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Friday, 19 November 1948

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Mr GULLETT» (Henty) .- When I first examined the bill my reaction was one of absolute hostility to it and I determined to oppose it as strongly as possible. I could see no prospect of any gain but, on the contrary, I considered that the enactment of the measure would mean that we may well have to surrender much which has proved to be of real value, including traditions which we regard with pride and affection. However, since hearing the arguments adduced by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), I have changed my opinion somewhat. The honorable member for Warringah certainly made it clear that the measure is not viewed in a party political light by, at least, some honorable members on this side of the chamber, a.nd [ regret that a similar spirit has not been revealed by supporters of the Government. I cannot believe that a measure which profoundly affects us all can have received the unanimous approval of every honorable member opposite. Although I have been impressed by some of the arguments purporting to show the necessity for the bill I have not been at all impressed by some of the alleged advantages, which it is claimed, will result from it. I refer in particular, to some of the technical reasons mentioned by the Minister, who said that the " common code " system has broken down. Of course, I realize that the Minister's view is shared by the honorable member for Warringah, but no evidence . has been presented in support of this stand. As the honorable member for Warringah pointed out, the measure has been introduced because a similar step was taken by Canada, but that is no reason for us to do likewise. Nor am I in the least reassured by the Minister's statement that certain conferences of nationality experts decided that this step is necessary. I believe that one's nationality, like one's family relationships, is not a matter for experts to decide and it is a very great pity that the experts were ever called into the matter at all. I also deplore exceedingly that the average Australian was not given an opportunity to express his opinion on such a vital matter, because, from whatever standpoint we view the proposal, it is clear that the principle involved is one which will most affect the individual citizen. I remind honorable members that the average Australian is descended from British forbears, who came to this country from one of the British islands. The average Australian has, in time of war, served alongside British people, for whom he has both regard and affection. Furthermore, the average Australian has, through his travels in time of war, a geographical appreciation of Empire, and realizes the value of maintaining the closest possible cohesion between its members.

A great deal has been said about the action of other dominions - as though that consideration should greatly influence us in considering this measure - and, in particular, the attitude of Canada has been mentioned. We have been told that Canada was the first dominion to take the step now proposed to be taken by the Australian Government. However, I remind honorable members that there is very little similarity between the considerations which affect Canada and those which should influence Australia. After all, for more than one hundred years Canada has not, as we have, been dependent on Great Britain for its existence. Nor has Canada been dependent on Great Britain and the British Fleet to maintain its living conditions and racial standards. It is not so long since Canada was added to the British Dominions by force of arms, and, to this day, many Canadians do not speak English as their mother tongue. For those reasons, amongst others, it is misleading to suggest that considerations which influenced Canada to abandon the British nationality of its citizens apply also to Australia. We should also realize that Canada enjoys, as a neighbour, the protection of the United States of America, the greatest power on earth. Although many British descendants in Canada are tied to Great Britain by bonds of kinship, they are not dependent on that country or on the brotherhood of the Empire as we are and many Canadians feel a natural affinity with the United States rather than with Great Britain. A similar comment might be made of India, Pakistan, Ceylon and South Africa. The inhabitants of those countries are not primarily people of British descent. It is right and proper for them to decide to have their own nationality, but I cannot for the life of me understand why we in Australia should follow suit. We are in a totally different category. Whether we like it or not, we are a British people. Whether we pass legislation of this kind or not, we are still a British people. I cannot for a moment believe that the overwhelming majority of Australians do not wish to continue in this tradition and it is clearly in our best interests to do so. I desire to nail the misrepresentation that, in passing this bill, we are taking a step to bring us into line with others in a like position. We are in a particular position, as I have tried to show, and we are not keeping in step with anybody, because we are completely on our own. However, I do not attempt to attribute the entire blame for this bill to the Government, because the Minister has made it abundantly plain that this legislation has the blessing of the British Government, which, I believe, has expressed the view that it should be regarded as urgent.

Mi-. Calwell. - Australia is. the last dominion to pass this legislation.

