Some are more citizen than others

Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, February 16, 1988.

The Australian Constitution prohibits the election of anyone to Federal Parliament who is a subject or citizen of another country. Before 1949 there existed no such status as Australian citizen. In that year, most British subjects born in Australia and all British subjects who, immediately before January 26, 1949, had been ordinarily resident in Australia or New Guinea for at least five years, became for the first time, Australian citizens.

However, British subjects who migrated to Australia from 1949 to 1984, have, unlike all other nationalities. been allowed to reside in Australia and vote in our elections without ever becoming naturalised Australian citizens. It is not known exactly how many British subjects are currently on the electoral rolls. It is estimated that there are one million such people. The Commonwealth Electoral Act is clearly discriminatory in still allowing voting rights to certain British subjects who are not Australian citizens, whilst denying the same right to others.

The fact that Senator Wood was able to stand for office whilst not being an Australian citizen is in itself an indictment of the screening procedures of the Electoral Office. The anomaly which requires candidates to be Australian citizens, yet allows up to one million foreigners to vote for them is an absurdity in need of immediate rectification. Equally reprehensible is the fact that the Electoral Office has not properly ensured that all those enrolled are in fact eligible to vote.

Most immigrants who have been offered the privilege of becoming Australian citizens do so with much eagerness, excitement, pride and ceremony. They swear an allegiance to our Queen and country and renounce all other allegiances. Senator Wood, who arrived in Australia 25 years ago, never bothered to become an Australian citizen in spite of his eligibility during the past 22 years. He was never eager to become an Australian and appears to have done so only to preserve his position in the Senate, seeing citizenship not as an honour bestowed, but as an automatic right conferred when and if desired, merely involving the filling in of a form. For that reason, he should resign.

Harold C. W. Scruby
Young Street,
Neutral Bay.