It has long been the case that everyone who wants to live in Australia and become an Australian signs up to our laws and democratic values.
The proposed changes to residency requirements, the university level English language test and the Government’s unsubstantiated claims that this is driven by national security give Labor no choice but to oppose the changes. A Senate inquiry will look in to some of the details but as a package we do not support the government’s changes.
The legislation introduced by the government proposes to extend the time permanent residents must live in our community before they can become citizens. If people have already been here for four years and are ready to become Australian citizens the Government should not stand in their way.
Labor supports people living in our community being helped to speak English and the existing citizenship test is already in English. If you don’t have conversational English it is unlikely you will be able to pass the existing test. Requiring university level English sends a message to every single Australian who doesn’t have university entrance qualifications that the Australian Government, if given the choice, would prefer those Australians were not here.
The government is trying to claim that this is a national security issue. This is absurd - people applying for citizenship are already living in Australia permanently and their entry has been subject to strict character and security background checks. If these permanent residents are a security concern, they should not be living here at all in the first place.
This announcement affects real people’s lives and the decisions that they have made for their families. I am very aware of the unnecessary distress this is causing to many people across the Illawarra.
Debate on this issue commenced during the week beginning 7 August and, as the Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia, the Hon Tony Burke MP was the first Labor Party representative to speak on the issue to outline why Labor will vote ‘no’ to the changes. You can read the Shadow Minister’s speech at: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/5450bb89-40c1-40d0-b9d7-ce7194184e98/0018/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
The Shadow Minister for Citizenship has also created a petition against these changes at https://www.tonyburke.com.au/get-active/citizenshippetition which Labor will present to parliament.