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Tuesday, 3 December 1974
Page: 3060

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - When we initiated this debate I did not believe that it was going to develop as it has, and I think that the cogent points raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack have contributed to a development which is well worth while, because what we are really discussing is of national feeling, nationalism, and what conduces to national feeling in a country. The main argument of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy)- I appreciate the logic of what he is saying- is that it is not necessary to have an oath of allegiance or an affirmation of allegiance. I can see the way in which he puts that argument. However, I feel that he does not give sufficient weight to the mystique, the feel, the connection which must be imposed upon people between themselves and the services they render and the obligations they owe to the nation of which they are part.

After all, to take it at its essence, a person is a national of the country in which he is born. But people may leave a European country or an Asian country and come to Australia. They may desire to reside here, make this their home and become Australian citizens. But to become Australian citizens we require them to take an oath or affirmation of allegiance. I will go along with Senator Murphy and say that, if it is looked at in terms of necessity, it is not necessary to have an oath or affirmation of allegiance, but I think it is desirable from the nation's point of view and I think it is desirable from the viewpoint of the person who is becoming an Australian citizen. The Australian nation accepts from a person who becomes a citizen his affirmation or his oath that he really binds himself to the country. From the citizen's point of view, he knows in the firmest and strongest way that he has bound himself to the nation. This is part of that mystique. I suppose the word 'mystique' is not the best word to use to describe the way in which the concept of nationhood has really developed.

We have an oath of allegiance which members of Parliament take. On Senator Murphy's argument it is not really necessary, but it is important, and 1 think that the people of Australia would expect that oath of allegiance to be taken. Ministers, though having taken an oath as a member of the Parliament, are expected to take and do take an oath when they become Ministers. Judges also take an oath. Some officers who are members of a tribunal also take an oath where the legislation requires it. It is part of our tradition that barristers and solicitors take an oath of allegiance, though I recognise that the case there is not as strong as in the other instances. It does appear to me that it is a desirable development. It helps to build a national feeling. I think for those who serve the nation in the role of the nation 's public servants, it is important that they, at the time when they become members of the Public Service, bind themselves in duty and in allegiance to serve their country. This has been the pattern over 50 years. I think that the argument as to why it should be changed has not really been developed, and therefore it has not been sustained. Even at this late stage it would be encouraging if the Attorney-General was prepared to concede that we do retain something by keeping the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

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