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Citizenship by descent

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Philip Ruddock MP Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Tel: (02) 858 1011 Fax: (02) 804 6739

Electorate Parliament House

Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (06) 277 2062


The case of Mr Anthony Robe, threatened with deportation as an illegal entrant and non-citizen, raises many more questions that the Minister has answered by using his discretion to grant him permanent residence this week.

Mr Robe, the overseas born son whose Australian mother had moved offshore, is the descendent of a long line of very distinguished Australians.

His case is not one-off. In this increasingly mobile world many Australians will have children born overseas. In most cases registration as an Australian born overseas will be sufficient to protect citizenship entitlement. What Mr Robe's case discloses is that there are cracks in the citizenship floor.

It is not sufficient to simply grant him permanent residency and leave the crack unfilled.

For many years the Government has claimed that the Citizenship Act is under review. There is an obvious and urgent need for this to be done.

The Act, hastily drafted in 1948 has no clear statement o f objectives; it leaves the concept of citizenship undefined; it outlines no clear obligations or statement of commitment by Australia to its citizens; allows dual citizenship to those who enter

Australia and apply for citizenship but deprives Australian citizens of any such reciprocal right.

There are still problems with former British subjects in Australia before 1948. Many of these people have distinguished service records and have previously held Australian passports. They find that when the time comes to renew their passports they are told that they have to go through a costly and complex procedure to obtain evidentiary certificates o f citizenship.

The legislation, like most immigration law, is complex, difficult to understand and full of inconsistencies. The Minister cannot put off a review o f the Citizenship Act by simply resolving Mr Robe's case through his discretionary powers.

July 19 1991