. He has been certified as a person of good repute, healthy and one likely to be successfully integrated into the Australian community. All of these tests are carried out thoroughly and efficiently by our officers overseas. Once the migrant has arrived in Australia it should not be necessary to do more than look at him. I think it is important to have a look at the people you wish to accept as your partners in the community. Surely 12 months or perhaps 2 years should be ample time to enable us to satisfy ourselves whether a migrant is likely to be successfully integrated into the community. I would like the Minister to urge the Government to liberalise our naturalisation procedure.

Another point I make is in relation to our armed forces. I believe that all persons who enlist in or are accepted by our armed forces, whether they be the regular forces, the Citizen Military Forces or the national service scheme - all persons whom we accept to fight for us - should be entitled to be Australian citizens. I know that the legislation provides that every year of service in the armed forces shall count as two years for the purpose of residential qualification. Good though that provision is, it is not good enough. If we accept a person in our armed forces, we should accept him for citizenship. I would like the Minister to place that matter also before the Government.

Although I have criticised the Bill as not going far enough I would like to express my appreciation to the Government and the Minister for the Bill as far as it goes. It makes a definite improvement to the legislation. It is on the right road. I trust that at the earliest possible moment the Minister will bring down a bill to simplify the process of naturalisation - to make naturalisation more quickly available - so that we may build up a great nation of Australian citizens.







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