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Wednesday, 1 July 1903

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) (PostmasterGeneral) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The object of this Bill is to create a Commonwealth naturalization, and to lay down the conditions under which aliens may become entitled to the rights and privileges of British subjects in Australia. The particular rights and privileges of British subjects as against aliens is a matter that is not very clear in any British country. Those rights and privileges depend upon the common law and also upon the statute laws of the different countries. The principal rights or privileges of British subjects in Great Britain, or most other British countries, are that they may serve upon juries - which is not generally considered a very great privilege - and that they may in most cases lease land and own British ships. On the other hand, an alien is not permitted to hold any share in a British ship. British subjects, as against aliens, are always entitled to consular protection - the protection of the flag - in foreign countries, a right which may be in some cases of very great importance to the individual. I wish to make it clear here that the proprietary rights of an alien who becomes naturalized in a country depend almost exclusively upon the statute law of that country, so that we are not laying down in this Bill what particular rights may be exercised by an alien who becomes a naturalized British subject here. We are establishing a standard, up to which the person who is applying for naturalization must come before he will be entitled to obtain letters of naturalization. Honorable senators are aware that at the present time each State of the Commonwealth has its own naturalization laws - its own particular conditions under which persons from outside are admitted to citizenship, but the rights and privileges which that citizenship confers vary in the different States. As the law, although similar in character, is different in each State, a certain amount of confusion arises, and there is also the inconvenience that a person who becomes naturalized, say, in New South Wales, is not necessarily a British subject when in Victoria, or Queensland, or any other State. A . man who at the present time complies with the law, and becomes a naturalized British subject in one State of the Commonwealth does not by that means become a naturalized British subject in any other State of the Commonwealth. It is now considered to be desirable to have one law of naturalization so that a person who is naturalized shall be a naturalized citizen every State of the Commonwealth.

Senator Walker - And vice versa ?

Senator DRAKE - No. We are now establishing a law of naturalization for the Commonwealth, and we are laying down in this Bill the conditions which must be complied with by any one who comes from Great Britain or is a resident of any of the States and who asks for Commonwealth naturalization. It is particularly necessary that this should be done now. We have a body of Commonwealth law gradually growing up, and if this action were not taken, the resultwould probably be that we should have to decide what persons coming from outside were entitled to be regarded as British subjects under the laws that are being made for the Commonwealth. By this Bill, therefore, we take the whole subject from the States. Of course ; as I will show, we shall respect the rights that have already been acquired.

Senator Playford - The Government do not respect them ; under this Bill persons who have become naturalized in the States are to be re-naturalized.

Senator DRAKE - I shall show presently that we recognise letters of naturalization that have already been granted. But from this time we say that no State shall have the power to grant letters of naturalization to any alien. From this time the matter will be entirely in the hands of the Commonwealth.

Senator Walker - From this time our law will supersede the State laws ?

Senator DRAKE - This is one of the subjects in respect of which this Parliament has power to legislate, and as soon as we pass a law in regard to naturalization our legislation will override that of the States. Clause 13 expressly provides for this matter. It provides that -

From the commencement of this Act the right to issue certificates of naturalization in the Commonwealth shall be exclusively vested in the Government of the Commonwealth, and no certificate of naturalization or letters of naturalization issued after the commencement of this Act under any State Act shall be of any effect.

That is the way in which we deal with the matter. From the time that this measure comes into force, the subject will become a Commonwealth matter, and the States Parliaments will cease 'to have any jurisdiction.

Senator Best - Section 108 of the Constitution enables our legislation in this respect to supersede the legislation of the States.

Senator DRAKE - Quite so. I shall deal 'first of all with the persons who may apply for letters of naturalization, and I ask honorable senators to take particular notice of the terms used. Those who may apply for naturalization may be divided first of all into two classes, namely, those who are resident in Australia and who comply with certain conditions, including the making of a declaration of their intention to continue, to live in Australia, and those who come here with letters of naturalization obtained in the United Kingdom or who have obtained them as residents of any State of the Commonwealth. Persons having these letters of naturalization will be admitted on somewhat easier terms than those who do not possess them, the principal distinction being that those who have not obtained letters of naturalization in Great Britain, or one of the States of the Commonwealth, must have continuously resided for five years in the Commonwealth before they can get certificates.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - What about Canadians 1

Senator DRAKE - They are treated as aliens coming from outside. Their letters of naturalization will not be of any avail. It is only persons who have letters of naturalization issued in the United Kingdom, or in any State of the Commonwealth, who will be treated in this way.

