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Wednesday, 29 September 1993
Page: 1419

Senator O'CHEE (4.22 p.m.) —This has been an interesting and peculiar debate. The government is seeking to change the oath of allegiance and to replace it with a pledge. One has to ask: why would a government wish to do this? Is this change in the interests of the Australian people or perhaps is it really in the interests of people from other countries? What is the real reason for this legislation? The Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill is designed to lessen, to weaken and to water down the commitment that people make to this country, to our constitution and to our head of state.

Senator McKiernan —Rubbish.

Senator O'CHEE —We have heard enough rubbish from Senator McKiernan already. He can just wait over there with his prejudices. He can keep them to himself. I know that he brought them with him when he came over to Australia but he can just mind them for a bit longer. I am going to tell him all about the ethnic communities, if he has the decency to stay in the chamber. But I do not think he will do so. What this debate is all about is watering down the commitment that people make to this country when they come here.

  Our objective in this chamber and in this parliament should be to govern Australia for Australians. If people are unwilling to make an unswerving commitment to this country, to our constitution and to our head of state, then we have to ask why should we make room for them in this country. This is our country and we have a right to determine who comes here.

Senator Collins —That is a reactive little piece of nonsense.

Senator O'CHEE —Senator Collins says that it is nonsense for us to determine the conditions under which people become Australia citizens. Senator Collins seems to think that we should abrogate our responsibility, that we should give it to somebody else. Who does he want to give it to? Does he want to give it to New Zealand? He probably wants to give it to the United Nations. Does he want to give it to one of those great pillars of human rights in this area of the world—maybe Indonesia or the People's Republic of China? Give it to anybody but the Australian parliament; that is what is going on.

  This government is gutless, it is weak, it is unwilling to stand up to defend the basic principles of democracy which it enjoys. That is what this weak, gutless pledge is all about. I will tell honourable senators how gutless this pledge is: I could give this pledge five times before breakfast and another 10 times before lunch and it would not mean a thing. The government knows that it would not mean a thing; that is why it has watered it down. Do honourable senators know how difficult it is get citizenship in the United States? It is almost impossible.

Senator Chris Evans —Why? Have you tried?

Senator O'CHEE —Senator Evans might want to try; his performance here to date has been pretty weak. He might like to hold his fire—or maybe hold his water—and stop interjecting so that we can get on with the real debate. If those opposite were to go to another country and try to get citizenship, they would discover that it is pretty well impossible to do so—or substantially more difficult—than it is in this country. This country has the weakest citizenship laws in the world. We are a joke; we are a soft touch and everybody knows it. Those opposite have a vested interest in making it a soft touch. They are systematically working to undermine the fibre of this country.

  We heard from Senator McKiernan that many people in the ethnic community have reservations about taking the oath. Many people with Senator McKiernan's prejudices might have reservations about taking the oath, but many members of the ethnic communities have absolutely no reservations at all. They have taken it, and they have taken it wholeheartedly.

Senator Kemp —Jim McKiernan had to, to become a parliamentarian.

Senator O'CHEE —Senator McKiernan had to take the oath to become a parliamentarian, as did his spouse. Perhaps we should ask exactly why Senator McKiernan made that great leap—why he made that big decision. Maybe there were other reasons. We do not know. But if a person gives his word, his word should be his bond—let your yea be a yea and your nay be a nay. What do those opposite want? They want people to be able to come in and have five bob each way.

  These are the people who steadfastly defend a system of citizenship which makes those of us born in this country second class citizens. Do honourable senators know why? If a person is born in another country, such as Senator McKiernan, he can receive Australian citizenship and not have to renounce the citizenship of his country of birth. But if an Australian goes to another country and applies for citizenship in that country—he would not even have to receive it—he would automatically forfeit his Australian citizenship. What does that say? It says to migrants, `Come here and have five bob each way'. But if you are born in Australia there are no each way bets; it is all in or all out.

Senator Collins —Are you saying that we are the only country in the world with dual citizenship arrangements?

Senator O'CHEE —What I am saying—and Senator Collins should not try to paraphrase it; I know he is dreadful with the truth—is that Senator Collins is gutless with Australian citizenship.

Senator Herron —You can't call him gutless!

Senator O'CHEE —Sorry, he is weak as water with Australian citizenship. This government is a disgrace for what it is doing with this so-called pledge. Senator Reid has stated very adequately all of the technical weaknesses with this legislation. I want to talk about a few other things in relation to commitment to this country. I was at dinner on Monday with a group of very influential Australian businessmen. They were all ethnic Chinese, but they were Australians. One of them said to me, `We have so many problems in this country and I cannot believe that this government wants to turn Australia into a republic'. He said, `Not only is it thoroughly irrelevant, but for God's sake do not turn this country into a republic; I just came from a republic and that is why I am here'.

  My grandfather in China was a staunch nationalist. That meant he was interested in overthrowing the Ch'ing Dynasty. He finally got his way in 1911. He got a republic, and about 20 years later he found himself thrown out by the communists because the republic suddenly flipped around. He did not like what he had got. So where did he come? He came to Australia. Why did he come to Australia? He came here because of the stability in this country. That is why my family and I are here.

  Many of us, for example, Senator Herron and Senator Panizza, who are both in the chamber today, come from countries other than England or have ancestors who come from countries other than England. We are here because of the benefits and advantages of being an Australian under the Australian constitution and under the Queen as Queen of Australia.

  But the mob on the other side somehow seem to think that they can just change history, change the world, change the country and promise everybody that everything will be great. It is interesting that those opposite make a lot of play about Australia being part of Asia. Let me tell them, as an ethnic Asian Australian, that Australia is not part of Asia and never will be part of Asia. Geographically we are a separate continent and, more importantly, we are completely different culturally. No matter how many ethnic Chinese we get in this country, we will still never be part of Asia. The people who come here come here for what Australia is now, not for what they have left.

  It is peculiar that the mob opposite, who prattle a lot about Australia being part of Asia, were particularly silent this week when Cambodia, which was a communist republic in Asia, reverted to being a constitutional monarchy. Mr Keating and some of the people on the other side seem to think that we have to change our constitution and our oath of allegiance so that we can become a republic in the mistaken belief that we will become more like Japan, which is a constitutional monarchy. They even have the crazy idea that, if we change the oath of allegiance and insert this rubbish put before the chamber today, we will sell more wool overseas. They will tell you anything. But the problem with this mob is that their promises always fall short of what they deliver. They will sell you their grandmothers—but they will send her COD. The mob opposite have to be the weakest bunch of people ever to occupy the government benches.

  When this country is in a financial and economic crisis which is without parallel, when they bleat every night on the television about the need to get the budget passed, what do they do? They bring before the chamber this nonsense of a bill. Senator McKiernan had the audacity to come into this chamber and say that it is one of the most important bills that will be dealt with by this parliament in this session. What a lot of hogwash! It is not blarney that Senator McKiernan brings to this chamber, it is bull—bull and unadulterated bull. I have not seen more bull since I opened a Santa Gertrudis sale about a month ago. It is bull from one end to the other. That is all we seem to get from this government.

  I am steadfastly opposed to this bill. I am steadfastly opposed to weakening the requirements that we have of people who seek from us the benefits and advantages of citizenship of this country. I say: Australia for Australians. I welcome to these shores with open arms people who want to become Australians first and foremost. People who want to weaken the test and requirements of Australian nationality are unpatriotic. This bill is unpatriotic. Most importantly, this government is unpatriotic, not only in what it does but also in what it fails to do—to address the real issues of this nation. That is why it ought to be thrown out.