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Thursday, 29 March 1979
Page: 1351

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) -After listening to the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) I can say that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) cannot be all that bad if he decided to get rid of the honourable member from this Parliament.

Mr Donald Cameron (FADDEN, QUEENSLAND) - Are you saying that Mr Robinson interfered in the redistribution?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Prospect will address himself to the Bill.

Dr KLUGMAN -I am not going to deny that. I do not know whether the Minister for Finance was born in New Zealand. If he was it might explain some of the hang ups of the honourable member for Fadden. I want to deal particularly with the section of the second reading speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) concerning the rejection of the recommendation of the report produced by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. It stated that the birthplace of citizens need not necessarily appear on Australian passports. The honourable member for Fadden- who does not seem to have many so-called new Australians or naturalised Australians in his electorate- said that 'we should not pander to the whims and wishes of those born overseas'. I quote him exactly. I think that is a depressing attitude. If those whims and wishes are justified for some of those people they would lead to severe disadvantages when those people go overseas. I strongly support the proposition that it ought to be possible to have an Australian passport which does not show the place of birth. It may show the place of domicile, place of residence or anything like that but there is no point in having the place of birth disclosed. The Minister, in his justification, said that it is a question of identification. That is just ridiculous. If a passport is issued to one Cameron and it shows the birthplace as Brisbane surely that does not identify that person. Probably thousands of Camerons have been born in Brisbane. To make sure that a particular passport belongs to a particular person fingerprints would have to be included on the passport. I am not necessarily saying that this is a good or a bad thing but I noticed that it was advocated today by a person, I think, in the Department of Foreign Affairs Passport Office. I was Chairman of the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which dealt with dual nationalities. Most of the persons whom objected to dual nationality and who recommended the deletion of the birthplace were, broadly speaking, from behind the Iron Curtain. I will read into Hansard part of a submission from the Joint Baltic Committee of Canberra. It states:

8.   A matter which requires special attention regarding Australian citizens of Baltic origin travelling abroad is the information contained in Australian passports issued to such travellers. At present such passports require to state the place of birth of the holder of the passport. If such place happens to be within the present boundaries of the Soviet Union and the passport is presented to a Soviet authority abroad, or at a place which is governed by the Soviet Union, the authority may treat the person as a Soviet citizen for all purposes. He may be detained, imprisoned or deported to remote Soviet regions, without giving him adequate right and opportunity to defend himself.

9.   We believe that there is no special need to state in the passport the place of the birth of the holder of the passport. Such information is in the same category as the religion or the race of a person. It is not essential for identification purposes but it may cause embarrassment and hardship to the holder. It is suggested that the 'place of birth' be omitted from Australian passports and the 'present domicile' of the passport holder be inserted instead.

So much for what the honourable member for Fadden, speaking for the Government, said, that the Government was not wishing to pander to the whims and wishes of those born overseas. It is happy to appeal to them to get their votes at election time, to put on a fake anti-communist or anti-Russian attitude and talk big about helping them to reconquer the Baltic states. But those people who live in Australia and who want to be Australian citizens are not protected by this Government and no attempt has been made to do so. The Government goes out of its way to continue to insert the place or origin of these persons on passports, therefore clearly distinguishing between the passports of those who were born in Australia and naturalised Australians. I quote the final paragraph of the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. The Committee consisted of members from both sides of the House, but the majority were members from the Government side of the House. The report states:

There is a strong argument that in any official document the Australian Government should not appear to make distinctions between naturalised and natural-born citizens. In view of this the practice of showing the place of birth of the holder on an Australian passport might be discontinued and in its stead 'place of residence' inserted. The adoption of this suggestion might tend to avoid some difficulties encountered by dual nationals when visiting the country of their other nationality. The Committee suggests further study of this possible change in the form of passports.

The Minister was cavalier in his response to that issue. He talked about identification and possible problems arising. This question is important in this country. A very large number of Australian citizens were born overseas and they demand exactly the same protection from this country and this Government as those who are Australian born. Honourable members make long speeches at naturalisation ceremonies about the benefits of becoming naturalised. However, we go to no trouble to protect these people when they visit overseas.

Mr Graham - Protect them from whom?

