Opposition opposes gov't reforms to Australian citizen law

Frederick Owens
June 20, 2017

Justice Minister Michael Keenan - invoking the deadly Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney - said it was critical to weed out bad eggs before they entered the country and long before they achieved citizenship.

He lashed out at the government for tying the changes to national security, saying that everyone affected by the legislation had already been allowed to live in Australia as a permanent resident.

He said the proposed language test required a university level grasp of English and "what sort of snobbery leads a government to say, unless you reach a university level of English, we'd rather you weren't here?"

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been trying to ramp up pressure on Mr Shorten over the issue, demanding he give the legislation his support.

Labor and the Greens have moved to block the Government's attempt to introduce tough new laws for Australia's citizenship test.

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"I think it is important for us to get Labor's support because we do want to have bipartisan support. on a law that will serve our country well for many decades to come", he said.

The Labor caucus voted unanimously to oppose the changes in parliament following earlier public criticisms of the proposal from figures within the party's Left.

Labor's decision to reject the package followed the ventilation of strong concerns internally from MPs from both the right and left factions about core elements of the changes, including the new English language test and residency requirements.

"The government in its bill has engaged in a massive over-reach. and they have taken some steps, which, put simply, Australia should never take and are inconsistent with who we are as a country", Mr Burke told reporters in Canberra.

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"If there is a national security problem for these people, then why on earth does the government have them already living here permanently?"

Mr Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately condemned Labor for opposing the changes.

"It is a leadership campaign for Peter Dutton", Burke said Tuesday.

"Labor is not valuing Australian citizenship", he said.

During Question Time, he said while the opposition was divided, the majority of Australians would support the changes.

"We aren't going to back down because we have spoken ... to the Australian public about their ideas in this space and they fully support the agenda of the government".

He disputed Labor's characterisation of the English testing requirements as "university-level", and described the current one-year wait for permanent residents as "an outdated notion" compared to the US, Canada and Germany.

"Over the course of that four years, people can have the ability to demonstrate that they have integrated into Australian society, they have abided by the laws and the values of this country and they can become Australian citizens".

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