Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 2 July 1903


Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) - This is a Bill of considerable importance, because if we look at the fact that the Commonwealth will, at some period of its history, probably attract a large proportion of foreigners to its shores, any legislation affecting the status of such immigrants must receive our most careful consideration. In the United States there is a very large proportion of foreigners, and so rapidly has immigration been increasing, that in March of this year what was practically a poll tax of 2 dollars per head was imposed upon every person going into that country, the object being to check the inflow. The places in the world which are available for settlement by the white races are filling up very rapidly, and those who are anxious to see our population rapidly increased by the influx of people from abroad will not have long to wait before the stream of immigration which is now being dammed back from America will flow in this direction. Therefore, it is very important that we should have a carefully framed and well considered statute defining the position of foreigners who may settle here.


Senator Drake - An Act not too lax in its provisions.


Senator PEARCE - -And at the same time not too restrictive. I was very much struck by the remarks of Senator Keating last evening. It seems to me that the honorable and learned senator took upon himself the responsibility of defending certain provisions in the Bill. For instance, he had a good deal to say with regard to those clauses which relate to the status of women, and which, in my opinion, carry us back to mediaeval days. The treatment accorded to women by this Bill has the effect of thrusting them back into the position which they at one time occupied as the property of men. In view of the fact that last session we agreed on the voices to a Bill placing women upon a political equality with men, it seems outrageous to ask us to pass a measure which proposes, so far as naturalization is concerned, to place them in a distinctly inferior position. It remained for the best-looking and most juvenile senator to defend the proposal. The honorable and learned senator indicated that the status of women recognised in the Bill was a relic of the feudal system which we had inherited, and which he seemed to think we could not get rid of. I can assure him, however, that we shall, at any' rate, make an attempt to do so. We took a great step in advance last session when we gave women equal political rights with men, and there is no reason why we should not also give them equal rights of citizenship. In clause 3 a British subject is defined as a natural-born British subject, or a naturalized person ; and clause 4 provides that among the persons who may become naturalized are those who have obtained in the United Kingdom or in a State, or in a colony which has become a State a certificate of naturalization or letters of naturalization.. In answer to an interjection of mine, Senator Keating said that a certificate of naturalization obtained in the United Kingdom would be recognised throughout the British Empire.


Senator Keating - Yes, but I found out afterwards that that was incorrect.


Senator PEARCE - I am sorry that the honorable and learned senator did not admit that last night, because I was occupied all this morning in finding proof that he was wrong. I find that by the Act of 1870 the British Legislature gave to every Colonial Legislature power to make its own laws on that particular subject, so that we have full power to legislate. Clause 4 also provides that a certificate of naturalization may be granted to any person who has resided in Australia continuously for five years immediately preceding his application. That is the period specified in the legislation of Great Britain and the United States ; but when were those enactments passed 1 - 100 years ago. I would ask further what was the feeling that existed then 1 Hatred was bitter amongst the nations, and foreigners were regarded with suspicion such as we know exists to some extent even to the present day. Surely we are not so saturated with that feeling as to feel impelled to put upon our statute-book legislation similar to that passed in other countries 100 years ago.


Senator Keating - In the United States persons who desire to obtain naturalization papers are required to declare their intention to apply three years beforehand.


Senator PEARCE - Yes ; but the three years count as part of the five years' residence necessary to qualify them.


Senator Keating - It is also necessary for an applicant to reside for one year in a particular locality.


Senator PEARCE - When we remember the trouble that led to the Transvaal war, we can realize how unreasonable it is to impose such a condition as that to which I have referred. When ex-President Kruger war prepared to allow Uitlanders the privilege of the franchise, and practically of citizenship, after seven years' residence, he was denounced from one end of the Empire to the other ; and his refusal to grant any further concession was deemed sufficient justification for applying the force of arms. We are proposing to go only two years better, and I do not think that we can claim very much credit for making such a short step in advance.


Senator Dobson - But did not the Transvaal Government require that all those who had lived within their borders for years should commence de novo in order to qualify themselves for citizenship 1


Senator PEARCE - No ; that was the position at first taken up, but eventually the Government withdrew, and, after some negotiations, were prepared to allow past residence to count. They farther conceded that after seven years' residence an Uitlander should be entitled to the franchise, without being required to swear allegiance to the republic, whereas we are requiring those who apply for naturalization certificates to swear allegiance to our Government, and to renounce their nationality. I shall move an amendment with the object of reducing the term of residence from five to two years.


