Chapter One - Introduction
On 16 October
2003, the Senate referred the following matters to the Legal and
Constitutional References Committee, for inquiry and report by 1 September 2004:
- the extent of the Australian diaspora;
- the variety of factors driving more Australians
to live overseas;
- the costs, benefits and opportunities presented
by the phenomenon;
- the needs and concerns of overseas Australians;
- the measures taken by other comparable countries
to respond to the needs of their expatriates; and
- ways in which Australia could better use its
expatriates to promote our economic, social and cultural interests.
On 23 June
2004, the Senate agreed to extend the reporting date for this
inquiry to 5 October 2004.
Due to the prorogation of Parliament on 31
August 2004, and the need to thoroughly consider the evidence
received in order to finalise its recommendations, the Committee tabled an
interim report on 1 October 2004.
The inquiry lapsed on 15 November
2004, the eve of the 41st Parliament. On 6 December 2004, the Senate
re-referred the inquiry for report by 8
Conduct of the inquiry
The Committee advertised the inquiry in The Australian newspaper on 3 December 2003, 17 December 2003, 28 January 2004 and 11 February 2004, and wrote to over
50 organisations and individuals, inviting submissions by 27 February 2004. Given the subject
matter of this inquiry, however, it was evident that other approaches were
required. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) disseminated
details of the inquiry to its overseas posts; the Southern Cross Group (SCG)
emailed its members and posted the terms of reference and supplementary
information on its website and forwarded submissions from members; and several
chambers of commerce surveyed their members and sent consolidated responses.
The Committee is appreciative of the response it
received: some 677 submissions from individuals, groups or associations were
received by the end of February 2004, with several supplementary submissions
and associated documentation being received in the following months (see
Appendix 1 for the complete list of submissions). Submissions were placed on
the Committee's website.
The Committee held public hearings in Sydney
on 27 July 2004; in Melbourne
on 28 July 2004; and in Canberra
on 29 July 2004 and 4 August 2004. A list of witnesses who
appeared before the Committee is at Appendix 2, and copies of the Hansard
transcript are available through the Internet at https://www.aph.gov.au/hansard.
The Committee hopes that this inquiry has shed some
useful light on many expatriate issues, and that it will be only one of many to
explore the ramifications of an increasingly global workforce in the 21st
century. The Committee notes, for example, that the Lowy Institute released a
report on Australia's
diaspora (the Lowy report) towards the end of this inquiry. The Committee notes that there is a
considerable amount of common ground between this report and the Lowy report.
First and foremost, the Committee thanks the SCG for
its considerable assistance in disseminating information about the inquiry and
in facilitating the handling of submissions from SCG members; and for supplying
a steady stream of comprehensive submissions and useful background information.
Thanks must also go to all submitters and witnesses. Many
individual submitters went to considerable lengths to outline their personal
situation, and to articulate ways in which the Australian Government could or
should reconsider its policies or practices to better encompass the realities
of a considerable proportion of its citizenry living beyond its geographic
borders. Government agencies and departments, in particular the Department of
Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), also assisted in
providing useful background information. The written input of many
overseas-based chambers of commerce and alumni associations is also greatly
The Committee thanks all witnesses who gave evidence to
the Committee and, in particular, those who travelled from abroad or from
distant parts of Australia.
Scope of the report
Chapter 2 considers the characteristics of Australia's
expatriate community, including the reasons why Australians go and stay overseas.
Chapter 3 looks at ways of determining the size of Australia's
Chapter 4 considers concerns regarding communication
between expatriates and government, and looks at ways to develop the role of
the Australian Government in relation to expatriates.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 address the concerns of
expatriates, particularly in the areas of citizenship and voting rights, and
repatriation to Australia.
Chapter 8 looks at measures taken by other countries in
respect of their expatriates. Chapter 9 considers schemes in place to engage with
expatriates, and looks at ways expatriates can contribute to the Australian community
whilst still abroad. Chapter 10 presents a summary of the Committee's
conclusions and its recommendations on a range of matters relating to Australian
Note on references
References in this report are to individual submissions
as received by the Committee, not to a bound volume. References to the
Committee Hansard are to the official Hansard. Page numbers may vary between
the proof and the official Hansard transcript.