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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 5124

Senator McKIERNAN(7.28 p.m.) —I trust that the minister on duty, Senator Brownhill, will bring Senator Eggleston's concerns to the attention of the Minister for Health and Family Services (Dr Wooldridge). I want to mention on the way through that the daughter of my colleague and seat mate Senator Cooney, who is Megan Cooney, has just gone through her medical exams and is now awaiting the results. Whether she will be able to practise as a doctor will be in the lap of the gods and the minister. That is of concern to Senator Cooney both as a parent and a political representative. He is concerned about his constituents in the great state of Victoria, just as Senator Eggleston and I are concerned about the impact of that decision on the great state of Western Australia. That is not the reason I chose to rise here tonight, although I want to relate it back to my electorate in Western Australia.

The headline on page 6 of today's West Australian is entitled `Hanson wants a new oath'. The article, which is written by Tony Barrass, includes a photograph of the member for Oxley (Ms Hanson) together with the member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell). Pictured sitting in front of them are the member for Curtin (Mr Rocher) and the member for Moore (Mr Filing). They are three Western Australians out of four members of the House of Representatives. The article relates to some speeches made yesterday in private members business in the other place, when Ms Hanson put forward this proposition:

That this House calls on the government to strengthen the pledge of commitment as a citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia into a pledge of loyalty to acknowledge the primacy of the interests of Australia and its people above all others.

As I celebrate the 27th year of my arrival in this country on 5 November 1969—

Senator McGauran —A good year too.

Senator McKIERNAN —A very good year, Senator McGauran. It was certainly good for Australia that I came here, I know that. The Employers Federation of Western Australia are still clapping their hands. They made a very wise choice in selecting me to come here—for the grand sum of £10 for me, £10 for my wife, and one son who did not have to pay.

So I have a vested interest in the debate that was taking place in the other place yesterday—firstly, as a migrant to this country who took out citizenship and, secondly, as a person who chaired the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquiring into the Citizenship Act. Its report, which was presented to the parliament in September 1994, was entitled Australians all: enhancing Australian citizenship.

Further to that, I played a small part in collecting signatures on petitions right around Australia to get the then government to change the oath that Australian residents had to take when they became citizens. Until Australia Day 1994, new citizens had to swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen, her heirs and successors. The then government changed that to a new pledge, which came into effect for the first time on Australia Day in 1994, which read:

From this time forward [under God],

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,

whose democratic beliefs I share,

whose rights and liberties I respect,

and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs—as it used to be—produced this pamphlet which is given to every new citizen at citizenship ceremonies held throughout the country, not only on Australia Day but on other days of the year.

I was very surprised to read in the Hansard, when I went to check some of the words attributed to Ms Hanson in the article, that my local member of parliament, the member for Moore, Mr Paul Filing, proposed to second this motion to strengthen the oath. Mr Filing was a member of the coalition parties in opposition who opposed the new citizenship pledge and citizenship oath that came into being in January 1994. Mr Filing now, as an Independent member of parliament, obviously has seen some light and wants to move to strengthen things. He did refer to the fact that during the election campaign the coalition said that they would be addressing the matter of citizenship if they were re-elected to office.

I recall that, during a major outlook conference in Adelaide in February last year of the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research, the then shadow minister for immigration, when questioned on what the coalition in government would do with the Citizenship Act, prevaricated on whether they might indeed seek to return to a pledge of loyalty to the Queen.

If that happens, or is going to be proposed in the new citizenship council, which was announced by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Mr Ruddock, I think in the budget speech, at a cost over three years of $700,000, they will get bitter resistance from this side of the chamber and, I suggest, from the community as a whole, apart from a few individuals around the place. We will not revert back, and the Australian population will not allow the government to revert back, to the colonial days. I have great hopes that the current minister will not want to do that. When I referred to the shadow minister before, it was not the current minister.

The article on Ms Hanson in the newspaper is indeed interesting. What motivated me to read the Hansard, among many other things I have had to read during the day, was the very last line of the article which says:

Liberal backbencher Trish Worth said Ms Hanson was ignorant.

That is fairly strong language which, after reading Ms Hanson's comments, I wholeheartedly endorse.

I think Ms Hanson, in what she said in the other place yesterday, is certainly ignorant of what becoming an Australian citizen means. I am really surprised at Mr Filing. I have sat on the stage at the ceremonies in the city of Wanneroo back home and have felt the feelings of individuals as they took the pledge or swore an oath to become citizens of Australia. We know what the feeling is and what a commitment those people are making.

Ms Hanson has not been doing her job as a member of parliament in one sense, in that she has not, to my knowledge, attended a citizenship ceremony. If she has, she would not have made the comments that she made in the House of Representatives yesterday.

I saw Ms Hanson today on the monitor and she was reading a speech. It is not allowed here and I am not doing it tonight. I very rarely do. So maybe she was just reading somebody else's words. She might have attended citizenship ceremonies but, for whatever reason, was reading something that somebody else had prepared for her. I think it is very unfortunate that something that is as precious as what we are talking about— Australian citizenship for migrants—can be treated in such a manner.

What is suggested in the revised citizenship pledge proposed by Ms Hanson and Mr Filing does not detract from the pledge; it probably would strengthen it. But it should be strengthened out there in the community. Let us talk to the migrants. What Ms Hanson really should be addressing, if she wants to change things, is her own commitment to this place. When she was sworn in here—or indeed when I was sworn in here as a senator—we had to say the following, `We swear we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, so help me God'—a colonial thing that we as members of parliament have to swear to.

Why attack new citizens in the manner that Ms Hanson has sought to attack them? Why is she allowing herself to be used in the manner in which it appears she is allowing herself to be used? I hope that the Independent member for Moore, my local member, will wake up to what is happening around here and will, in the very near future, divorce himself from her actions, because she is bringing Australia into disrepute not only in the region in which we live but with her own constituents and residents.