Senator McGregor - Why not make it six months 1


Senator PEARCE - I would not go so far as that. I think that any foreigner, before being naturalized, should reside here long enough to gain some knowledge of our political institutions. My experience is, that after Europeans have been resident amongst us for two years they become Australians in every sense, and fully realize their responsibilities as citizens.


Senator Keating - We have to consider their countries of origin ; that is the reason for fixing the longer time.


Senator PEARCE - But we require a man to renounce his allegiance to his own country.


Senator Keating - But foreigners are not always entitled to do so. Their Governments do hot always recognise their right to expatriate themselves.


Senator PEARCE - That may be ; but I fail to see what claim a foreign country can have over a man who has deliberately renounced his allegiance to it.


Senator Drake - It makes him suffer if it gets hold of him.


Senator PEARCE - But it could not exercise any control over him so long as he remained here. There is another provision in the Bill which raises a practical difficulty. It is provided that when a person desires to be naturalized, he shall produce, in support of his application, a certificate, signed by a justice of the peace, that the applicant is known to him, and is, to the best of his knowledge and belief, a person of good repute. There might be hundreds of cases in which a justice of the peace could not be found to certify to that effect.


Senator Playford - There would be no trouble in our State, where justices of the peace are as plentiful as blackberries.


Senator PEARCE - In some parts of Western Australia we have the other extreme, and we find it very difficult even to secure the signature of a justice of the peace to electoral claims. I think that the provision in clause 9 is a monstrosity. It is provided that a woman who, being a natural-born British subject, marries a man who is not a British subject shall, during the continuance of the marriage, and after the dissolution of the marriage, until her remarriage with a British subject, or until she obtains a certificate of naturalization, be taken to be not a British subject. If the woman who marries a foreigner should cease to be a British subject, then the Englishman who marries a foreign woman should also cease to be a British subject, unless we are going to assume - as Senator Keating wishes us to do - that the woman is the property of the man. If a woman be free, she ought to be able to exercise her rights of citizenship.


Senator Keating - Does the honorable senator wish to have two nationalities ?


Senator PEARCE - Under the provisions of this Bill we compel a woman to merge her nationality in that of the man whom she marries.


Senator Keating - Because she has already acquired his nationality.


Senator PEARCE - How has she done so?


Senator Keating - By the act of marriage.


Senator PEARCE - I have had the good fortune to go through the marriage ceremony, and I was not informed that my wife would have to accept my nationality. But, perhaps, Senator Keating has recently been contemplating marriage and can give us some information on the point. My own opinion is that the clause should be excised, unless the legal minds of the Senate can show that by adopting that course we should be acting inconsistently with other legislation.


Senator Keating - We cannot amend the legislation of foreign countries.


Senator PEARCE - I fail to see how it can be held that the legislation of a foreign country can bind people in Australia. Surely the marriage laws of another country do not bind a marriage made in the Commonwealth.


Senator Keating - It is not the marriage laws which do so.


Senator PEARCE - I trust that in Committee Senator Keating will defend this survival of the feudal system.


Senator Playford - Is not the man placed in a similar position?


Senator PEARCE - No. The peculiar feature is that if a foreign woman marries a British subject, by the very act of marriage she becomes a British subject. Apparently we are to lay it down not only that a woman shall have no choice in this matter if she marries a foreigner, but that if she marries a Britisher by the very act of marriage she shall forfeit her nationality. Clause 10 is a most peculiar provision. It provides that an infant, not being a natural born British subject whose father or mother has obtained a certificate of naturalization, shall during infancy enjoy the same rights and privileges as a person who is naturalized. But sub-clause (2) provides -

The infant shall, on reaching the age of 21 years, cease to be naturalized by virtue of this section.


Senator Drake - He becomes of age then and can make his own choice.


Senator PEARCE - The United States law upon this point is at entire variance with this proposal. Under that law, children of a naturalized subject become by the very act of their parents, citizens of the United States.


Senator Drake - They must be bom in the United States.


