Citizen test queried
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.