immigration policy

Back to the drawing board as controversial citizenship bill is thrown out

by Ray Clancy on October 19, 2017

in Australia Immigration

Controversial changes to the citizenship process in Australia look set to be watered down after the Government failed to get them approved in the Senate.

The citizenship bill, which proposes to introduce a tougher English test and a four-year wait before overseas residents can apply to become an Australian citizen, will now have to be rewritten substantially.

(fintastique/Bigstock.com)

The campaign against the changes was led by the Green party and its citizenship spokesman Nick McKim described its failure to be approved in its current form as a major win.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the Australian newspaper that the Government remained committed to its citizenship package but he would not say when it intended to try to get an overhauled bill through parliament.

As well as the English test and four-year wait to apply, opponents are not happy with the bill giving Dutton the power to overrule decisions on citizenship applications by the AAT if he did not think the decisions were in the national interest and the power to decide whether or not an applicant has integrated into the Australian community.

The changes, had they been approved, would have been retrospective meaning they would apply to anyone who had applied for citizenship since 20 April this year would need to have been a permanent resident for four years instead of two.

Dutton has now confirmed that applications since then will now be processed under the previous rules so that only a two-year residency period is required.

Mary Patetsos, chairperson of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, welcomed the rejection of the bill as really good news for multicultural Australia and urged the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to get on with process applications that have not been processed since the changes were announced in April.

‘This legislation would have created a permanent underclass of Australian residents that would have been denied them the rights and opportunities of being welcomed as Australian citizens,’ she said.

McKim also called for the backlog to be sorted out. ‘People who are working, studying and raising families in Australia can now get on with their lives and make choices about their future, after they were so unfairly put on hold for months,’ he said.

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