Senator Playford - But a born Canadian would be a British subject ?

Senator DRAKE - Of course he would.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - But what will be the position of a man who was naturalized in Canada ?

Senator DRAKE - A naturalized subject of Canada will have to seek for naturalization here just as any alien will have to do. He will not have the same right that we propose to give to those who have been naturalized in Great Britain, or in' one of the States of the Commonwealth. That exhausts the two classes of cases.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Is there reciprocity between the Commonwealth and Great Britain ?

Senator DRAKE - I cannot say whether there is or not, but I think that in nearly all laws of this kind which prevail in the British dominions there is some provision for reciprocity. I cannot say exactly, but I think that in the United Kingdom there is a provision recognising letters of naturalization from the colonies.

Senator Keating - There is none.

Senator DRAKE - There should be.

Senator Playford - German colonists who are naturalized in one of the States of the Commonwealth are recognised as British subjects when they go to Germany.

Senator DRAKE - That is another point. The point raised by Senator Playford is to what extent a person who has letters of naturalization from a British country will be regarded as a British subject when he ' goes to his own country.

Senator Playford - A German colonist ' who returns to his own country is recognised as a British subject. Why do not the Government recognise him as a British subject here? Many German colonists have been naturalized in South Australia for 30 or 4.0 years.

Senator DRAKE - Under this Bill they will be able to obtain Commonwealth naturalization simply by complying with the forms necessary in order to prove their bona fides. If the honorable senator will permit me to come to that part of my speech I shall make it perfectly clear. Having divided possible applicants into these two categories, I wish, first of all, to deal with the case of male aliens and unmarried women, because the law is the same with regard to both classes. In the case of one who has not received letters of naturalization in the United Kingdom or in one of the States of the Commonwealth, it is necessary for the manor the unmarried female under paragraph (a) of clause 4 to show that he or she - I will say "he" to save the constant change of the pronoun - has resided continuously for five years immediately preceding the application. He has to make a statutory declaration, giving his name, age, birthplace, occupation, and length of residence, and he has also to make a declaration that he intends to settle in the Commonwealth. Then, under paragraph (b) of clause 5, he has to produce a certificate signed by a justice of the peace, showing that he is, to the best of the knowledge and belief of the magistrate, a person of good repute; he has also to take the oath or affirmation of allegiance. In other words when he is making his application he may be sent on to make this affirmation, and he must receive a certificate from the justice, Judge, or magistrate that he has. taken it. Those are the requirements of the Bill with regard to an alien who has not previously received letters of naturalization, or an unmarried woman. But a man who has received letters of naturalization' in the United Kingdom or in one of the colonies - now a State of the Commonwealth - or in a State of the Commonwealth previous to the passing of this Bill, has only to produce his letters of naturalization and prove of course that he is the person named in them. He has to prove that they have been obtained without fraud, and that he intends to settle here. He has of course already taken the oath of allegiance in the country in which he has obtained his letters of naturalization.

Senator Charleston - Why should he be put to that trouble when he is already a citizen of a State 1

Senator DRAKE - He has to do that in order to prove his bona fides. A man may say, "I want to be admitted to the naturalization of the Commonwealth, and here are my letters of naturalization obtained in one of the States of the Commonwealth." Surely when he does that we have a right to ask him to prove that he is the person named in the papers. There is no trouble in obtaining these letters of naturalization, and this form is interposed before the certificate is issued in order to show that the applicant is the right person and that he intends to reside here. Honorable senators surely would not say that a man who has obtained letters of naturalization in one of the States and proves his bona fides, should obtain letters of naturalization from the Commonwealth when he intends to leave immediately.

Senator Keating - He must have his naturalization papers.

