Prolific Australian businessman Frank Lowy may not have become a citizen under Turnbull's new rules

Frank Lowy (Photo: Getty/Brendon Thorne)

Prolific Australian businessman Frank Lowy may not have been able to become a citizen under Turnbull’s proposed changes to the country’s citizenship test.

Speaking on the ABC’s 7.30pm program last night host, Leigh Sales posed the question:

“One of Australia’s most successful business leaders and greatest philanthropists is the founder of Westfield, Frank Lowy. When he came here as a refugee, he understood only a little English – I checked with his office today. Today with that level of skill, he would be unlikely to qualify for citizenship. Is that the sort of Australian we are happy to miss out on, Frank Lowy?”

While the prime minister argued it was not a fair comparison, he said that if a person comes to Australia and they want to be a citizen, then they need to be competent in English.

To which Sales referred back to Lowy’s past saying, if “they’re working madly to get up a deli, running a business in Western Sydney, working all sorts of crazy hours – they might not have time to go to English language classes”.

But Turnbull was adamant.

“It is in their interests to do so,” he said.

“Remember, the starting point for applying to be an Australian citizen is being a permanent resident, so they’re not prejudiced, but to take on that additional honour, that additional privilege of being an Australian citizen, it is perfectly fair and it is in their interest to have a competent level of English.”

Lowy, a Holocaust survivor, emigrated to Australia from Hungary via Israel as a 21-year-old man in 1952.

He went on to found the $22 billion Westfield shopping empire.

According to Forbes, his net worth is $US5.6 billion ($AU7.44 billion).

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