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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Mr BOSMAN (St. George) .- In rising to support the Bill and to oppose the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) I have no desire to canvass to any great extent the points already adequately put forward by Government supporters. I want principally to bring forward two suggestions that may be of value in broadening our approach on the question of naturalisation. Before coming to the two points 1 wish to deal with I want to mention the specific points which are emphasised in this Bill, apart from the machinery measures. I refer to the provision for a spouse to be able to stand beside his or her partner at the naturalisation ceremony, the special requirements of that ceremony, and also the renunciation of allegiance. I believe that, in addition to the points canvassed by other honorable members, these two provisions represent a most important advancement in our thinking, and a streamlining and broadening of our approach towards naturalisation ceremonies.

As has been said very adequately already, all members of Parliament are associated with naturalisation ceremonies in the various municipalities in the areas they represent. Not only the members of this Parliament but also the whole of the civil service appreciate the contributions which these naturalisation ceremonies make towards our way of life and the enlargement of our thinking. The municipal authorities are to be commended on their work in this field. Indeed, I am sure that each and every member of the Parliament who attends the ceremonies makes a specific point of expressing the appreciation of the Parliament and the Government of the work carried out by the municipal councils. For my own part, I am most appreciative of the efforts of the Rockdale Municipal Council and the Hurstville Municipal Council in my own electorate. My remarks apply not only to the councils as separate bodies but also to the officers of these councils who give up their time to organise these naturalisation ceremonies in such a splendid manner.These two provisions brought forward in the Bill by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) will add to the dignity of the naturalisation ceremonies.

The honorable memberfor Grayndler has raised the matter of the renunciation of allegiance. To my mind, the honorable member overemphasised the importance of it. The oath of allegiancehas been streamlined. The oath as set out in the Third Schedule in clause 12 of the Bill is a smooth flowing statement which willbe an asset to the ceremony. The oath of allegiance reads -


the person gives his or her name - renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.Her Heirs and Successors according to law.

Here is a blending of the old arrangement which I suggest to the House will be extremely successful and acceptable not only to new citizens but also to the older settlers of Australia. The streamlining of the administrative machinery to allow a spouse to stand beside his or her marriage partner at the naturalisation ceremony is one of those niceties which will improve the standard of this ceremony. This type of broad thinking by the Government is in accordance with the many phases of broader thinking in our governmental structure. This kind of improvement has been made by this Government from time to time in the fields of defence, foreign affairs, economics and so on. The two provisions to which I have referred add to the picture of general appreciation, good organisation and good government by the present Government since it came into office in 1949.

As I have already said, there are two points I want to emphasise. The first is the matter brought forward by the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson), who has suggested that the period of residence in Australia by a migrant before application for naturalisation can be made should be reduced from the present requirement of five years. I do not know that the honorable member for Sturt specified a period.

But I suggest this time might be reduced to two years. I notice fairly general support in the House for this suggestion. We may be able to determine the merit of this suggestion if we appreciate the factors behind the establishment of the five year residence requirement and how this system has operated since it was instituted. To do so, we can consider the number of rejections of naturalisation applications that have occurred under this five years qualification system. The figures which may be of interest to all members, including the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), show that o? all the naturalisation applications that have been considered, only 2.2 per cent, have been rejected. Of that 2.2 per cent., 1.8 per cent, was rejected on the ground of the language barrier. Actually, this 1.8 per cent, is not, in effect, a rejection because once the people concerned become accustomed to the language and have the necessary qualifications, they become eligible for naturalisation. So, we are left with a rejection figure of .4 per cent. I submit to the Minister for Immigration that there may be great value in reducing the five year qualification period to at least a two year qualification period again to streamline and broaden our approach towards naturalisation. Indeed, this would assist a number of people who are available and otherwise eligible to become naturalised Australians.

The second point I wish to bring to the attention of the House relates to the question of the age at which children may be naturalised with their parents. To this point of time, any children under the age of 16 nominated by their parents are eligible to become naturalised on the same night as their parents. I do not know how the 16 years of age limit was determined. I ask: Why cannot the age limit be raised to 21? Not all, but a great many, legal requirements impose an age limit on consent at 21 years. The emphasis on the age of 21 points, in my opinion, to the value of extending the naturalisation age limit from 16 to 21 with regard to the children of parents who are being naturalised. I do not have figures available as to the number that would be involved if the age limit was raised. This may be a difficult figure for the officers of the Department of Immigration to determine. At least, it occurs to me that this is another way by which new settlers in Australia could be more readily naturalised by an extension of the provisions of the existing legislation. I suggest that if the two points I have raised were put forward by the Minister for Immigration they would be readily acclaimed by the House. Their acceptance by the Minister would emphasise again the broad and everwidening approach of the Government to the question of naturalisation. In those few words, I support the Bill and reject the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for Grayndler.

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