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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Mr CLEAVER (Swan) .- Several significant amendments to the Nationality and Citizenship Act are proposed. I firmly believe that this Bill will prove a great encouragement to the new settlers who come to this country in such large numbers; but, of course, there are always opportunities to improve even the best legislation. In the interests of the flexibility that my colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) has mentioned several times, 1 believe that the Government should be congratulated on reviewing the lessons learned over recent years and upon being flexible enough in its thinking to come to certain new decisions.

I believe that every member of the Federal Parliament must at times have been distressed to note that disappointment and frustration have been faced by many migrant families - by many of those new settlers who have joined our ranks - because it has not been possible for husband and wife, or father and mother, to stand together at the time when Australian citizenship was being received. Combined participation in this ceremony, which means so much to them, and to us, is, I believe, a very vital thing.

So it is that we have to recognise that one of the factors that has brought about the present state of affairs in recent years has been the residential qualification. We can all recall how often in the history of those folk who come from Europe, predominantly the husband has preceded the rest of his family. In very many cases, the husband has come to Australia first and, by dint of hard work, by applying himself diligently to the opportunities the country has presented, he has built up the resources to enable him to ask his family to follow and join him. This, of course, has set up a disparity in years of residence between himself and his wife.

Under the old legislation the husband became qualified to seek naturalisation ahead of the wife. Very often, as my friend from Sturt has pointed out, the husband, the bread winner, has learned English, quite naturally, ahead of his wife. He has been out here earning the income to maintain his family. He has been mixing with other workmen. Whilst he has been doing this, very often his wife has been facing the chores of the home, maintaining the children, and, in many cases, working assiduously in the garden that she herself has created. There is little opportunity in this set of circumstances for the wife, the mother, the woman of the household, to learn our English language.

My colleague was quite right when he reminded us this afternoon that learning English is by no means an easy task for people who may be now in advanced years and whose early years of education in their own home countries may not have been of the standard that we may have enjoyed ourselves. Learning English is a severe test indeed for many of our friends who come to Australia as new settlers, particularly those who come from southern Europe.

Mr Peters - And for many of us, too.

Mr CLEAVER - Yes. My friend from Sturt pointed out without any apology - and I would join him in this - that if we went to settle in Europe and faced the language problem of the country where we settled there could be no assurance that our performance would be outstanding. I hope that my friend, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) is making very good progress in his own study of the Italian language. I wish him well.

For a number of years, the authorities maintained in Australia a standard for speaking English which, without doubt, precluded many wives from quick acceptance. Senators and members of the House of Representatives have been the recipients of many representations to overcome this particular problem. My friend from Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has spoken of the excellent discussions which take place at the annual citizenship conventions. 1 know from my own attendance at many of those conventions over the years that this problem of the migrant grappling with the English language and overcoming his difficulties within a reasonable time to meet the requirements of the Department has been highlighted again and again.

I want to point out that the Department of Immigration and the Minister of the day have been prepared to apply concessions to meet this problem from time to time. I do not think, as the years have passed by, that there has been a harsh and intolerant attitude on this. This, again, is an indication of the humanity and understanding of the officers of the Department of Immigration, and for this we have been grateful.

The significant point about this Bill to which I now want to refer is that the Bill empowers the Minister to grant naturalisation to the spouse of an Australian citizen without any of the usual requirements being met. This means that, subject to the normal formal application and its subsequent approval, it will be possible for a couple to receive their Australian citizenship together. The residential qualification may, if necessary, be set aside. The difficulty of language can also be set aside so that the husband and wife can, together, become Australian citizens on the same occasion.

I am glad that the honorable member for Sturt, who preceded me in the debate, pointed out the importance of reuniting migrant families here in Australia. I join him in pointing out how it is naturally of concern to us, as we face the problems of the cost of development, as we ourselves exhort our people to save by every sensible means, to acquire their own bornes, to build up their own stature and to make their savings available for the economic development of the country, to find that very substantial amounts of the savings of the hard working migrants are despatched overseas. I think it would be a very admirable thing if we could encourage them to retain their savings here and, instead of sending them to relatives overseas, to induce those relatives to join them here, especially where that would mean reuniting families. As a Government, we must find ways and means of overcoming the natural problems - even some of them in the health field, I believe, can be overcome with understanding and without endangering the very high standard of our own health conditions in Australia - and I believe those way and means can be found. If we can have migrants' savings retained in the country while our population is built up at the same time, I believe that would be most desirable.

