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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1571

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) with fascination. It was the best exercise in the rewriting of history I have witnessed since I last read George Orwell at his fictional best. His speech carefully suppressed the fact that it was his former leader, Sir John McEwen, who invited the Yugoslav Prime Minister to Australia. Mr McMahon, the previous Prime Minister, said:

The fact is that a general invitation was issued to the Yugoslav Government for its Prime Minister to visit Australia. It was issued by Sir John McEwen, who was then Minister for Trade and Industry.

Presumably it was a triumph for the left wing of the Country Party. The Leader of the Country Party also, of course, carefully suppressed the fact that all the events about which he has just professed concern occurred under the administration of his Government. Everything occurred at that time, but nothing was done about them. I suggest that the Leader of the Country Party is finding his conscience in this matter too late to be credible and too late to be helpful to the men who are dead.

Despite its obvious and patently party political nature, I do welcome the initiation of this discussion by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I do so because I recognise that the honourable member for Moreton has in the past had to depart from the views of his colleagues when matters touching Australia's independence and Australian citizenship had to be dealt with. He has now moved a motion which, in effect, states that Australia should be solicitous of the welfare of its citizens everywhere and at all times. I am in entire agreement with that sentiment. The whole emphasis of the present Government, led by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and of my personal administration has been to give Australian citizenship a status and a recognition across the world which it has hitherto lacked. The records show that in the past 24 years Australian citizens have been murdered, executed and imprisoned in various parts of the world without let or hindrance or apparent interest by successive Australian Governments. The entire incident to which the honourable member for Moreton has addressed himself occurred under the administration of his Government.

The Opposition today is still suffering from a monumental colonial hangover. Australian citizenship was not taken seriously by the previous Government. To support that statement I need refer only to the fact that in the past there was a reluctance to have Australian citizenship recognised on its own for the strength that it had. The previous Government did not have the simple conviction that Australian citizenship was strong enough to stand on its own. For nearly 20 years it sent Australians overseas with a passport that was a confession of its failure to recognise Australian citizenship. For nearly 20 years Australians were encouraged to believe that they were still British citizens. That has not been true since 1949; yet Australians were sent overseas with documents that disguised their Australian citizenship and also, I might say, disguised Australia and in the process alternatively amused or embarrassed our friends in the United Kingdom and certainly made monkeys out of the Australians who believed in the emphasis given to their citizenship in the documents.

At present we have a motion before us which is in fact an indictment of the previous Government. An overseas administration that treats Australian citizenship with contempt in the future will have to confront a determined Australian Government dedicated to the care and protection of all Australian citizens - for the first time in this generation. I have been very concerned within my portfolio to see to it that the embarrassments of the past are no longer experienced by Australian citizens proceeding to countries of their birth which recognise dual nationality. I am confident and happy that in most cases we will be able to avoid a repetition of the embarrassments which our citizens suffered in the past. I am confident that that will be achieved in the future. In some cases, such as with Yugoslavia, the Prime Minister has taken the lead in setting out to resolve those differences for the first time. I am convinced that they can and will be amicably resolved.

Let us look at the position with respect to the laws of Australia and the world. Australia does not recognise dual citizenship. If an Australian overseas takes another citizenship he ceases to be an Australian. In contrast, the practice around the world differs vastly. For example, 15 of the 31 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations have provision for the recognition of dual citizenship. Other component countries do not. These include Canada, Ghana, India, Malaysia. Former members such as Pakistan and South Africa. Take a like attitude. Thirty-five countries outside the Commonwealth of Nations recognise dual citizenship. I mention but a few when I name Argentina, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Holland, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Russia and Yugoslavia. There is an international complexity in citizenship which it is just as well for us to be aware of and recognise. For example, a legitimate child born in Australia whose father is a Netherlands national automatically acquires Australian citizenship. A legitimate child born in the Netherlands whose father is an Australian, or an illegitimate child born in the Netherlands whose mother is an Australian, automatically becomes an Australian citizen if its birth is registered with the Australian Consulate. By contrast an illegitimate child born in Australia automatically acquires Australian citizenship. If it is subsequently legitimated by its Dutch father, the child would acquire Netherlands nationality as well.

Mr Lynch - Get back to the subject of the debate.

Mr GRASSBY - I am giving an example of some of the things that should have been dealt with by previous Administrations in this and other contexts. An Australian woman who marries a Greek national thereby automatically acquires Hellenic citizenship unless she files a declaration to the contrary. These are matters of international complexity. Let us look specifically at the situation with respect to Yugoslavia. In the context of articles 3 and 4 of the Yugoslav Citizenship Law, a person born in Yugoslavia or Australia of parents who are both Yugoslav citizens is a Yugoslav citizen and remains so even with the acquisition of Australian citizenship. Article 12 of the Yugoslav citizenship law does, however, provide for the cessation of Yugoslav citizenship under certain conditions. The point I make is that there has not been pursued by past governments anything further than the recognition of an international convention of 1930 - a generation ago. By contrast, just to talk about my own administration for a moment, what I have done is to authorise the initiation of talks to obtain from the Yugoslav authorities a recognition of ways and means of better recognition by them of Australian citizenship and also to reach agreement with the Yugoslav authorities for an Australian citizen of Yugoslav origin to be able to surrender his Yugoslav citizenship by international treaty. This would be under their own Yugoslav Citizenship Law. In this connection it may be possible to reach accord on a principle similar to that in the 'Protocol Relating to Military Obligations in Certain Cases of Dual Nationality' of the Hague Convention of 1930.

I point out that the previous Government pinned all its actions very negatively to that particular Convention, but it studiously avoided recognition of the fact that Yugoslavia never signed the Hague Convention. Australia did, and ratified the protocol. By pinning all its responsibilities to that protocol the previous Government in fact abdicated its responsibility to Australian citizens. Article 4 of that Convention states:

A State may not afford diplomatic protection to one of its nationals against a State whose nationality such person also possesses.

So all that Australia did as a nation for many years was to warn Australian citizens who were proceeding to other countries in which they may have been born that Australia could do nothing for them. This was reiterated time and time again. It is duplicated in letters to national groups, to individuals and, indeed, is enshrined in a publication which has been issued for 20 years. Australia abdicated its responsibility. The present Government does not intend to take refuge in the Hague Convention of 1930. The Government will put an end to the neglect of Australian citizenship which has existed for a whole generation. The Government will ring down once and for all the curtain on the colonial past to which the Opposition has belonged.

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