The Federal Government have announced plans to implement more stringent citizenship requirements in the near future, including display of genuine “Australian values”.
Any migrants wishing to gain Australian citizenship will face a tougher citizenship test designed to prove both commitment to the Australian nation and to the values of religious freedom and gender equality.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton outlined four key overhauls to the citizenship process:
- The 12-month residency period necessary for citizenship will be extended to four years;
- A competent proficiency level in spoken English must be demonstrated in a language test;
- The pledge of Australian citizenship will be changed and questions will be added to the test, both measures aimed at assessing attitudes to issues such as gender equality, violence against women and religion;
- Migrants must show evidence of integration into Australian society, such as employment, school placement for children and tax payments.
A limit of three failed attempts at the test will also be introduced, as well as an automatic fail for anyone caught cheating.
Mr Dutton made no apologies for the toughened stance the government is showing.
“Our country shouldn’t be embarrassed to say we want great people to call Australia home. We want people who abide by our laws and our values and we should expect nothing less,” he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was similarly keen to emphasise Australia’s right to place conditions on its citizens, describing citizenship as a “privilege”.
“There is no more important title in our democracy than ‘Australian citizen’, and the institution of citizenship must reflect Australian values,” he said.
“We’re defined by commitment to common values, political values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, equality for men and women … and our citizenship process should reflect that.”
However, Labor senator Penny Wong was sceptical of the proposals, accusing Turnbull of “[wanting] people to notice”.
“One suspects that Malcolm Turnbull is having a much greater focus on Tony Abbott or perhaps One Nation than any real or substantive changes here. It seems a little odd to me that you would actually ask people whether or not they are going to obey the law when they already pledge to obey the law,” she said.
“And if English grammar is the test, there might be a few members of parliament that may struggle.”