Before suggesting that the time is opportune for interrupting the debate, I move on to deal with the naturalisation ceremony in this country. I want to suggest that it is interesting to review Australia's approach to this public conferment of citizenship in comparison with that of some other countries. I feel that I ought to emphasise that in Australia we deliberately do not recognise dual citizenship. Although international law imposes limitations upon the capacity of States to make naturalisation laws, within those limitations States have a wide discretion. A difference in the laws of States may create conditions of dual or multiple nationality or of statelessness. I find it interesting to see that efforts have been made to develop an international law by treaties to avoid these conditions. For example, the conference for the codification of international law called by the League of Nations in 1930 drew up three conventions at its sessions at the Hague based upon the conviction that these conditions should be avoided. This, I believe, is inherent in our approach to this point of dual citizenship. The view held in 1930 was that it was in the general interests of the international community to secure that all members should recognise that every person should have a nationality and should have one nationality only. I firmly believe that, to indicate our non-acceptance of dual nationality, the Australian ceremony has developed over the years with the provision for a renunciation of previous allegiance.

Canada is one nation which, like Australia, and perhaps to an even greater extent than Australia, has opened its doors to many migrants over the years. She has a great lesson to teach many other countries in respect of absorbing migrants into the population. The steps to Canadian citizenship are, to many, most interesting and I wish to refer to them. A person desiring to acquire Canadian citizenship must follow, as in all countries, a certain procedure. I find that, provided a person has attained the age of 18 years, he may file a declaration of intention at the nearest court. He must go to the court to indicate his intention and he may do so at any time after his lawful admittance to Canada. It is optional for him to do so - it is not mandatory - and at that stage it is merely a statement of his intent. After five years' residence in Canada, he may file a petition for citizenship, but again he must go to the nearest court to do so. Provided he can prove to the court that he has been continuously in Canada for the past year and for four of the past six years, he is in order in his approach. I learn that his petition is posted publicly for a period of three months. Later, the applicant will be requested to appear personally before the court for examination, at which time he will be asked to produce evidence that he meets the requirements for citizenship. At that hearing the court decides whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to be granted a citizenship certificate and whether he possesses the qualifications required under the act. If that decision is favorable, a certified copy of the petition for citizenship is sent to the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration who then, at his discretion, may issue the certificate and forward it to the clerk of the court.

The applicant completes this rather involved procedure in an atmosphere quite different from that in Australia by being requested to appear again before the court, at which time he must renounce his allegiance to his former or any other State and take the oath of allegiance to Canada by entering into an oath similar to ours. I draw attention to this procedure as an indication of the steps needed to obtain Canadian citizenship and I want to emphasise at this point that it is lengthy, it is involved and there are meticulous steps to be taken. The applicant must appear several times in a court and he must renounce finally, by a renunciation of previous allegiance, any other connections that he may have had. If in the discretion of the Minister it is desirable, he then obtains his certificate of Canadian citizenship. Here we have a point of great interest. I want now to move on and refer to the situation in the United States of America.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr CLEAVER - Naturalisation in the United States takes on a similar judicial aspect to the procedure followed in Canada which I described earlier in my speech. In the United States the procedure is performed in Federal district courts and in State courts which have been vested with federal authority for the purpose. The State courts are known as courts of record. The naturalisation procedure in the United States is rather complex but it consists of two basic steps. First, the applicant - who has been admitted to the United States in accordance, of course, with its prevailing immigration laws - may appear before a naturalisation court and file a petition for citizenship. At this time a preliminary examination of his character and of the sincerity of his approach is made. Secondly, after five years' residence the applicant reappears, for the final hearing in open court of his application, at the place where his petition was filed. It is interesting to note that at this stage he must be accompanied by two American citizens to swear to his loyalty to the United States and to certify as to his character and his residence in the country.

We should recognise that the applicant is required at this point to renounce allegiance to his former country and take an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, bear arms in defence of that country, if required, and not engage in any subversive activities. There follows a 90 day waiting period while the Immigration and Naturalisation Service in the Department of Justice checks his application. It is not until the passage of 90 days, provided the court is satisfied that all the conditions have been met and the investigation indicates that the applicant is worthy of citizenship of the United States, that the judge administers the oath of allegiance and issues the all-important certificate of citizenship. Perhaps not all of us are aware of the conditions that must be met by individuals seeking naturalisation in the United States. The applicant must have attained the age of 18 years. He must have had five years continuous residence in the country and six months in one State. He must have a good moral character and believe in the principles of the Constitution. He must be able to read, write and speak English. He must not belong, or have belonged, to subversive organisations within the ten years prior to the filling in of his application and he must, as I have said, take an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Mr Barnard - Does the honorable member think it is a good system?

