Immigration and Border Protection

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March 07, 2018

The Turnbull Government has today decided to continue Peter Dutton’s attack on multicultural Australia.

The Government are looking to re-introduce their snobbish, divisive changes to Australian Citizenship to Parliament this year despite them being thrown out in the Senate last year.

A requirement for conversational level English is completely reasonable and it’s already in place. Malcolm Turnbull is saying to all Australians that unless you can pass the same test used for university entrants, you don't belong – it’s elitist and out of touch. 

How can it be fair to make changes that set rules that many people born in Australia would not be able to satisfy?

Everyone who lives in Australia should be learning conversational English – and we should be helping them to do so.  That’s what the current test does.

The current test, the one that John Howard put in place, is already in English. If you have no English, you can’t pass. There is no need to change it. 

Using the same test that is used for university entrance is snobbery, it sends a message to every single Australian who doesn’t have university entrance qualifications that the Turnbull Government, if given the choice, would prefer those Australians were not here.

The Senate rejected the university-level English requirement last year because some people were going to live in Australia their entire working lives and were never going to be able to become Australian citizens. Creating a permanent underclass of non-citizens is not good for the individual and not good for Australia. 

If Mr Turnbull was serious about helping migrants settling into Australia, he would implement the bipartisan recommendations from the Joint Standing Committee’s report into Migrant Settlement Outcomes which would improve newly-arrived migrants’ English training.

These particular recommendations – which Labor supports – include greater flexibility in the Adult Migrant English Program and changes to enable better community engagement and improved employment prospects for newly-arrived migrants.

Just because some Australians and people who have migrated to Australia don’t have perfect English, doesn't mean they don't work hard or help build the country.

Mr Turnbull needs to explain why these tests are fair when former migrants who are now citizens, the people who have made great contributions to our nation, would never have passed. When Malcolm Turnbull talks about the success of the Snowy Hydro scheme, he needs to realise the history. Many of the people who initially worked on this iconic project would not have been able to pass his proposed test. 

Labor knows changes to citizenship affect real people’s lives and the decisions that they have made for their families. 

The Turnbull Government’s first round of proposed changes to citizenship caused unnecessary distress to many communities all across Australia. 

This proposal overturns more than a decade of bipartisan support for the citizenship rules introduced under John Howard. It is clear that these changes are driven by a campaign within the Liberal party for Peter Dutton's leadership ambitions.