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Wednesday, 17 September 1958

Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) .- I take this opportunity to point out the harshness of certain provisions of the present act, particularly those contained in section 25.

This section affects children born of Australian citizens outside Australia. Under this act some children are not eligible for citizenship unless they return to Australia and live here. It is well known that over the past century many Australians, for various reasons, have sought their living outside Australia, particularly in the Pacific Islands. Many of them have severed their connexion with Australia, but others have returned here from time to time. Some of the people who have gone to the islands have been business people. They have gone there to sell Australian goods or to set up businesses and undertakings in the islands. In other words, they represent Australian manufacturers. Australian university graduates also are offering their skilled services in quite a number of these less fortunate countries. I call to mind particularly those countries that are involved in the Colombo plan.

The number of Australian businessmen living abroad whose descendants come within the provisions of section 25 is comparatively small. Their families, however, are most patriotic and very useful to this country. On all our national days they are well to the fore in representing Australia. They never miss an opportunity to represent Australia on Anzac Day and other days of national celebration. They are denied Australian nationality, however, because of the operation of section 25 of this act, to which I shall address myself in more detail at a later stage. These people have become stateless.

The persons affected by this legislation are not confined to the Pacific Islands. There are persons whose parents were Australian but who were born in, say, France or South America. Because they have not come to this country they remain stateless as a result of the harsh provisions of section 25. I shall refer to two particular cases, so that honorable members may have a better appreciation of my contention.

The first case concerns a person to whom I shall refer as Mr. X. This man was born in 1933. In 1951 he raised the question of his nationality. He had always travelled on his father's British passport and believed himself to be a British subject. But it was discovered eventually that his parents had forgotten to register his birth at the office of the British Consul. No doubt such things do happen occasionally. However, the

British Nationality Act allows late registration of births, and the Foreign Office has agreed to the registration of the birth of this man, provided that he is accepted immediately as an Australian citizen. As an adult, however, he is precluded from Australian citizenship because his father was not born in Australia. His grandfather was born in Australia and he himself was ' educated in Australia. But although he is, to all intents and purposes, a good Australian representing his country in the merchandising field, he is denied Australian citizenship because he and his father were not born in Australia.

I believe, therefore, that the provisions of this section do not go far enough. I feel that opportunities should be extended at least as far as the second generation, and, of course, it is only the second generation in which we would now be interested. It is well known that we in Australia bend over backwards at times to grant nationalization to persons from other countries. In the odd cases concerning persons living in countries outside Australia, I think we should go the extra mile and do something to assist them. Admittedly, in the case that I have cited, the father forgot to register his son's birth. The father was an Australian. Because he was not born in Australia and because he failed to register his son's birth, the son is an alien and is stateless.

I have mentioned one case, but I could cite others that I know of, and no doubt there are many other cases outside my knowledge. Probably there are many descendants of Australians who have been in France since the first world war, and to whom the provisions of this section would apply. There may be other such persons in South America. I have referred only to one case in order to point out what I consider a weakness in the legislation. I wish now to mention another case. The circumstances are quite different, but the same principles apply.

In this case, there was no mistake made by the parent with regard to registration of his children's birth in a foreign country. However, because of the wording of section 25, those children are precluded from becoming Australian citizens, although, their father is, in fact, an Australian. I shall refer to the parent in this case as Mr. Y. Mr. Y was born on an island in the Pacific, and he is in every way a -worthy representative of this country. He is a leading businessman. He represents an oil company. He also represents a shipping company, insurance companies and other British firms. He was married to an Australian and educated in Australia. His father was born in Australia. During the war he was a Naval Reporting Officer, and he was awarded the O.B.E. by Her Majesty. One of his daughters, I understand, is married to an Australian. This man has five children. Four of them were born before the 1949 act was introduced, and, therefore, they can never become Australian citizens unless they come to this country to live. The fifth child was born after the passing of the 1949 legislation and is an Australian citizen. One may say that it is comparatively easy for these children to come and live in Australia and, after a certain time, become Australians, but this is not always possible. The fact remains that their parents are Australian and one of the five children is Australian because he or she was born after the passing of the 1 949 legislation; the others are not.

All these circumstances indicate to me that we should look closely at the act and do something to remove these anomalies. I know the old saying that bad cases sometimes make hard laws, but although we are jealous of our Australian citizenship we give many opportunities to persons from overseas to become naturalized, and I believe we should amend the legislation so as to make it more flexible and bring it more closely into line with the British legislation, which, I believe, provides opportunities to remove such anomalies as those to which I have referred.

The Australian Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 came into operation in 1949, and I suggest that an apparently quite unjustifiable principle has been applied to British subjects of Australian origin who were living abroad at the time when the act came into force in 1949. Most honorable members probably have the legislation before them and are familiar with its provisions. I shall not read them to the House in their entirety. Section 25 (3.), however, provides: -

A person born outside Australia and New Guinea -

(a)   who was a British subject immediately prior to the date of commencement of this Act;

(b)   whose father was a person to whom paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of sub-section (1.) of this section applies; and

(c)   who enters or entered Australia, shall become an Australian citizen on that date or on the date upon which he enters Australia, whichever is the later.

A person whose father was not born in Australia but is, nevertheless, an Australian citizen, may not become an Australian unless he wishes to reside in this country. Or, alternatively, he can become a British citizen by making application to the British consul in a particular island under the British National Act of 1948.

I see ito reason why, if a person wishes to become an Australian citizen, he should be prevented from so "doing because our act is not sufficiently elastic. It is only natural that most of the people whose parents are Australian, part of whose family is Australian, and who are not themselves Australians should want to be naturalized. I do not think there is anything peculiar about that. They are Australians in every way, and they have no ties with the United Kingdom. Therefore, I do not think that they should be forced to become British citizens if they wish to become Australians. Their descendants can become Australian citizens only by immigrating to Australia with the intention of remaining here. It is very difficult for people who have businesses in the islands of the Pacific and who hold positions in foreign countries to come back to Australia to reside. They cherish their Australian nationality and they want to be Australians. I do not think that we should preclude them from so doing.

The United Kingdom is anxious to limit the number of persons who become citizens of the Mother Country and the colonies under the provisions of the section of the British National Act of 1948 to which I have referred. The attitude of the United Kingdom Government is that when people who are aliens under our act submit applications to the British consul, they should be looked after by the Australian Government, and that the Australian act should protect their nationality. The United Kingdom Government is no more anxious to make them British citizens than we are to accept them although, of course, they can become British citizens by making application to the consul and agreeing to certain provisions under the British National Act. I wish to direct the attention of the Minis ter to this point. 1 have discussed it with him before, but I think that it should be thoroughly investigated. I should be very pleased to hear his comment on my .remarks.

I would be better pleased if the Minister were prepared to amend the act now in order to make provision for those people who I think we should welcome to citizenship, because they are very good representatives of this country in the islands of the Pacific and in foreign countries. They are doing a job of work for this country, and they are representing it very well. .1 think that these people have just as many rights and are entitled to be looked after as much as people who come into (his country and are called, "-new Australians ". We give them all our protection and care, and we are anxious to do all we possibly can to make their nationality clear. I think that we could easily do that as well in the cases I have cited.

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