Mr CLEAVER - No. J am not here to decry the procedure of another country, but 1 take some pleasure in comparing that procedure with the very excellent principles that are followed in our own country. How different is the practice - as all honorable members would know - in the field of naturalisation in Australia. First, we now have a much simplified form of application compared with the form in earlier years. I do not think that any new settler would have any complaint about the simple form he is required to complete. He has the opportunity to discuss his application, if necessary, with sympathetic officers of the Department of Immigration in any capital city. The Australian ceremony, which is similar in general format to that used in New Zealand, has attracted favorable comment because of its simple dignity - a dignity which is retained in the friendly atmosphere of a civic function. I believe we have in this function, the genius of this telling, impressive ceremony which new Australians tell us they will never forget because of the impact that it has made upon them. I suggest that the Government is indebted to a number of people and organisations who have made this sort of ceremony possible. They include local authorities spread across Australia and the mayors of those local authorities who invariably preside at the ceremonies. Often they are ably assisted by representatives of the Red Cross, of Rotary International, of the Good Neighbour Movement and of the various churches in the community. This debate gives the Parliament the opportunity to take some praise for the ceremony which has been established under the aegis of the Commonwealth, which administers the immigration programme. It gives us at the same time the right to express our thanks to so many who have assisted.

The renunciation of allegiance has been the subject of some criticism. Wc know that some who have been vocal on this subject have said that applicants for naturalisation sometimes say that the wording of the renunciation provision causes them embarrassment. The separate and full renunciation is now, under this Bill, proposed to be deleted. It will not be used in the ceremonies in the form in which it has hitherto been used, but the words " renouncing all other allegiance " will be a requirement in the wording of the oath of allegiance, and this finds a place in the legislation.

Mr Daly - That makes it worse.

Mr CLEAVER - I suggest to the honorable member for Grayndler that, as 1 well realise he knows, the Government in this instance, as always, knows what it is doing. It knows what it is doing, and with very definite intent it has brought forward in this Bill the amendments with which we are dealing.

I point out that the Opposition amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Grayndler is simply not justified, for only a minority of new settlers have asked for a deletion of the renunciation clause. I know that the honorable member has paraded a long list of names. He has built up a case. He is a good debater. We expect him to do this. But the Government has taken notice of the history of our own procedure - the wisdom of what we have done over the years - and it has met criticism by a very sensible compromise. In future the ceremony will flow more freely. As part of the oath of allegiance - very appropriately, I suggest - the applicant will, having stated his name, use as a preamble the words: " Renouncing all other allegiance I swear by Almighty God ". He will pledge his allegiance as is done not only in this country but in virtually every other country which has a ceremony of this kind. The amendment contained in the Bill underlines the attitude of the Government towards dual citizenship, with which I have already dealt in my speech. If we do not believe in or recognise dual citizenship let us not boggle over the words by which an applicant renounces all previous allegiance, because at least they remind him that we do not stand for dual citizenship.

I believe this is an acceptable combination of all that our ceremony has required right throughout the postwar years. We do not have to admit or proclaim that what we have been doing all through these years is wrong, as if we had no perception. Of course we have known what we were doing, and in a country like this, which follows the principles that it does, it is a very sound thing that applicants who are seeking, freely and voluntarily - without any compulsion whatever - the citizenship of our country, should, like people in most, if not all, countries, indicate that they are pleased to renounce their previous allegiance. For how can one serve two masters? Renunciation, as I have shown, is prominent in the ceremonies in Canada and the United States of America. As a result of the research that I have been able to do I find also that it is strongly to the fore in the ceremonies of our neighbouring Commonwealth countries of Malaysia, Singapore and several others. For years the renunciation of previous allegiance has been used in the Australian naturalisation ceremony. We are by no means deleting it as the Opposition would suggest. We propose an acceptable compromise which alters the full wording of the renunciation but includes the all important and significant words together with the oath of allegiance. This, of course, has the additional advantage that it becomes part of the legislative provision whereas before it was not in that situation.

I will give place to no-one so far as my responsibilities as a member are concerned and my contact with the thousands upon thousands of new people who have swelled our population. I am delighted to meet them in all walks of life. I believe I have met a high percentage of new settlers in my own constituency. In almost 11 years that I have been privileged to be here as a member I have not had by any means a majority press me about the renunciation of allegiance. The isolated few have said to me: " Because I come from a country where my allegiance to its Queen is very dear I pause before I apply to become an Australian citizen ". When I have been able to explain the significance of Australia's not recognising dual citizenship and have made our position as a Government clear most of these people, at my invitation, have been glad to apply for Australian citizenship.

In conclusion, I come back to the words of the Minister for Immigration who, in his second reading speech, chose words that I think cannot be bettered as a summary on the particular proposal to which the honorable member for Grayndler on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition has moved an amendment designed to remove entirely from any future ceremony and from the legislation any reference to a renunciation of previous allegiance. The Minister chose these very estimable words -

In its present form the renunciation is a prominent and separate part of the naturalisation ceremony, but we have decided that the essential words of renunciation should now be incorporated as part of the oath of allegiance to the Queen. The change will simplify and shorten the naturalisation ceremony and enhance its dignity, and will also, I believe, eliminate the emotional disturbance felt by candidates due to their natural and rightful love of their homelands.

I oppose any suggestion of the Tightness and propriety of the Opposition's amendment. I claim that this is a Bill which brings about several significant and most desirable amendments to the legislation, and I am delighted to support it.

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