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Labor will continue to fight any citizenship reforms says Bourke

Tony Burke

Labor will not support a redrawn citizenship bill with the elements of English language test and longer waiting period, says Tony Burke.

Citizenship draft legislation seeking to introduce a stand-alone English language test and increasing the waiting time for migrants before they could apply for Australian citizenship was struck off the Senate’s notice board on Wednesday after the government failed to bring it for discussion in the Senate.

While migrants who were going to be affected by the changes announced in April this year are celebrating after the development in Parliament on Wednesday, the government can bring the Bill back after making changes to it.

“We remain committed to these very important reforms,” Government frontbencher Senator Mathias Cormann said on the ABC.

“We understand that we do not have the numbers in the Senate, so we'll continue to work with all non-government senators to see how we can best secure consensus.”

However, the Shadow minister for Citizenship Tony Burke says Labor is firm on its position and will not support a bill seeking to change the English language requirement and the general residence criteria.

“Those two positions, we believe, the English language is properly tested already and we believe and the waiting period that is already in place is appropriate,” he told SBS Punjabi.

“As long as those two elements are there, Labor will oppose the bill,” he said.

The government on Tuesday proposed an amendment to its legislation, changing the level of English language requirement from ‘competent’ to ‘modest’.

It would be an extraordinary decision of the department if they don’t begin processing those applications immediately.- Tony Burke

Mr Burke says Labor will not support any special language test would put an extra burden on migrants.  

“Any sort of an IELTS test that puts an extra burden that will involve a significant extra cost to any applicant, and as long as you are creating a situation that we have a permanent underclass of non-citizens, permanent residents who never get to become citizens, you are changing Australia from a multicultural society to a segregated society,” he said.

Many migrants who are celebrating after The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 got struck off the Senate’s business, are appealing to the government to start processing the citizenship applications that were filed after April 20 this year under the current law.

Any sort of an IELTS test that puts an extra burden that will involve a significant extra cost to any applicant, and as long as you are creating a situation that we have a permanent underclass of non-citizens, permanent residents who never get to become citizens, you are changing Australia from a multicultural society to a segregated society.- Tony Burke

There’s a backlog of citizenship applications building up since the announcement as the department was to process all applications received after 20th April according to the new law if it had passed.

Mr Burke advised the immigration department to start processing the applications immediately.

“Based on the briefing that they [DIBP] gave me at the beginning at this process made clear to me that if the bill was going to go through the Parliament, they will begin processing the applications,” he told SBS Punajbi.

“It would be an extraordinary decision of the department if they don’t begin processing those applications immediately.” 

A spokesperson for Mr Dutton has confirmed to SBS News that migrants who have already put in applications for citizenship, and those who still plan to, will be assessed under current requirements rather than the tougher measures announced by the government earlier this year.

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