Dr KLUGMAN - From their countries of on. tin. If they go back to Yugoslavia or back to the Soviet Union they are treated as nationals of those countries. The governments in those countries know that they originally came from there because their place of birth is shown on their Australian passport. There is no necessity for showing the place of birth. That is the most important criticism I have to make of the proposed amending legislation. It is difficult to bring in amending legislation regarding passports because it is done only once in every 10 years. The Government had this opportunity to make the necessary amendment. Some countries do not accept a passport without the place of birth specified but this can be pointed out to a person when he applies for a passport. The present application for a passport asks the place of birth of applicants who were born overseas, but it is optional whether a person names the country. The place of birth is usually a distinguishing characteristic in determining the country of origin. I would suggest that both the place of birth and the country of origin could be left as optional questions, but obviously it should be pointed out to those persons who are applying for a passport that failure to answer these questions may lead to certain disadvantages. When they wanted to visit or go through particular countries their passport might not be accepted.

I refer next to visas. Every country has the right to ask for certain information to be given by persons applying for visas. I think it is important that the Government at least try to do something about it. I refer to clause 10 of the amending legislation in respect of which we criticised the penalty. Clause 10 reads:

After section 8 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: 8 a. If an Australian passport is lost or is stolen, the person to whom the passport was issued shall, as soon as practicable after he becomes aware of the loss or theft-

(a)   If the passport is lost or stolen within Australiareport the loss or theft to a Commonwealth Police Officer . . .;or

(b)   if the passport is lost or stolen outside Australia . . . to an officer of, or a person employed at, an Australian diplomatic or consular mission.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 1 year.

I think that is an excessive penalty. It does not really benefit the Government and does not really benefit those in the community who want to misuse passports. The proposition is that people will misuse their passports, will lend them to somebody else who, for example might look similar to them, and that the way to detect them and to punish them is by giving them a one year penalty. Let us just assume that somebody looked similar to me. The only person that I can think of with whom I could be confused- and it has been to my sorrow- is Sir John Kerr, the former Governor-General. Assuming Sir John Kerr had to leave this country and was unable to obtain a passport because of some offence that he may or may not have committed in this country and he asked me for my passport, which I gave him, what I would do if I was really conspiring with him is, within a day of him leaving the country, report that my passport had been lost or stolen. I would, therefore, not be punishable under the particular propositions outlined in clause 10 of this Bill. It is ridiculous that we are trying to punish people with a penalty- not a money penalty but an imprisonment penalty of up to one year only. In fact the Bill states: 'Imprisonment for 1 year'. It does not say: 'Up to one year'.

Mr Birney - Not exceeding one year.

Dr KLUGMAN -No, it does not say that. It says: 'Imprisonment for 1 year'. It does not say Not exceeding' as the honourable member for Phillip suggested. It provides for imprisonment for one year for somebody who does not report the loss of a passport. If we were not using a passport most of us would not be aware that our passport had been lost or stolen until such time as we wanted to use it again. That might be one to three years after it had been lost or stolen. I think there is a reasonable case to be made out for not having such a big penalty for that particular offence or alleged offence.

One final point that I would like to raise as it has been brought to my attention- I think it refers basically to clause 7 of the amending legislation- is where the Minister apparently is given new powers as far as the issue of passports is concerned. I do not quite see that he did not have those powers before, but it has been reported to me- I hope that the Minister will be able to deny that in his reply- that while another Minister was acting as Minister for Foreign Affairs recently, during the period of this Government, he issued a diplomatic passport to Mr Harry M. Miller and that the Department is now trying to get that particular diplomatic passport back from Mr Harry M. Miller, who is in significant strife, as is known. I am not sure that this is true but it has been reported to me by very reliable sources close to this Government. I do hope that the Minister will be able to deny this in his reply. I have tried to cross-examine the person concerned because I thought it might have been an official passport which was issued to him in his capacity as representative of the Government overseas, or whatever he was doing when he was going to Paris, but I was assured that it was a diplomatic passport as distinct from an ordinary, official passport. I think it is wrong if that was done by a friend of his in the Government and I do hope that the Government will clear up that particular allegation one way or the other by responding to it later tonight.

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