The Opposition party is being put under pressure to oppose the Federal Government’s bill to tighten requirements for Australian citizenship, with claims that the bill will foster xenophobia.
Federal Labor MPs have put pressure on party leadership, who have not yet declared their intentions, to oppose the bill that was tabled yesterday. The bill proposes a new citizenship test as well as stringent English language testing, an extended waiting period for citizenship eligibility and the requirement for evidence of community integration for aspiring applicants.
“We can’t fold on this. We can make the argument that this is a deliberate ploy to wedge us and create a climate of fear by stoking xenophobia. It won’t work and we should call it out,” one MP said.
“These changes are deeply unreasonable. The new English language test will be impossible for many good people [to become citizens]. They will be permanently shut out.”
Exemptions to the new laws will be made for people over 60 and under the age of 16, as there will for any applicants with any sensory impairments or long-term physical or mental incapacity.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has defended the bill, stating that it was important that Australia values were protected in the citizenship process.
“English language was essential to economic participation and social cohesion,” he told parliament. “There is also strong public support to ensure aspiring citizens are fully able to participate in Australian life by speaking English, our national language.”
However, Labor MPs are continuing to protest the bill to party leadership, with senator Lisa Singh labelling the proposals as “neither fair nor legitimate”.
“They won’t make Australia safer, but they will undermine our values of tolerance, inclusion and a fair go for all,” Senator Singh said.
“They will make the lives of real people worse — making it much harder for them to obtain citizenship, undermining their family’s security and allowing stigmatisation and intolerance in our communities to increase.”