Senator DRAKE - He has to prove that he is the person named in them, and that he intends to reside here. . I cannot see that there is any particular hardship in that. With regard to married women the position is somewhat peculiar, because the general rule is that the status of a woman in these matters is the status of her husband, whatever it may be. If a woman who is an alien marries a British subject she becomes naturalized during the continuance of her marriage ; and if her husband dies or she is divorced she continues tq, be classed ais a British subject until she marries again. Of course, if she marries a British subject she remains a British subject, but if she marries an alien her position becomes the same as that of her husband.

Senator Pulsford - What about the suffrage 1

Senator DRAKE - She would lose the suffrage if she were entitled to it. I shall show directly that naturalization does not necessarily give a right to the suffrage. A woman who is a natural-born British subject loses- her naturalization when she marries an alien.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Why should she not naturalize her husband '?

Senator DRAKE - If the husband desires to be a British subject, it is for him to take the proper course to obtain that status. The fact of his wife being a British subject when the marriage takes place will not raise him to that position, and I do not think that-it should.

Senator Styles - She has the same voting power as he has.

Senator DRAKE - An alien may get naturalization papers, but that does not necessarily give the right to vote.

Senator De Largie - Supposing that a British-born woman marries a naturalized Chinaman ?

Senator DRAKE - If a woman who is naturalized marries a Chinaman who is naturalized she is a British subject. If a naturalized woman marries an alien she ceases to be naturalized. The matter is necessarily confusing, but the principle throughout is perfectly clear - that a woman may be naturalized, and acquire another naturalization ; but, so long as she is married her political status is determined by the political status of her husband. I do not know whether it is necessary to say very much about children. The rule which has been adopted in the Bill is that a child who is born of naturalized parents, and lives with them, is naturalized until he comes of age. He is reckoned as a .British subject until he is 21 years of age, simply because he was born here. Upon attaining that age, if he so desires, he takes out letters of naturalization, and becomes a British subject.

Senator Playford - In South Australia, a child who is born of naturalized parents is a British subject for ever.

Senator DRAKE - It seems to me that it is a right principle to adopt. We might have a large number of aliens in the country, and it is well that their children, when they come of age, should not be naturalized unless they take the necessary action to acquire that status. They should not be regarded as British subjects simply because they have been born in Australia.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Surely the issue of these parents ought to be British subjects without taking out letters of naturalization ?

Senator DRAKE - Clause 10 is based on the law of New South Wales, and it is in accordance with the report of the departmental committee on the subject' which sat in England comparatively recently. The recommendations made in that report have been, to a great extent, carried out in the Bill. A remark was made just now which seemed to imply a belief on the part of some honorable senators that, in granting letters of naturalization, we put the holders, with regard to voting rights, on a position of equality with all classes of British subjects here. That is not so. Clause 7 expressly provides that the certificate of naturalization is granted -

Subject to any laws for the time being in force relating to the qualification of members of the Parliament and of electors of members of the Parliament.

In the Electoral Act we expressly disfranchise aboriginal natives of Asia, Africa, or the islands of the Pacific. This clause is put in to make it perfectly clear that in granting letters of naturalization, we do notgive voting rights to any of the persons whoare disqualified from voting under our electoral laws.

Senator Charleston - Supposing that a. German is not disqualified, would naturalization give him the right to vote ?

Senator DRAKE - Naturalization gives him the right to vote if there is nothing to disqualify him. It is granted subject toany disqualifications which are in the Electoral Act, and not subject to disqualifications which are not in the Electoral Act. Certain disqualifications in the Electoral Act stand good. Clause 6 makes it perfectly clear that if a person has been naturalized elsewhere, has proved his identity and bona fides, and established his right to apply for a certificate of naturalization, the granting of that certificate shall be absolutely a matter of discretion. The right of allowing a person to become a British subject in Australia is a right which may be given or withheld by the Governor-General in Council without assigning any reason. The clause reads as follows : -

The Governor-General in Council, if satisfied with the evidence adduced, shall consider the application, and may with or without assigning any reason, in his discretion grant or withhold a certificate of naturalization as he thinks most conducive to the public good.

We give all proper facilities to persons outside to come in and claim naturalization and the rights of a British subject in Australia ; but at the same time we say that the admission of these people to our citizenship shall depend entirely on the question as to whether it is "most conducive" to the public good that they should be allowed to become citizens. The other clauses of the Bill are machinery provisions, which it is not necessary for me to discuss at this stage.

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