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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Mr J R Fraser . - I propose to speak only briefly to this measure. I agree with the viewpoints that have been expressed by many honorable members commending the provisions of the Bill. In particular, I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and supported by this side of the House.

I want particularly to support the suggestions that have been made for a shortening of the required time of waiting for naturalisation. I refer to the time a migrant must spend in this country or any other British country, totalling in all five years, before he can be naturalised. The statutory requirement is, of course, one year's residence in Australia immediately prior to application for naturalisation plus four years' residence in Australia or in another British country under certain circumstances, during the eight years prior to application for naturalisation. No discretion rests with the Minister for Immigration or the Department to alter this requirement for adult persons, although some discretion is afforded the Minister in respect of persons under the age of 21 years.

Of course, there are other provisions in the Act which enable the qualifying period to be quite substantially reduced. As I understand it, the Nationality and Citizenship Act provides for the special recognition of the service of ex-servicemen under British or allied command, as defined in the Act, during World War TI and provides that voluntary service in the permanent forces of the Commonwealth may be counted as double time, that voluntary continuous full time service in the Army Forces of a country other than a foreign country during the eight years immediately preceding application for naturalisation may be counted as double time, and voluntary service in the Citizen Forces may be counted as time and a quarter. Thus, as an example, two years' service as a volunteer in the Australian Regular Army would count as four years' residence for naturalisation purposes.

The Act also allows up to four years' service during World War II in the forces of a foreign country under allied command to be counted towards the residential qualification. Of course, in such cases, the applicant for naturalisation must have resided in Australia for at least one year immediately prior to making application. In fact, a migrant coming to this country who has served with forces under allied command during World War II could have his waiting period very substantially reduced. I believe that this is a provision that could well be extended into other fields.

To illustrate a point I would like to make with the Minister, 1 would quote from a case put before me by a migrant citizen of this city who wrote drawing attention to the fate of temporary public servants, especially migrants. He said that, through no fault of their own, migrants temporarily employed in the Public Service have to wait for five years before being able to become permanent officers. Let me quote from bis letter. He said -

During this period they have to work just like everybody else without getting any promotion or other advancements.

This situation is very frustrating and inhuman-

These are his own words - especially when one's colleagues get promotions regularly.

He goes on to point out that he joined the Commonwealth Public Service as a temporary clerk in the Bureau of Census and Statistics in October 1960, and he was still employed there at the time of writing to me a week or two ago. He continued -

The condition of acquiring permanency is being a British subject, that is for a migrant to become naturalised. However, why is it that one has to wait five years, when you want to become naturalised much earlier, and are prepared for it. These five years are purely wasted as far as a career is concerned. When I entered Australia, my English was fluent, and surely it does not take five years to learn the Australian way of life. I already applied for naturalisation a year ago because of the time limit set for eligibility to become a permanent officer.

He continued, and I admire his command of the English language -

The irony of the case is that i was only 26 when I joined the Public Service and will be at least 31 when I become naturalised and become eligible for permanent appointment.

He cannot be permanently employed in the Public Service until he is naturalised and he cannot be naturalised until he has been in this country for five years, but when that five years has expired he will have reached the age of 31 years and the upper age limit for permanence in the Public Service is 30 years. So although he is now employed in the Public Service and has been with the Service since 1960 and is presumably giving entirely satisfactory service, he cannot become permanent because he has not become naturalised, but he cannot become naturalised because he has not been here for five years. He goes on to say -

This sort of thing gives you nightmares, and it is very unfair towards hard working migrants as they don't get the normal awards identified wilh work in the Public Service and being granted lo others (promotions etc.). 1 wrote to the Secretary of the Public Service Board using this case as an illustration for suggesting that there might be some means by which the Public Service Board, itself recognising the worth of a migrant who is a temporary public servant, might find means to have the qualifying period reduced. The letter from the Secretary of the Board in reply said - . . the Board requires production of evidence of naturalisation, as appropriate, but is not directly concerned wilh the question of the qualifying period served by the applicant before naturalisation was obtained. Although cases similar to the particular one referred to by you have come to notice, the Board has felt that, quite apart from the need lo observe the statutory requirements for naturalisation, it would be wrong for it to seek preferential treatment for a person, merely because he or she contemplated joining the Commonwealth Service.

The point I should like to make to the Minister is this: We grant naturalisation loosely on a two years basis to someone who has served during World War II with forces under allied command. We do not know anything of his qualities as a soldier and we do not necessarily know anything of his record as a soldier. The fact that he has served with forces under allied command entitles him to consideration at least of a reduction of his waiting time from five to two years.

I suggest to the Minister that there is an equal case for consideration of a reduction of the time generally, but particularly in relation to people employed in the Govern ment's own Public Service because those who are employed in the Public Service are subject to a security check. They are screened to ensure that they are suitable persons for employment in various departments in the Commonwealth Public Service. They are required to take an oath ot loyalty. Surely, these things being so, there is sound argument for saying that these people can be accepted for naturalisation in a period shorter than the five years generally required. I suggest to the Minister that there are safeguards in the screening that is undertaken before employment in the Public Service and, in fact, in the screening that is continued in the probationary period of that employment, and also in the requirement that the employee shall take an oath of allegiance. The Public Service Board has admitted in its reply to me that this is not an isolated case and that there are other cases. I suggest that throughout the length and breadth of Australia there may be indeed many hundreds of cases in which migrants who are here, who are established in the community and who are working in the Public Service are debarred, because of the present five year waiting period, from achieving permanence in a public service in which they are giving satisfactory service and in which they are happy to continue. I commend that suggestion to the Minister and I hope that he will consider it and discuss it, if need be, with officers of the Public Service Board. It seems to me that it is a reasonable proposal.

The migrant who has served with forces under allied command and enters the Public Service may be naturalised within two years whereas his fellow migrant who comes from the same country but who has not served under allied command during World War II must wait for five years and miss the opportunity, in many cases, ot achieving permanence in the Public Service - the permanence and security that he sought in joining that Service. I hope that the Minister will give this matter some consideration because it seems to me to be a reasonable proposition and one that must be causing concern to a considerable number of migrants employed not only in the Commonwealth Public Service, perhaps, but in the public services or public utilities of the States.

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