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Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 516

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - in reply - In closing this brief debate on this measure, I express my appreciation first to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) for his words of congratulation and also his passionate attachment, as on all occasions, to equal rights for all of our citizens. 1 also express my appreciation to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition tonight, for his support and the support of the Opposition for this measure.

I feel that this is an historic occasion in the annals of our national Parliament. We have had a Federation and a national Parliament - an embryo nation, I suppose - since 1901, that is, 72 years. I hope that in a few minutes we will pass through all stages this Bill, the provisions of which when enacted will wipe from the national statute book the last piece of racial discrimination that exists in our national laws. This is an achievement and I feel that all members of this national Parliament tonight can take some pride in the fact that we are unanimous about this measure. 1 remind the House that section 64 of the Migration Act is the last remaining provision that can be described as discriminatory on racial grounds. This legislation also enables us as a nation to go to the United Nations - the supreme international forum - with a view to ratifying the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. We have to pass this legislation to enable that convention to be ratified. 1 might say that when the Australian representatives rise at the United Nations to vote and indicate our ratification they can be fortified by the fact that this decision was unanimous. I take considerable pride as an Australian in the fact that the national Parliament is unanimous tonight. I say on behalf of the Government that on this night of 13th March the important point is that we have excised the last of these discriminations and also we have. I think, on both sides of the Parliament a common dedication which we should enshrine tonight in large letters whenever Australia is being discussed and wherever its attitudes are being debated, because I noted that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said tonight - I hope he will again signify his agreement - that no law should be discriminatory. I welcome that because it is the intention of the Government to ensure that all Australian citizens will be equal in all ways before Australian law. This Bill is a token of our dedication in that direction and of the endeavours that will be pursued in this session of the Parliament to ensure that there will be no discrimination between citizens; that there will be one citizenship; that there will be one criterion; that there will be one allegiance. It is for this reason that I can take particular satisfaction tonight in the unanimity of the Parliament.

Reference has been made to the fact that the Aboriginal people in 1910 perhaps were viewed paternalistically. I think that the sin of paternalism has continued a long way past 1910. It has continued right up to the present time but it is nice to know that in this national forum it has been rejected. There is nothing worse outside of genocide than the gentle easing out of people by paternalism. It may take a bit longer but they die anyway. Tonight the Aboriginal people, emerging with a new pride and a new independence, may take satisfaction from the fact that this last piece of discrimination on the national statute book has been removed. My friend and colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has referred to the States. He said that he is not satisfied that in a State such as Queensland this position appertains. That is another matter for another time. It was as well to mention it but as far as the national statute book is concerned the slate has been wiped clean. We can now go to the world forum with a clear conscience and a clear statute book. I think it is probably not a bad idea to remind ourselves tonight that on the birthday of this nation - on 26th January 1788 - 1,000 migrants arrived in this country and on that day all Australians were black. The first migrants were of assorted colours and not terribly well selected.

Mr Bryant - But by the best of judges.

Mr GRASSBY - My friend has said, by some of the best judges. That is possible. But since that time there have been many changes in the state of the nation and its composition. As far as this Government is concerned, one thing that we are absolutely dedicated to from now on is the complete equality of citizens in our country.

Mr Anthony - Except as between unionists and non-unionists?

Mr GRASSBY - This measure is a token of our endeavour to wipe out all distinction between citizens before the law and is one of the key steps to achieve that position. I did not quite hear the interjection made a moment ago by the Leader of the Australian Country Party but I would hope that on this historic night he would be in agreement with the principle that has been enunciated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If there is any dispute perhaps they can confer and let us know the end result of their deliberations.

Mr Lynch - There is no dispute at all.

Mr GRASSBY - There is no dispute. I am very glad to have the unanimity confirmed. I want to be quite clear and definite on this matter. I hope, following the remarks that were made earlier on behalf of the Opposition, that this measure has the unanimous support of the national Parliament. I think it is important to have it. I hope that on this day, 13th March, if we vote on the motion that the Bill be read a third time, we will do so unanimously. Then we can go forward from this House, each of us in our respective political parties, and be a little bit prouder of the nation of which we are a part because we have done one small thing to eliminate a hangover from the colonial past.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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