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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - I intervene at this stage to reply to some of the questions that have been asked. Dealing with the last matter that Senator Murphy mentioned, the only disability from which, so far as I am aware, British subjects resident in Australia suffer is that they cannot be issued with an Australian passport. I stand to be corrected on this, but I arn not aware of any provision in the Homes Savings Grant Act which prevents British subjects taking advantage of it. This, I think, is in part an explanation of why British people living in Australia do not register. There is no real incentive for them to register. In terms of advantages, they are in fact Australian citizens of British origin. They enjoy all the advantages of Australian citizenship. Australia and the United Kingdom have interchangeable social service systems and British migrants have a vote. They are in fact Australian citizens.

Senator Fitzgerald - Are they included in the 250,000 mentioned as not being naturalised?

Senator ANDERSON - I will come to that in a moment. At present I am dealing specifically with the point raised by Senator Murphy. It is true that a considerable number of British migrants have not registered as Australian citizens, as distinct from becoming naturalised. As I have said, I think the reason is that there is not much incentive for them to do so. As in everything else, the freedom of the subject remains. Whether migrants register or become naturalised is a matter for themselves to decide.

The reason for the small expenditure last year on Spanish migration is that the Spanish Government, for its own domestic reasons, altered the assisted migration scheme. This matter is the subject of constant consultation with that Government, in the hope of leading to a renewal of the migrant intake from that country. The decision was a decision of the Spanish Government, made no doubt for domestic reasons.

Reference was made to Division No. 274, sub-division 2, item 10, which relates to a grant in aid to the Australian Branch of the International Social Service. This provision has been made to assist the Australian Branch of the International Social Service to pursue its primary aim of helping individuals who, as a consequence of migration, are faced with personal or family problems the solution of which requires action in two or more countries. The types of cases handled by the International Social Service cover a wide range, and vary from reunion of families where there is some impediment to normal sponsorship - for example, residence in Iron Curtain countries - a medical or legal problem or a question of custody of children, to adoption of foreign children involving legal requirements of at least two countries, tracing missing persons, care of orphan children, and travel loans in cases that have been handled by the Service in another capacity. That is a general comment on that particular provision.

I want to refer to a number of matters raised by Senator Fitzgerald. He referred to the subject of publicity, a pamphlet on housing, and the percentage of migrants seeking naturalisation. I have the advantage of a reply given by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) in another place to both the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Pettitt) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who raised this question and drew attention to the fact that 250,000 migrants, including children, who are residentially qualified to apply for naturalisation, have not done so. First, it should be mentioned that over 60 per cent, of eligible migrants have successfully sought Australian citizenship. This compares favorably with the experience of other countries which have built up their populations by large scale immigration. Nevertheless, the Minister shares, as we all do, the concern expressed regarding those who have not applied, and he mentions some of the measures already taken to encourage them to take naturalisation. First, the procedure for applying for naturalisation and the forms used have been simplified. All that an applicant now needs to do is to fill in his name and address. This results in his receiving assistance by officers of the Department to complete the remaining requirements. Secondly, surveys have been carried out recently to ascertain the reasons why a number of eligible migrants have not applied for naturalisation. The results of these surveys will be known in due course and no doubt they will suggest some additional measures which might reasonably be taken.

Some experiments have been carried out in enlisting the co-operation of employers of migrants, with excellent results. This line of action will be expanded. In the publicity field, a special effort has been made by the Department to bring to the notice of migrants the simple procedures to be followed to acquire citizenship. Every migrant, when he has been here for four and a half years, receives notice that he will be eligible to receive naturalisation after completing five years' residence, and that he can lodge an application forthwith. However, there must be no coercion, and in the final analysis the decision whether to be naturalised or not must be a voluntary decision taken freely by the individual. That last sentence, of course, is on all fours with an answer that I gave to a question without notice in this place some weeks ago. In the final analysis, it is the right of the individual to decide whether he wants to perform the act of naturalisation, but every effort has been made to encourage migrants to do this. More publicity and other means are being used so that they may be informed of the desirability of becoming naturalized.

Senator Fitzgeraldreferred to a pamphlet on housing in Australia. I do not think it is accurate to say that the booklet is misleading. As I understand it, it is a factual statement of the position, which was very carefully vetted by the Immigration Advisory

Council before publication. The booklet has been published in good faith in a proper appreciation of the situation to be of assistance to intending migrants. The honorable senator also mentioned a number of other matters. Some of them are general matters of policy. If I embarked upon a debate on these matters I would be in difficulties with the Chairman. I shall not offend the Chair by attempting to follow Senator Fitzgerald in those various general matters. I undertake, as I have said to other honorable senators, to direct the attention of the Minister to the general comments that have been made.

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