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Thursday, 2 July 1903

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I am very glad to hear the remarks of Senator Downer on the question of naturalization. When . 1 was on the platform urging the Queensland electors to accept federation, a common citizenship was one of the points most strongly urged. In Queensland the position is such that a man naturalized in that State finds that he immediately becomes an alien on crossing into New South Wales ; then, if he happens to' live a. year or two in New South Wales and to re-cross into Queensland, he finds himself an alien in the latter State, although in the meantime he may have been naturalized in New South Wales. Senator Downer said he was willing to allow all naturalized subjects of a State of the Commonwealth to be Commonwealth citizens, although that might involve the risk of naturalizing a horde of Chinese from Queensland.

Senator Playford - The word " horde " was not used.

Senator Sir J ohn Downer - I said that one or two Chinese here and there might be naturalized.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - As a- Queenslander - : -

Senator Sir John Downer - The honorable senator repudiates my suggestion ?

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I do 'not repudiate the suggestion ; I commend the honorable senator's courage in being willing to take the risk. I wish, however, to assure the Senate that there is no risk so far as Queensland is concerned, but that there is tremendous risk so far as the exceedingly loyal and patriotic State of Victoria is concerned. Owing to the kindness of the Government of Victoria to a large alien population, that State is enabled to have an extra member in the House of Representatives. That extra representation has not, however, been granted to Queensland nor to New South Wales, nor, so far as I know, to South Australia. Victoria is to be congratulated on the fact that its excess of alien population gives it this extra member.

Senator McGregor - Who is the member?

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I do not know, but the alien population in Victoria just gives the number over the quota to entitle the State to 23 members. If there is representation owing to a piebald population, that representation is in Victoria, and not in the much abused State of Queensland. The severe restrictions and safeguards in the Bill might well have applied to the States before Federation, or to the countries from the laws of which^ the provisions are taken. But while such restrictions may have suited the particular circumstances of those countries, they do not apply to our circumstances at the present time. In the Immigration Restriction Act we discriminate as to whom we allow to find a welcome on our shores. I am not now talking of coloured aliens, but of all people who desire to come here and become citizens of the Commonwealth. That Act is very strictly administered, and, that being so, we ought, once we 'allow people to land, to be as liberal as we possibly can in according them, at the first possible moment consistent with safety, the full rights and privileges of citizenship. In the presence of the Immigration Restriction Act, with its examinations, it is most absurd to insist that those who are admitted must reside in a particular portion of our territory for five years before they can apply to be naturalized. Senator Pearce has already contrasted this Bill with the South African law that gave rise to the difficulty in the settlement of which Australia took a great part. In South Africa there was no Immigration Restriction Act - anybody could land without test of any kind. All that the South African Government demanded was that there should be a residence of seven years, at the termination of which not even a declaration of allegiance was demanded. In Australia, however, we demand under this Bill a declaration of" allegiance after a residence of five years, and it must be shown that the applicant for naturalization is a desirable person to settle on the soil of Australia.

Senator Dobson - Could a man without swearing allegiance hold land in South Africa 1

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Undoubtedly. Surely Senator Dobson is aware that many of the wealthy people in South Africa were not naturalized, and yet held not only mining rights, but also land rights.

Senator Dobson - These were the Uitlanders

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - They were not naturalized Boer subjects, but British subjects ; and all that the Kruger Government demanded was that they should prove seven years' residence in the country. They were not called upon to swear allegiance.

Senator Dobson - Could a man hold land in fee without swearing allegiance?

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Between the terms of residence demanded in South Africa and the term of residence under this Bill there is a difference of only two years ; and yet in reference to the former the Empire went to war and lost 20,000 lives, had 70,000 men wounded, and spent £217,000,000 We claim to be the liberators of the world who are trying to reform the barbarians, and yet we are proposing in these early days of the Commonwealth a more illiberal law than that in respect of which we went "to war. If I understand Senator Drake correctly, he said that the mere fact of naturalization does not give an alien political rights.

Senator Drake - That is so; a State Act may give such rights or withhold them.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - It somewhat startled me when I heard the honorable senator make that statement. I wish it understood that I am speaking entirely of white aliens, and not of coloured people. There ought, in, my opinion, to be some differentiation between the coloured alien and the white alien. I believe there are members of the Federal Parliament who, on a strict interpretation of the provisions of this Bill, are not British subjects, and who would have to re-naturalize.

Indeed, I believe that there is an honorable senator representing a very important State, who, if this Bill were strictly administered, would have to be re-naturalized. The main object of the- Bill is to give the alien who becomes naturalized the full political rights of a natural-born British subject, and he can become possessed of them in no other way than by being naturalized under its provisions. Surely it follows that when an alien becomes naturalized he places himself politically upon the same plane as a natural-born subject. If that be not so, I cannot understand the meaning of clause 7, nor can I understand the explanation made by the PostmasterGeneral in moving the second reading. The charges proposed to be made in connexion with applications for naturalization are only a small matter, but I should like to draw attention to them. Surely the PostmasterGeneral is acquainted with the provisions of the Queensland Naturalization Act. That Act provides for a scale of charges for various matters, but the whole amount that any applicant has to pay from the time he makes his application until he becomes naturalized is only is. 6d. A white alien who arrives in Queensland may make application for naturalization next day. That application may be granted six months later, when he becomes a naturalized subject, and his term of residence in an electorate begins to count from that date ; so that if he applies for a vote, and his application is confirmed by the revision court, he is able to exercise all the rights and privileges of the. natural-born citizen within fourteen months of his arrival.

Senator Drake - Those provisions apply only to European and American aliens.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Yes. That law has been in existence in Queensland for many years, and I ask the Postmaster- General if he thinks that its liberality has been abused, or that its provisions have operated to the detriment of the State. If he does not, why does he propose more stringent conditions for naturalization as citizens of the Commonwealth 1 Under the Bill an alien cannot apply to be naturalized until he has been here for five years ; so that it will be practically six years before he can exercise the full political privileges of a natural-born subject. In my opinion, the provisions of the Bill are most illiberal. I hope that the term of residence, which Senator Pearce suggests may be reduced to two years, will be reduced to one year at most, and if the Minister is not prepared to move an amendment with that object, I shall certainly do so, and trust to the sense of fair play and justice of honorable senators for support.

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