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Wednesday, 17 September 1958
Page: 1320

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) . - I listened with interest to the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), and I feel, with him, that an investigation should be made into these cases to see in what manner any injustice that has accidently occurred might be righted. The two cases that he mentioned seem to be fairly involved. Whether an amendment should be made to this bill to overcome the position that he raised I am a bit doubtful, because I think that the investigation would take some time. But .1 feel that if the investigation were made .and the full extent of the injustice revealed it would probably be possible, at a subsequent date, for amending legislation to be brought in. Like the honorable .member for Isaacs, I feel that, in this modern world, any person who is left stateless is in a hopeless position. It certainly should be our objective to see that no action on our part could result in any person who is entitled to Australian citizenship being left a stateless person.

I want to express my concurrence with the remarks of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) with respect to our esteemed friend, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). In all those remarks I cordially concur, and I express my appreciation to the Minister for the kindly reference that he made to myself. I am particularly interested in the Nationality and Citizenship Bill because of difficulties which I experienced in my electorate during last year as a consequence of the existing Nationality .and -Citizenship Act.

In July of last year, representations -were made to me by the then Mayor of Bendigo, Councillor Alec Craig, in which he protested that the act, as it now stands, denies to persons who -become naturalized the advantages held by Australian-born citizens. He strongly urged that something should be done to amend the act so as to provide equal rights for Australian-born and naturalized Australian citizens. A few days before a naturalization ceremony was to take place in Bendigo, six Dutch immigrants, whose names had been set down for naturalization, declined to go on with the naturalization ceremony because they would not thereby secure the same benefits as Australian citizens enjoy. When the ceremony took place in the Bendigo town hall, they were absent.

I attended that ceremony, and I did something which I normally would not do at a naturalization ceremony. Because of the feeling that was evident in Bendigo at the time, I expressed my views on this subject. I informed a large gathering of citizens in the Bendigo town hall that I believed that the Nationality and Citizenship Act should be amended so as to give equal rights to all Australian citizens. At the same time, I expressed the opinion that the Dutch immigrants to whom I have referred had not acted wisely. I believe that, having made up their minds to become naturalized citizens, even though they were dissatisfied with the rights they would thereby acquire, it would have been far better for them to become Australian citizens and then fight for the amendment of the act, than to refrain from becoming naturalized. I felt that, as Australian citizens, they could have presented a stronger case for an amendment of the act. Subsequently, the Shire of Strathfieldsaye, which is in my electorate, requested me to make strong representations to have the legislation amended. Correspondence covering representations made by both the Bendigo City Council and the Strathfieldsaye Shire Council seeking the amendment of the principal act, together with appropriate press cuttings, Was 'forwarded first to "the Department of Immigration and subsequently to the predecessor of the present

Minister. In view of what transpired some twelve months ago0 when I had the opportunity to express my views :at a meeting of die Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, 1 said that I thought it was desirable from the stand-point of the Australian community and in the interests of migrants who desired to become naturalized .that the principal act should be amended.

A very strong point made not only by those who refused naturalization about twelve months ago, but also by those who accepted naturalization, related to the words used when the naturalization certificate is presented. The person who presides at the naturalization ceremony, whether it is the mayor of a municipality or some one appointed by him, addresses to the person to whom he hands the naturalization certificate words such as these -

I grant you a certificate of naturalization. This is a legal document which shows you have been accepted as a full member of the Australian community and a British subject.

Those who had accepted that as giving them full Australian citizenship naturally felt that they were not receiving a fair go in view of the fact that, for another five years, they were subject to deportation in certain circumstances. My own view is that the five years which a migrant must spend in Australia before he can apply for naturalization are a period of apprenticeship for citizenship, and he has to show by his actions and conduct that he is worthy of Australian citizenship. If we tell him, after he has spent five years in becoming accustomed to the Australian way of life and Australian laws, and in fitting into the Australian community - having been of good character during that period - that he is good enough to become an Australian citizen, he should be an Australian citizen in the full sense of the word. It would be far better, from our stand-point, to make him serve that apprenticeship for ten years - the full period for which he must conform to our laws at present - before he receives the same rights as a citizen born in Australia However, this bill will overcome that difficulty, and will give migrants, as far as can reasonably be expected, the rights of Australian citizenship.

Certain other aspects of the matter should be emphasized, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Australia is one of the leading countries in the world in immigration. We are doing our best to attract to this country from Great Britain and all the countries of the continent of Europe the right type of person, with the right type of skill, to enable us to increase our population and to build up a work force that will give us the very best results in the way of production and progress. In attracting migrants to this country, we should do our best to make them permanent residents of this country. We do not desire that, having come here, they should become dissatisfied and return to the country from which they came. We desire that they shall become permanent citizens of Australia and that, at the earliest possible time, they shall be afforded the opportunity to become integrated in the Australian community by naturalization.

I should like to say, in supporting this measure, that I can think of no greater demand to make on a person than to require him to renounce the citizenship of the country in which he was born. As an Australian, I know that if I were asked to renounce my Australian citizenship I should feel that I was tearing something out of myself when I said, " I now renounce all allegiance to Australia ". When we ask migrants to renounce all allegiance and loyalty to any other country in order that they may become citizens of Australia, we ought to be able to tell them, immediately they take the oath of allegiance to our own Queen, that they are in every way Australian citizens, entitled to all the advantages and privileges that go with citizenship of this country, and, of course, subject to the responsibilities that go with that citizenship. We must consider this matter from the stand-point of human beings who have torn up their roots in their country of origin and tried to transplant themselves successfully in Australian soil. We must consider human emotions, interest and rights, which are of considerable importance in the renunciation that these people are required to make.

Because I believe now, as I did twelve months ago when this matter was brought under my notice, .that we must give migrants something that will satisfy their human instincts, I am exceedingly glad that this measure has been presented to the Parliament. When all is said and done, the greatest gift that we in Australia can give to anybody is citizenship of this country.

That citizenship carries with it the protection, responsibilities, rights, privileges and other things that go to make up the community of interest that is to be found in the Australian way of life. I believe that this bill will give to migrants a greater sense of security than some of them have had in the past. Except in special circumstances, which are enumerated in the bill in plain language that is easy to follow, they will have all the rights that they would have had in their country of origin, with the advantage, in some instances, of a greater measure of freedom and liberty, and they can feel that in this country they will be able to live the best kind of life.

May I now direct attention to several things that are inherent in the existing law. The renunciation of citizenship of another country and the acceptance of naturalization as an Australian citizen mean, in some instances, that the person concerned will be stateless if he loses his Australian naturalization. This is not so in all instances, because the renunciation of citizenship of some countries does not make a national any less a citizen of his country of origin if the government of that country desires to enforce his citizenship. I can imagine no more hopeless situation in the world as it is to-day than that of a stateless person, with no country prepared to accept or protect him and no authority from which he can claim shelter or assistance. Such a person has no rights as a national of any country. If this measure did no more than prevent the relegation of some migrants to that condition, it would be worth while.

This is an exceedingly worthy measure, and I am glad that the Government has presented it to the Parliament. It recognizes human rights and interest, and because it does so, I express my appreciation of the Government's action in introducing it. I take the opportunity to express, also, the appreciation of many new Australians in the Bendigo electorate, and I hope that, as a consequence of the implementation of the provisions of this bill, many migrants who are not yet naturalized will come to appreciate the advantages of naturalization and that greater numbers of them will decide to become Australian citizens in the near future.

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