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Wednesday, 30 November 1960


Mr CHANEY (Perth) . - Because Christmas is drawing nigh, I will not delay the House for too long. I was not amazed to hear that the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) had been to a number of naturalization ceremonies. I can understand the reason for that, but I was amazed to hear him say that he thought that people with an insufficient knowledge of English had been granted naturalization. The honorable member for Hughes was sworn in as a member of this Parliament in 1955 and I venture to say that he could not repeat to me, without refreshing his memory, the oath that he took on that occasion. It is the same as the oath taken by a person who is being naturalized.

This matter should be kept in perspective. A person who is to be granted naturalization has been tested by an officer of the department who has to be satisfied that the applicant has a certain qualification in English. This does not mean that the applicant must be able to pass a test in

English at first year university standard. All the applicant needs is to be able to understand spoken English to a certain extent. We must realize that at a naturalization ceremony, when a person is renouncing his former citizenship, he must be rather nervy. He would not be acting normally. Any mistakes made then could be attributed to the solemnity and seriousness of the occasion.

I am one of those who believe that we should not insist too rigidly on this qualification of a knowledge of English before we grant citizenship to these people. I speak particularly for one section. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and I mentioned this matter some eighteen months ago in connexion with foreign language broadcasts. I refer to those people who are confined to their homes, who do not mix with the ordinary population and who do not have the opportunity to learn English by force, if I may use that expression. The man who goes out to work every day mixes with his workmates, and it is only a matter of time, aided by the force of necessity, before he learns English. But his wife in the home does not have that opportunity and often need not use English even when shopping in the capital cities. Previously a wife may have had to go to a store and use some sort of English to make her purchases, but to-day she can go to a store where her own langauge is spoken. To-day, the major stores display notices listing the languages that are spoken. Sometimes as many as six languages including German, Dutch, Italian and Greek are spoken. There is not the :arne driving force now for people to obtain the language capability that would enable them to qualify for naturalization.

By laying down a rigid rule, I think that we are penalizing a certain section of the community. If a husband migrates to Australia, makes a success of his new life and then brings out his wife and family, we do not need to worry about the children because they will learn English as quickly as any Australian child will. Children of migrants who have been here only five or six years sometimes fill the top places in the subject of English at our schools. But the mother, confined largely to the home, is not so fortunate and we may reach the stage where we will refuse her naturalization because, her knowledge, of English is inadequate. I think the law should be flexible so that the Minister may approve of applications by these people for naturalization. I believe that they are the best type of citizens that we can get. They have proved it by the families that they have raised, and if we can do anything to assist them, we should certainly do it.







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