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Wednesday, 12 September 1973
Page: 866

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I move:

That the House of Representatives does not insist on its amendment made in place of the amendment of the Senate to clause 19 of the Bill and agrees to the original amendment made by the Senate to that clause.

The purpose of the Australian Citizenship Bill is to wipe out racial and other discriminations in the granting of Australian citizenship. The existing procedures create first, second and third class citizens. The whole thrust of the Bill, the whole purpose of the Bill, is to create one citizenship, one criterion, one oath and one allegiance. For months now the Senate Opposition has frustrated these high objectives. On 2 occasions it has used specious and, as was the case last night, almost ludicrous excuses to hold up this Bill. The level of some of the excuses put forward in the Senate yesterday can be gauged by the fact that there was some reference to the constitutionality of the Bill, presumably in relation to the royal title, which seems to be extraordinary in view of the fact that the monarch herself has indicated her acceptance and enthusiasm for a revision of the title which she anticipates proclaiming on her forthcoming visit. That seems to be a most specious and ludicrous excuse. Nevertheless, the Bill was again rejected on these very narrow and inadequate grounds. The Senate is aware that this Bill wipes out discrimination. The Opposition has not dared to oppose these high principles. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me during the whole of the debate that some members of the Opposition were proposing a toast rather than giving attention to an oath. But by their deeds you shall know legislators as well as other people and the Opposition in another place twice rejected the Bill.

After the first occasion the Government, anxious to put Australian citizenship on a new pedestal and to give Australian citizenship a new significance, willingly compromised in relation to the form of the oath. We did this despite the fact that 71 per cent of all those Australians who were asked wanted to swear allegiance to the Australian Constitution. The expressed wishes of 71 per cent of all Australians who were asked have been rejected by the Opposition. More than that, the Opposition has callously and hurtfully re-inserted the form of renunciation which means that applicants for citizenship are required to mouth the meaningless form of renunciation although the Opposition knows as well as we in government know that legally the words have no significance. All they do is to cause hurt and all they can do is to confuse. But for obscure reasons of its own the Opposition has insisted on this course of action. Imagine the confusion of an Englishman who arrives in Australia, settles, successfully, enthusiastically applies for citizenship and finds himself solemnly renouncing all allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain just before taking an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Australia.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Did the Minister refer to a settler from the United Kingdom?

Mr GRASSBY - Of course. It is a clumsy and unnecessary procedure. It is not the Gov ernment's choice and it is not the Government's intention. I give notice that the Government will as soon as possible legislate to abolish the meaningless and hurtful renunciation and that the Australian citizen in future will take the following oath - as is proposed in the Australian Citizenship Bill as it was originally brought before this House: I...... swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution of Australia, observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.' This is what the overwhelming majority of the Australian people want. Of the people who were asked in a poll which was held recently 71 per cent expressed that wish. We are faced in the Senate with rule by the minority against the expressed will of the majority. Recognising this, to save Australia from further embarrassment as a nation which has discriminatory citizenship, and to bring some justice to migrants, to rescue the Bill from a Senate pigeon-hole - now a deep well for all sorts of things which have been irresponsibly rejected - this Government reluctantly accepts the Senate amendment and 1 commend the motion that I have moved.

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