Senator PEARCE - Not necessarily. By the very act of their parents they become subjects of the United States. In my judgment, we might very well copy that legislation, otherwise a father and mother may, perhaps, rear children in ignorance of the fact that when they have attained 21 years of age it will be necessary for them to apply for letters of naturalization before they can become British subjects in Australia. I hold that they should acquire the privileges of their parents as a matter of right. If they wish to lay claim to any other nationality, there is a method by which they can do so. The most difficult problem which we are called upon to solve under this Bill is - " What action shall we take in regard to those people who have had naturalization papers issued to them by the States.


Senator Sir John Downer - Let their come in.


Senator PEARCE - It is said "Let them come in" as a matter of right. Honorable senators will remember the question which I put to the Postmaster-General today, in reference to two Chinese who were recently prosecuted in the Melbourne Police Court. In that case it was proved that one of the defendants possessed a certificate of naturalization which was issued to a man 40 years ago. The man to whom it was issued was 30 years of age at the time, and therefore if the Chinese who produced it had been its rightful owner, he should have been 70 years of age. As a matter of fact he was about 30 years of age. In this connexion, I may be allowed to give the Senate another piece of information which I gained personally. On the steamer by which I recently travelled from Melbourne to Fremantle were some 30 or 40 European gypsies - the most dirty, dissolute crowd that I have ever seen. These people landed at Sydney some two years ago, but were prevented from crossing the border into Victoria. They had since been travelling over various parts of New South Wales, begging, stealing, and generally living on their wits. They "embarked on the boat at Sydney. On their arrival at Melbourne the Victorian authorities instructed the police to prevent them from landing. On the voyage to Western Australia I heard that they intended to land at Fremantle. Upon arrival I asked the Customs officer at that port if he could block them, and he replied that he would try. In attempting to do so he found that every one of them possessed Victorian naturalization papers.


Senator Playford - Then they could have entered Victoria and the police could not have prevented them from so doing 1


Senator PEARCE - They held Victorian naturalization papers, although they had never been in this State.


Senator Dobson - Did they obtain them by fraud.


Senator PEARCE - I cannot say. The very fact that they possessed them - and I make that statement on the authority of the Customs officer at Fremantle - showed that they had obtained them improperly.

The reason why they did not land at Fremantle was that the steamship company refused to refund them the sum of money which would represent their fares from Fremantle to Naples. These facts evidence that certificates of naturalization have hitherto been issued in a very loose fashion. Whilst I am aware that there are many worthy naturalized subjects in the different States on whom I should be sorry to inflict injustice, I cannot fail to recognise that to do them justice would involve conferring the rights of citizenship upon people who have obtained naturalization papers through slip-shod administration of the States Acts. One of the Chinese to whom I have previously referred, told the magistrates at the police court that he and his companion had bought their naturalization papers at Singapore.


Senator Matheson - Scandalous.


Senator PEARCE - If we recognise all the certificates issued by the States, we shall be countenancing all the loose administration, and the roguery which has been committed in connexion with certificates of naturalization. There is another point to which I desire to direct attention. At the conference which was held between the Secretary of - State for the Colonies and the Prime Ministers of the self-governing colonies, this question was discussed. A proposal which assumed a semi-definite shape at that conference was, that we should regard residence in any part of the British Empire as a sufficient reason for the issue of naturalization papers. I am glad that the Government have not embodied such a provision in this Bill, because it would constitute a grave danger. I see no proposal in the Bill regarding the issue of naturalization papers to Asiatics. I trust that before the measure reaches the Committee stage, the PostmasterGeneral will indicate whether the power to issue them is reserved to the Governor - General in Council. In the United States law, there is a very definite provision that no naturalization papers shall be issued to Chinese. Of course, at the time that law was framed the Chinese were the only Asiatics who menaced the United States. Unless we understand that naturalization papers are not to be issued to Asiatics - and I should like a clear Statement from the Postmaster-General on that point - we ought to insert a similar provision in this Bill.


Senator Matheson - Put it in the Bill. It is much safer.


Senator PEARCE - Surely what was necessary in the United States is equally necessary in Australia. Whilst we wish to make the Commonwealth the home of the European races, we do not recognise the same principle with regard to Asiatics, and we ought not to afford them the same facilities for becoming naturalized.


Senator Dobson - What about the Japanese ?


Senator PEARCE - I include the Japanese. I intend to support the Bill, and in Committee will endeavour to alter it in the way I have indicated, believing that it is one of the most important measures with which we shall be called upon to deal, because in it we shall lay the foundations of our future national life.







Suggest corrections