The Turnbull government is looking at tightening the rules to become an Australian citizen.
The prime minister hinted at changes on Wednesday during a speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the wake of announcing the end of the 457 working visa program.
“Our changes to citizenship will also enable our migration program to contribute still further to our social cohesion while enhancing our security,” he told the ACCI.
“Australia must continue to attract people who will embrace our values and positively contribute – regardless of their nationality or religious beliefs.
“This is important for temporary visas and vital for permanent residency and citizenship. Citizenship must be valued and we are making changes so that the practices and principles of those obtaining citizenship are consistent with our cultural values.
“Our reforms are designed to get more out of our migration system, to realise its potential to contribute to our economy.”
This morning Turnbull and immigration minister Peter Dutton today revealed a number of major changes to the process.
The first is that applicants will need to be permanent residents for four years before they can take the test. This is being increased from 12 months.
Secondly, they must demonstrate a higher level of English than currently required to pass the test. Applicants will need to achieve a IELTS level 6 equivalent of English.
“If you want a chance of succeeding in Australia, you need to be competent in English,” said Turnbull. “We are doing people a favour.”
And finally they must demonstrate that they have integrated into the community. Extra questions on the test will determine this.
“We want people to demonstrate they have have worked, sent children to school… it’s not an issue that is properly tested now,” said Dutton.
He also mentioned that applicants would have their records checked to ensure they were not perpetrators of domestic violence, the kind of people Dutton said “should not become an Australian citizens”.
“There are some checks that are undertaken at the moment but they aren’t sufficient,” he said.
“I believe [these changes] will be empowering for the applicant,” said Turnbull.
Turnbull said the new test will put Australian values at the very heart of Australian citizenship, and enable Australia to be an even stronger and more successful multicultural country.
“We are not defined by race or culture… we are defined by commitment to political values,” he said. “These fundamental values is what makes us Australian… and our citizenship process should reflect that.”
Dutton emphasised that the government was not asking applicants to abandon their culture or citizenship “but when you decide to come to our country you decide to abide by Australian laws… and adopt Australian values.
“We are making no apologies that we want people to be able to integrate… we want people to be able to work… and contribute and not live life on welfare.”
The immigration department has today released the discussion paper. Between now and June 1 there will be a consultation period, during which the community will have the opportunity to comment of the proposed changes.
The government will also brief the Opposition today.
“We look to the Opposition to support this legislation,” said Turnbull. “This is defending, reinforcing Australian values.”
On Tuesday, as part of its replacement of the 457 visa scheme, the government said the two-year temporary visa will no longer offer permanent residency when it ends.
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