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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2015

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - Three matters have been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair). The first relates to the general attitude to and care of Australian citizens by the Government while they are overseas, or wherever they may be. As I mentioned at an earlier stage of this Bill, my officers have been investigating 415 cases relating to people who have been associated in one way or another with the practice of violence and, in some cases, who perhaps have been the victims of violence. We as a government were shocked to discover what had happened to some Australian citizens. Some had been murdered, some had been shot, some were missing and some we have not yet accounted for. We have tried very hard in the last 4 months to do some of the jobs that obviously should have been done many years earlier.

I return to the point of the renunciation of a person's former allegiance. I hope it is not suggested that the people of Ireland, New Zealand or Britain or the other countries I have mentioned are any the less citizens of those great countries because they have not been required to undergo the emotional hardship of renunciation. It is interesting to note that, among the countries that do not require renunciation is Yugoslavia - a country that we have had under discussion. The important point to realise is that this is purely an emotional form of words. It has no legal force. As I pointed out during the second reading stage of the Bill, all we are doing is causing unnecessary emotional hardship for no good reason. We, as a govrnment said: 'Why do it?' and in fact, we have provided in this Bill for its removal.

The second point that was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party when putting forward his amendment referred to the matter of the form of reference to the Sovereign. I was very concerned that we should get a consensus of opinion on this matter because the change in form of reference does not indicate a change of allegiance. The form of allegiance of Australians is contained in the Constitution. It is an allegiance to the Throne, to the Senate and the House of Representatives and to the Constitution itself. One of the alternatives to the present oath was not considered satisfactory in its present form by the citizenship sub-committee of the Immigration Advisory Council which I asked to look particularly at this matter.

I have some sympathy with the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party relating to the term 'Queen of Australia'. This point was looked at by the citizenship sub-committee. There are difficulties in doing this because of the present form of royal style and titles. It has been indicated and acknowledged generally by the Sovereign herself that the present form is just not accurate and adequate in 1973 and, therefore, she has acquiesced in a change and this is to come before the Parliament. If we were in our considerations to have described the Sovereign as the Queen of Australia, it would have been acceptable to some members of the sub-committee. I believe that several members of the sub-committee spoke very strongly in favour of this and there is no reason why they should not have done so. But the difficulty, again, is in the description of the Sovereign - Queen Elizabeth II. Suggestions were made that if we were going to describe her firmly and clearly as Queen of Australia, it should be Queen Elizabeth I because, obviously, we were not here at the time of Queen Elizabeth I of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

There were these various considerations to be taken into account and we also took the view that it could be confusing. We are anxious to see that all who come here, including those people from the 31 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, are not confused. Some of the countries in the Commonwealth of Nations are republics and some are kingdoms and some of the kingdoms have as their leader or their head of state Queen Elizabeth I or Queen Elizabeth II, depending upon the style adopted in the various countries. We thought it would be a matter of complete confusion to the people who came from the former British Commonwealth countries - now, Commonwealth of Nations countries - who would under our laws take a new citizenship. They would find themselves with the same head of state, a different oath, a different allegiance and a different citizenship. Obviously, this is a case where the tide of history has moved on. We felt that to prevent any confusion which could occur, this was a perfectly reasonable way of clearing up possible confusion and nothing more. That is what we have done and we hold to it.

There was one final point made by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party when putting forward his amendment. He referred to his concern for British migrants so I thought I would quote a letter from the President of the British Sub-branch of the Victorian Returned Services League. I had made a statement prior to receiving this letter in which I said that there had been in the past a neglect of United Kingdom settlers and the President wrote a letter to me on 2nd May in which he stated:

I have received several telephone calls from my Sub-branch members drawing my attention to the report All the callers were most enthusiastic over your comments and your outlook towards migrants, in particular those who came from the United Kingdom. It is like a breath of fresh air!

He continued:

It came as a shock when we arrived many years ago to find that we would never be treated as other than permanent visitors to Australia.

This impression, I am glad to say, is fast disappearing since you became Minister for Immigration, and for this we thank and congratulate you.

That is the voice of the British migrants, not the members of the Opposition and I am grateful for it because that is my dedication. On behalf of the Government I must say that we have given careful consideration to the matters raised in this amendment but we cannot accept it because we feel that what we have put forward is in the best interests of the nation at this time.

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