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A private member's Bill has been brought before the Federal Parliament that seeks to increase the waiting period for permanent residents to eight years before they can apply to be Australian citizens.
The Bill introduced by One Nation senator Pauline Hanson on Wednesday seeks amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 and the Migration Act 1958, by increasing the general residence requirement for citizenship by conferral to eight years, up from current one year. The Federal Government, in its proposed legislation, wishes to increase the waiting period for permanent residents to four years, which is staunchly opposed by migrant groups.
Ms Hanson also wants citizenship applicants to provide evidence of competent English language proficiency before they can become Australian citizens, a proposal already wound back by the Federal Government.
The proposed amendments brought before the Senate also want migrants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community, “by behaving in a manner consistent with the Australian values”.
The Queensland senator says migrants should prove their “worth to us”.
“Are you a good character, are you not a criminal, are you loyal to our culture, our way of life,” she said.
Ms Hanson said the only difference between a permanent resident and an Australian citizen was the voting right.
“If these people want to become Australian citizens, what’s the problem in being permanent residents for eight years.
“Once these people become Australian citizens, it becomes very difficult to get rid of them if they are a bad character, want to go and fight for ISIS or they are actually criminals”.
But Ms Hanson’s proposed amendments may not pass the Senate since Labor and the Greens have already made it clear they would oppose any changes designed to make Australian citizenship difficult for migrants.
“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, Shadow Minister for Citizenship told SBS Punjabi after the government’s proposed legislation was overturned in October last year.
After the Senate debacle, the government scaled down the English requirement from proposed competent level to moderate. However, the government is still firm on increasing the waiting period for permanent residents to four years, causing concern among prospective citizens.
“It will demoralise people like me who have already spent such a long time in Australia. Permanent residents are not considered for most of the government jobs, in fact for many private sector jobs too,” says Mohit Pandit - an Indian national - who moved to Australia in 2013 and recently completed his PhD in marketing.
The Federal Government says it’s committed to “strengthening” the citizenship law.
“The changes are important because the Turnbull Government wants to ensure that all new Australians are able to take advantage of the great opportunities this country has to offer,” a spokesperson for the Minister for Citizenship, Alan Tudge told SBS Punjabi.
“The Government continues to engage in constructive discussions on the proposed changes.”
According to the Department of Home Affairs, the changes will apply to all citizenship applications made from 1st July this year, if the legislation is passed.