Oz set to shake up its im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies

The New Age (Gauteng) - - BUSINESS -

AUS­TRALIA plans to raise the bar for hand­ing out cit­i­zen­ships by length­en­ing the wait­ing pe­riod, ad­ding a new “Aus­tralian val­ues” test and rais­ing the stan­dard for English lan­guage as part of a shake up of its im­mi­gra­tion pro­gramme.

The move comes in a week when Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull an­nounced ax­ing a tem­po­rary work visa pop­u­lar with for­eign­ers and re­plac­ing it with a tougher pro­gramme in a bid to put “Aus­tralia first”. Aus­tralia has seen the rise of na­tion­al­ist, anti-im­mi­gra­tion pol­i­tics with far-right wing par­ties such as One Na­tion gar­ner­ing strong pub­lic sup­port, while the pop­u­lar­ity of Turn­bull’s rul­ing cen­tre-right gov­ern­ment has been lan­guish­ing.

The new cit­i­zen­ship re­quire­ments are ex­pected to be passed by Par­lia­ment with the back­ing of right-wing se­na­tors. Yes­ter­day, Turn­bull said ba­sic English would no longer be suf­fi­cient to be­come an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen un­der the new test.

Ap­pli­cants need a min­i­mum level 6.0 equiv­a­lent of the In­ter­na­tional English Lan­guage Test­ing Sys­tem, and a per­son will only be­come el­i­gi­ble for cit­i­zen­ship af­ter four years as a per­ma­nent res­i­dent, up from one year.

“What we are do­ing is strength­en­ing our mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety and strength­en­ing our val­ues,” Turn­bull told re­porters in Canberra.

“Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship should be hon­oured, cher­ished. It’s a priv­i­lege. I reckon if we went out to­day and said to Aus­tralians, ‘Do you think you could be­come an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen with­out be­ing able to speak English?’ They’d say, ‘You’re kid­ding. Surely you’d have to be able to speak English.’”

Turn­bull said the im­mi­gra­tion process was mainly ad­min­is­tra­tive while the cit­i­zen­ship test was largely a civics test.

The cur­rent cit­i­zen­ship mul­ti­ple­choice ques­tion­naire tests a per­son’s knowl­edge of Aus­tralian laws, na­tional sym­bols and colours of the Abo­rig­i­nal flag. But Turn­bull said it was not ad­e­quate to judge whether a per­son would ac­cept Aus­tralian val­ues.

“If we be­lieve that re­spect for women and chil­dren and say­ing no to vi­o­lence is an Aus­tralian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a fun­da­men­tal part, a very prom­i­nent part, of our process to be an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen? Why should the test sim­ply be a check­list of civic ques­tions?”

The new cit­i­zen­ship test will in­clude ques­tions about whether ap­pli­cants have sent their kids to school, whether they go to work – if they are of work­ing age – and whether be­com­ing part of un­ruly gangs in cities were Aus­tralian val­ues.

“We’re stand­ing up for Aus­tralian val­ues and the Par­lia­ment should do so too,” Turn­bull said. – Reuters

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