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Wednesday, 20 April 1966


Mr FOX (Henty) .- 1 do not intend to speak at length on this Bill because most of what can be said on the subject has already been said. I wish to support the Bill and to make a few suggestions which I think are worthy of consideration. It is my belief that the main purpose of the Bill is to encourage more migrants to apply for Australian citizenship. Honorable members may be interested to know that according to figures supplied to me by the Department of Immigration, between January 1945 and December 1965 - the period covered by our postwar immigration scheme - 480,698 migrants were naturalised. That number represents approximately two-thirds of all migrants eligible for naturalisation by reason of length of residence in this cuontry. As at 30th June last year there were still about 396,000 aliens registered in Australia. Of that number about 192,000 or about 50 per cent, were eligible to seek naturalisation by reason of having lived in Australia for five years or longer. 1 have no doubt that migrants have many reasons for not applying for naturalisation just as they have many reasons for seeking naturalisation. This Bill aims to remove some of the objections that migrants may have to seeking naturalisation. 1 would like to point out to the honorable member for Bass that migrants are not required when being naturalised to make an oath of renunciation. The statement they make is not made on oath. They merely make a statement of renunciation and take an oath of allegiance. The 1965 Australian Citizenship Convention came to the conclusion that the words of renunciation included in the naturalisation ceremony caused emotional distress to many participants. The Convention came to the conclusion also that the words deterred many migrants from seeking Australian citizenship. This Bill seeks to give the words of renunciation less prominence in the ceremony while at the same time making them just as binding as they are now. The change shortens the procedure of renunciation and makes the naturalisation ceremony more simple. We hope that it will also make the ceremony less distressing to certain migrants. At the same time the change does not lessen in any way the dignity of the ceremony.

Another major change effected by this Bill is that married couples may, if they wish, be naturalised at the same ceremony. The Migration Act specifies five years' residence in Australia as the qualifying period for Australian citizenship. There are exceptions to this provision. One is where a migrant is the spouse of an Australian citizen. It has already been pointed out that under this legislation a husband and wife may be naturalised at the same ceremony notwithstanding that only one of them has resided for five years or longer in this country.

Many migrants who do not seek to become naturalised are unaware of the many advantages attaching to Australian citizenship. These advantages are both material and tangible. It would be a good idea for the Government to embark on a publicity campaign to point out to migrants the advantages of Australian citizenship. No doubt these advantages are well known to all honorable members, but it may be worth while outlining some of the major ones. Only Australian citizens are eligible to receive the age pension. Only Australian citizens may obtain a permanent appointment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Only Australian citizens have the right to vote - the right to a say in who shall govern the country. Only Australian citizens may travel overseas on an Australian passport. I have no doubt that the possession of an Australian passport is a material advantage, judging by the number of requests 1 have had from migrants to speed up their naturalisation so that they may travel abroad on an Australian passport. All of these are good tangible reasons for applying for naturalisation. There are many less obvious reasons. For instance, migrants who are naturalised grow up in full partnership with Australian born people and I think that in such a position they are better able to take an interest and to participate in government at all levels if they so wish. When I say " all levels " I refer to local governing councils, State parliaments and the Federal Parliament. But apart altogether from this aspect, surely it is something to have a sense of belonging to the community.

Surely it is natural for the migrant to want to have a say in the election of the government of the country and in the election of those who will surely control his future destiny.

I think it is also inevitable that the children of migrants will grow up as Australians. I should think that the migrants would like to grow up as one with their children. In any case, we as a nation are interested in developing one nation, not a number of pockets of different nationalities. It is the wish of all true Australians that our new settlers should regard Australia's prosperity and Australia's progress as their prosperity and their progress.

Included in approximately 192,000 aliens who are at present eligible to apply for citizenship are many children aged between 16 and 21 years. No doubt many of them are children whose names were not included on the application for naturalisation at the time when the parent made application. I say that because the father has the opportunity of including on his application for naturalisation the names of all those of his children who are under 16 years of age. I think it is possible that many of those children who have since attained 16 years of age or more are not aware that they are not naturalised. Some of them probably believe that they were included in their father's naturalisation certificate. I think that a form of publicity embarked upon by the Government might bring these things home to them.

The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) dealt with some of the requirements of the Canadian Citizenship Act. I would suggest that perhaps we could learn from the United States of America. I do not propose that this country should slavishly follow everything that the United States suggests, but I do believe that that country has had far greater experience of migration matters than either Canada, Australia, or, for that matter, most countries in the world and I do think that we could learn something from the United States and its means of encouraging migrants to become naturalised.

It is my personal belief that the greatest barrier to applications for naturalisation is the lack of knowledge of English. As I understand it, the United States Government provides the names of certain arriving migrants whose knowledge of English is not great to local schools in order that invitations to attend citizenship classes might be extended to them. The information as to those with lack of knowledge of the language is obtained from immigration officers overseas. According to the report of the Immigration Service for the year 1963, the names of 178,957 migrants v/ere given to local schools, and in that year 104,164 migrants enrolled with those schools to attend classes relating to citizenship. In addition, a further 5,079 who could not attend school enrolled for home study courses. Surely this system would be worthy of consideration by the Minister.

United States immigration authorities have produced a film called: "Are you a Citizen? ". In the year 1963, this film was viewed by 700 prospective citizens at one school. The United States Government also prints and distributes a Federal textbook on citizenship which is used almost universally by schools. It is also available at a nominal charge at the Government Printing Office. The report to which I have referred discloses that in the year 1962-63 more than 150,000 copies of that book were distributed.

The Americans make quite a lot of citizenship week. Each year 17th September, which is the date of the signing of the American Constitution, is proclaimed by the President as Citizenship Day and marks the beginning of Citizenship Week. During this week the subject of citizenship receives a great deal of publicity throughout the length and breadth of the United States in the Press, over the radio and in television programmes. As many naturalisation ceremonies as possible are held during Citizenship Week. Australia has tried to do something along these lines by taking Australia Day as Citizenship Day and I know that the Department encourages as many councils as possible to hold naturalisation ceremonies on Australia Day or as near to that date as practicable; but I do not think we go far enough in this regard.

As I believe that we are all interested in encouraging eligible migrants to apply for naturalisation, I suggest that the Government might have a look at some of the ideas I have put forward. I have put them forward in a constructive manner in the hope that the Government might see fit to adopt some or all of them and thereby encourage more of our migrants to become Australian citizens. Apart from this, I believe the Bill is a good one and that it is deserving of the support of all honorable members.







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