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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1818

Mr HODGMAN —Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware of the fact that two out of three Australians do not support the proposition that Australia should become a republic? Has the Minister been correctly reported as publicly advocating the removal of all references to God and the Queen from the oath of allegiance?

Government members interjecting-

Mr HODGMAN —This is not a funny matter. Lastly, how does the Hawke Government claim a mandate for these radical republican objectives? Are they the first of a series of proposals to convert Australia into a republic, against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Australians?

Mr WEST —I sometimes wonder when the honourable member will stop asking me dorothy dixers, because it is getting to be something of an embarrassment. I see that he has joined the fray with the Premier of Tasmania in trying to assist the embattled Premier of Queensland. Perhaps he would be better off trying to help the Queensland Leader of the Liberal Party, because Mr Gray does not seem to be getting on too well with him. I noticed in the paper today that they shared the same platform, which prompted Liberal Party officials to say that it was a great coup to get them together, in the same room.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I invite the Minister to refer to the question.

Mr WEST —With regard to the oath, the honourable member should realise that this matter is not new. It has been around for a long time. As a matter of fact, the former Government set up national consultations on this matter, that is, on the matter of multiculturalism and citizenship. I received a report to the previous Liberal Government, which is dated October 1982, which accepted that many amendments were needed to the Australian Citizenship Act. The reform of the oath is one of a number of questions which we have accepted because we want to make it easier for people in Australia to take out citizenship. The former Ministers for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs know all about this matter because the member for Balaclava made a statement that I read only this morning in order to refresh my mind about what the previous Government said it would do. But we want the 1.2 million people in Australia who are eligible to take out citizenship to do so, and we are trying to make it a bit easier for them. Perhaps I should quote from the former Government's report. Shall I do that?

Government members-Yes.

Mr WEST —The report states:

The strongly-held and predominant view emerging from the consultations-

This report is dated October 1982, which is just after the former Minister made his statement-

was that swearing allegiance to a sovereign, and especially to a named sovereign resident elsewhere, was inappropriate in Australia at its present state of history.

Mr Hawke —What was the date?

Mr WEST —That is October 1982. It is the Zybrzcki report. It continues:

This view was shared by persons from a variety of backgrounds, including holders of Imperial awards and persons who maintained that they were not republicans. No hostility was expressed towards her majesty.

I should not go on, because it must be rather embarrassing for the Opposition. We want to make it easier for people to obtain citizenship in Australia. We are considering making the oath more Australian in character, just as we are considering removing the British subject criterion for definition of Australian citizenship. We said this last May in the Governor-General's Speech and it was recently reiterated by my colleague the Minister for Finance, who is responsible for the Public Service. There is nothing new about all this. Honourable members opposite know that, the former Minister knows that, and Bjelke-Petersen knows it . The State Ministers have already been informed about what we intend to do. I have informed the Queensland Minister, as I have every State Minister in Australia, that our plan is to introduce in this session of Parliament these complex amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act and leave them on the table for consideration. The former Minister knows they are long overdue; he said so last year. There will be ample time for State Ministers, including the honourable member's colleague in Queensland, in the unlikely event that he is re -elected, to make representations to me.