Cit­i­zen test queried

Shepparton News - - NEWS - By Thomas Moir

Shep­par­ton Eth­nic Coun­cil’s boss has ques­tioned the value of in­tro­duc­ing a tougher English lan­guage test and a four-year wait for per­ma­nent res­i­dents be­fore they can be­come cit­i­zens.

Chris Hazel­man said such an ex­ten­sion would have an ‘‘enor­mous im­pact’’ and that it could push mi­grants out of ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for longer and cre­ate anx­i­ety about their fu­tures.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton has pro­posed mi­grants want­ing to be­come Aus­tralians will have to sit a stand-alone English lan­guage test be­fore be­ing al­lowed to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship and demon­strate a ‘‘com­pe­tent’’ level of read­ing, writ­ing, lis­ten­ing and speak­ing.

The gov­ern­ment also wants to change the pe­riod of per­ma­nent res­i­dency from one year to four, in­tro­duce a new val­ues test, and stronger char­ac­ter checks.

‘‘It ef­fec­tively dou­bles the amount of time they’re ex­cluded from the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,’’ Mr Hazel­man said of the pro­posed changes.

‘‘It means to be­come an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen, there’s longer wait­ing times for that. ‘‘It pro­longs the process for peo­ple. ‘‘You have only got to have at­tended a cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony to see the ab­so­lute joy and pride once peo­ple be­come an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen.

‘‘All this is do­ing is plac­ing an­other level of ob­sta­cles in peo­ple’s way.’’

Mr Hazel­man, who also ques­tioned the con­sul­ta­tion process be­hind the changes, de­scribed the re­gion as a des­ti­na­tion point for mi­grants due to the avail­abil­ity of sea­sonal em­ploy­ment.

He de­scribed the leg­is­la­tion as non­s­e­lec­tive and said it would serve to ‘‘cap­ture in its net ev­ery mi­grant com­ing from a non-English-speak­ing coun­try.’’

‘‘It will be peo­ple here that will be sub­ject to more anx­i­ety over their fu­tures,’’ he said of the pro­posed changes.

La­bor says the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed cit­i­zen­ship changes are a ‘‘mas­sive over­reach’’ and will be op­posed in par­lia­ment, while the gov­ern­ment has said it was im­por­tant new cit­i­zens had a com­mand of English and were com­mit­ted to Aus­tralian val­ues.

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