Mr «GULLETT» - I understand that that is so. It is claimed that we should favour this bill and support Great Britain, because the compromise arrangement is a satisfactory formula for keeping India and Pakistan in the Empire. I am somewhat impressed by that argument. It has always been the genius of the British people to be able to meet changing circumstances. But I also know that the continuation of the Empire as a cohesive body does not depend in any real sense on the. passing of legislation or the formal recognition of a particular status. The Empire has been held together by two considerations. The first is affection and loyalty to the Crown. The second consideration, and we should face it, is self interest. We must realize that we shall not placate either India or Pakistan by making this sort of arrangement. Immediately affection or self interest no longer exists in those countries, they will cease to be members of the British Empire. I am also mindful that the British themselves have no small history of placating those who are difficult at the expense of those who are prepared to agree to whatever they are asked to accept.

I am not surprised, in a sense, that this recognition comes from the British Government, particularly when we consider the character of that Government as it is now constituted. When Mr. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he emphasized that he did not intend to preside over the disintegration or weakening of the British Empire. That was a natural view for Mr. Churchill to take, because, as everybody here knows, he has devoted the greater part of his life to working and fighting for the maintenance of the Empire. More than any other man of our generation, he represents John Bull. He has always given expression to those kinds of opinion which we associate with John Bull, and, indeed, he has been the living personification of all that the Empire has meant. However, the British Government now is of a different complexion. The socialists of Great Britain have always made it perfectly clear that they are out of sympathy with the Empire and the peoples of the Empire. In season and out of season, they have criticized the development of the Empire. Therefore, it is not to be wondered at that they have been all too eager to take this step. Although I deplore it, I say, in order to be perfectly fair, that we cannot altogether blame the Australian Government for taking what the Minister claims to be. a step at the behest of the British Government.

What benefit can result to anybody under this bill? Does any one feel any more Australian as the result of establishing an Australian nationality? I desire to direct attention to a few matters which the Minister mentioned in his second-reading speech, when he referred to what he was pleased to call that warm, pulsating document which enshrines the love of country of any genuine Australian. By those words, he meant this bill. Referring to the desirability of passing this measure because it would be such an, incentive to foreign-born migrants who would settle in this country, he stated -

Like everybody else they will be able to say with some pride, " I also am an Australian ".

The Minister does very well to refer to foreign-born migrants who have come to Australia. Despite repeated warnings by members of the Opposition and members of the public, the honorable gentleman has done a great deal to bring to this country people who, it is doubtful, can be satisfactorily absorbed into our way of life. It is most important that, at the present time, when so many foreigners who have no clear idea of Australia are coming here, we should present to them the strongest possible picture of our national life and our connexion with Great Britain. To many people who come here, Australia is simply a country without traditions. Therefore, it is to our own interest to remind those new citizens of our traditional connexion with British institutions. "Whilst I am impressed by certain views which the Minister has expressed, it is impossible to overlook the fact that the passing of this bill will certainly be welcomed by every person who opposes the British Empire. This legislation will be supported by every enemy of Great Britain and Australia.

Mr Turnbull - That is the point.

Mr «GULLETT» - Indeed it is. This bill will be welcomed by persons such as the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) and Senator Amour, who stated clearly in San Francisco his opinion of our connexion with Great Britain.

Mr Calwell - Senator Amour denied that report.

Mr «GULLETT» - I am aware of that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member for Henty is not entitled to reflect on members of the Parliament.

Mr «GULLETT» - One of the reasons why we must regard the bill with suspicion is that it will be hailed with such joy by all those who work against us and who will be glad to see us weakened. Of course, this proposal will be opposed by the overwhelming majority of Australians - by every ex-serviceman and every man, woman and child who will go into the streets to welcome the Royal Family when they visit this country next year. Whatever else may be said for the bill there is not the slightest public demand for it. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) has described the subject of «citizenship» and nationality as difficult and technical. Of course, it appears to be difficult and technical when we read the bill, but we can say, with equal truth, that the altered relations of a growing family may also be described as a difficult and technical subject. Nationality and «citizenship» can be made a difficult and technical matter when governments appoint experts, who are guided only by logic and legalities, to solve the problem. But I say that this bill is, in effect, an example of a field day on the part of experts. To quote the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), it would very much seem as if the firm of Fogg, Fogg, and Pettifogg have had more than a fair share in certain of the clauses of the bill to which I shall draw attention at a later stage. If the ordinary people of this country had had the slightest voice in the determination of this bill, it would not have come before the House. I recognize that the bill is, in a sense, inevitable, but I cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing my own very great regret that such a step should be considered necessary.

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