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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- I listened this afternoon to the magnificent speech of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr.

Daly). He dealt clearly and definitely with the whole subject of nationality and citizenship as it affects the Australian nation. He told the story of what happened when the first Nationality and Citizenship Bill was before the Parliament. He told how honorable members who are now on the Government side of the House opposed that legislation. They opposed it on the grounds, as one of their leading members said, that the passing of the legislation would usher in the end of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Another honorable member said that the legislation was tantamount to pulling down the Union Jack in Australia. They did everything possible to defeat that legislation, I do not object to their becoming wiser as they grow older, but the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) had the audacity to criticise the Opposition for suggesting an amendment to the legislation. He said: 1 support the legislation as it stands because the Government knows, as the Government always knows, what it is doing." Did Government supporters know what they were doing when they opposed the legislation for nationality and citizenship that was introduced by a Labour Government on the grounds that the legislation would destroy the British Empire and result in hauling down the flag? If they did, why did they take that action?

I listened carefully to the long speech of the honorable member for Grayndler in which he traced the whole story of nationality and citizenship as it applies to this nation and the actions of the Government and the Opposition in connection with it down through the years. As I listened, the more my wonder grew that one small head could carry all he knew. This Bill amends legislation introduced and put on the statute book by a labour Government. I approve of the amendment suggested by the Opposition. I also approve of many of the provisions incorporated in this legislation by the Government. However I believe that the Government should make the achievement of citizenship by migrants much easier than it is today. I agree with what was said by the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson). Persons had to reside in Australia for 10 years before they could be accepted as citizens. This period has been reduced to five years, but why five years? What is magical about a five year period? Why not three years? Why not two years? All that is necessary is that these people assure us that they intend permanently to reside in Australia and that they want to accept citizenship. They have come from overseas at the behest of the Australian nation. They have been carefully screened by officials of this country before they have arrived in Australia. Having been carefully screened, and having spent a small period in Australia, when they present themselves for citizenship, there should be no objection to accepting them. We can learn no more about them in 10 years than we can in 5 years or in 3. They will still be as good or as bad citizens as their capacities enable irrespective of the time they work and live in Australia before the rights of naturalisation are conferred on them.

I, too, believe that language should have little if anything to do with naturalisation. Among those who come from overseas are women advanced in years. They spend their time in their homes and they are unable, by association, to practice the English language. They are unable to acquire facility by practice in the language. Many of these migrants, because of their educational standards, are unable to learn very quickly. This does not apply to migrants only. It applies to every section of the community. When I look around this chamber at the members who constitute this Parliament, I wonder how they would perform if they endeavoured to learn another language or even become more facile in the expression of their native tongue. I believe that they would experience considerable difficulty.

Men and women of advanced years who come to this country do have difficulty in reaching the standards established by our immigration authorities who determine whether these immigrants should be naturalised. I would say that the ability or inability of these men and women to learn the English language does not make them any better or worse Australian citizens. If these people are able to understand fully the responsibilities of naturalisation and the assumption of the Australian nationality, they should be eligible to be naturalised. We should endeavour to make the attainment of naturalisation much easier than it is at the present time. I remember a time not so long ago when honorable members opposite, and honorable members generally, considered it undesirable that anybody should be naturalised who had not resided in Australia for a period of 10 years. Suddenly, as though by inspiration, those people have seen the light just as Saul of Tarsus did, and they say that the period should now be five years. They have reduced the time by half. The results of naturalisation have not shown any difference as far as the individuals who have acquired citizenship in this way are concerned.

However, there is another aspect of naturalisation upon which I desire to touch. This is the naturalisation ceremony. These ceremonies ave conducted by municipalities, with flags flying, and with representatives of Federal and State legislatures in attendance. When a ceremony is over and the person being naturalised has renounced allegiance to any foreign government, king or queen, and has accepted Australian citizenship, a series of speeches are delivered. The first speech is made by the mayor of the municipality who impresses upon those who have been naturalised the great gift of nationality that has been given to them by the Australian people. He says that the nationality given to them carries with it great responsibilities and duties. Then, one after another, the representatives of the legislatures repeat in different terminology the address of the mayor. In their speeches, they impress, upon the citizens who have just adopted the Australian nationality that they have duties and responsibilities to this nation.

Mr Stewart - I do not say that.

Mr PETERS - The honorable member for Lang does not say that. He would not say that. He is always different from anybody else. However, the honorable member is the exception that proves the rule. Migrants to this country who acquire the Australian nationality are not merely receiving a gift from Australia. They are giving something to the people of Australia. After aH, these migrants come here because they want to come here. But they do not come here only because they want to come here. They could not come here if it was only they who wanted to come here and there was no particular wish by anybody else for them to come. They come to Australia because our citizens and the Australian Government want them to come here. They come because the Commonwealth Government sends representatives abroad to impress upon Germans, Italians, Greeks, Englishmen, Irishman, Scotsman and others the benefits that they will receive on leaving the lands of their birth and by coming to Australia. We induce these people to come to Australia. Because we do this, we have obligations and responsibilities to our migrants just as migrants who become naturalised Australian citizens have responsibilities and obligations to us.

I think a little could be done by the mayors, the honorable member for Lang, and those who sit behind people on the municipal platforms when migrants are being naturalised to point out that we, too, owe something to the new citizens. This applies particularly to those people occupying positions of responsibility, such as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who, according to himself, carries out those duties very well. Those people should be ever ready, and available to serve migrants and make their assimilation and integration into the social, economic and sporting life of our community as easy and as full as possible. At our naturalisation ceremonies we should emphasise the duty to our migrants of those who hold responsible positions in this country as well as emphasising the duties and obligations that the citizenship acquired by these migrants carries with it. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I do not intend to speak very long because of the magnificent speech delivered by the honorable member Grayndler. The remarks that I have made, because of the all embracing speech the honorable member for Grayndler delivered, are merely a work of supererogation, a gilding of the lily, a painting of the rose.

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