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Tuesday, 3 December 1974
Page: 3058

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - An oath of allegiance is taken and also, as I recall it, an oath to carry out faithfully the duties of office- something of that kind.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - As a Minister ofState?

Senator MURPHY - Yes. It is in the same form as the Schedule to the Constitution. I think we can get the precise form for the honourable senator without very much difficulty. The oath of allegiance states that one will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty- it will now be Queen Elizabeth- her heirs and successors according to law. The affirmation is in similar terms. It has been adapted slightly. It is one thing to consider a high constitutional position but the point is whether this principle should be extended to a whole range of citizens, the permanent and temporary employees of the Australian Government.

Senator Greenwood - If it is good enough for the head of a department, the Minister of State, why should it not be good enough also for every member of the Public Service? Why should not the basic principle of equality be adopted?

Senator MURPHY -I suppose one could say that, and one might also ask why should we not do this in the case of teachers and even schoolchildren and so forth. One gets to the point, if one starts on that course, of creating awful difficulties for people. Take the case further. What happens if we start extending this throughout the community? What do we do in the case of migrants who are here? Do we make a migrant take an oath of allegiance every time he gets some kind of position or before he is allowed to have a driving licence?

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - Oh, no.

Senator MURPHY -Well, that is before he does anything else. We will get into difficulties with such people. A person will come here from elsewhere and before even being qualified for naturalisation we will have him taking an oath of allegiance which will render him stateless. Such an oath, in the case of many countries, will cause a migrant to lose his nationality before he has ours. We have a simple position here. Perhaps Senator Sir Magnus Cormack will answer me. Why should he, or Senator Greenwood, want to impose these unnecessary oaths and affirmations and clutter up the laws? Why should we have this kind of ritual throughout our laws when it is unnecessary? A person has obligations and those are to be carried out. If there is a breach of them, whether in the kind of example Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred to, or in others, the person's duty is to observe the law. If he does not, he is liable to punishment. Is not this enough and is not the experience of the States good enough for us? Where is the harm going to come if it has not been found necessary throughout all these years in the case of the Australian States? Yet it is proposed to have this cumbrous nonsense of people having to be chased up in order to take oaths or affirmations of allegiance. All sorts of records have to be kept. I support there must be some great warehouse where the records ofall these things are kept, and to what purpose when the law provides that people are under an obligation to do certain things and if they break the law they are liable to penalties? I suggest with respect that the Senate ought not adopt this change.

Senator Sir MAGNUSCORMACK (Victoria) (8.54)- The Attorney-General knows perfectly well that I have an affection for him which it would take a lot of tribulations on my part to throw aside, but that is not the point. It may be all very well, with due deference to the forensic ability of the Attorney-General, something which I do not possess, for him to say that there must be some great warehouse filled with this, that and the other. There must be warehouses containing immigration information relating to every time that people travel which could cover deserts. I do not know what the devil they do with the immigration cards that travellers fill in. Literally the Sahara Desert must be covered by the warehouses of the United Nations which are filled with immigration cards, but that is by the way. I do not accept this warehouse nonsense. Why is it in the law that a young solicitor when admitted to practise as a lawyer in the Statessomething which the Attorney-General has been canvassing- has to take an oath of allegiance to obey the equities, the honour, in relation to problems confronted by him in the profession of law? Why is it that a lawyer has to take an oath that he will be obedient and responsive to the law? The Attorney-General is an eminent barrister. When he was admitted to the bar and appeared with his peers and before the justices of the court, he was asked to subscribe to an oath or an affirmation that he would obey certain things. It seems to me on the argument of the Attorney-General that this is irrational and that there should not be this subscription.

Senator Murphy - That is correct. In a moment I will answer you and tell you why.

Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK -I am a layman in these areas. As a lay senator I am entitled, surely, to get some answers. Over the whole range of our lives we are required to make some subscription. The Attorney-General, as a barrister, had to make a subscription to an affirmation or an oath that he would do certain things before he was admitted to the bar. As I mentioned just now, he had to either take an oath or make an affirmation that he would be obedient to certain principles when he became one of the members of Her Majesty's Executive Council, or the Governor-General's Executive Council. I now take the matter a step further in his own profession. Senator Greenwood had to take an oath. Senator Missen had to take an oath. Senator Chaney is not here but undoubtedly he had to take an oath. Senator Sheil is here and he had to take the Hippocratic oath as a doctor that he would be obedient to certain things, and if he fails to be obedient to that oath he is subject to disciplinary action. This is not a ludicrous argument. I suggest that the Attorney-General's argument is specious and I would like to hear some words about it.

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