Chapter 1


1.1        On 22 June 2017 the Senate referred the provisions of the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (the bill) to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report by 4 September 2017.[1] In referring the bill for inquiry, the Selection of Bills Committee noted that the complexity of the bill required investigation.[2]

Purpose of the bill

1.2        On 20 April 2017, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcom Turnbull MP, and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, announced a package of measures to reform citizenship.[3] The Prime Minister explained that the changes were informed by feedback received from the National Consultation on Citizenship in 2015 and on the Productivity Commission's 2016 report, Migrant Intake into Australia, and would include:

1.3        On 15 June 2017, in his second reading speech, Mr Dutton provided further explanation for the bill:

As a government, we are committed to maintaining strong public confidence and support for our migration and citizenship programs—through an assurance of integrity to the Australian public.

We are proud of our heritage and our generosity as a nation. We look forward to continuing to welcome new migrants—irrespective of race, of religion, of nationality or of ethnic origin—who embrace our Australian laws and our values and who seek to contribute to, rather than undermine, our society.

The measures in this bill, commencing from 20 April 2017, are the government's response to the 2015 National consultation on citizenship: your right, your responsibility, which indicated strong community support for strengthening the test for Australian citizenship. The Australian community expects that aspiring citizens demonstrate their allegiance to our country, their commitment to live in accordance with Australian laws and values, and be willing to integrate into and become contributing members of the Australian community.[5]

Overview of the key provisions of the bill

1.4        The bill seeks to make changes to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (Citizenship Act) and the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act). It proposes to introduce the following additional requirements for people seeking to obtain citizenship by conferral:

1.5        These requirements would apply retrospectively from the date of the Government’s announcement on 20 April 2017.

1.6        Additionally the bill would confer the following powers so that the Minister may:

1.7        The bill also proposes changes to eligibility requirements for children applying for citizenship by:

1.8        The bill also seeks to amend the Migration Act to allow for the Minister, the Secretary or an officer to use personal information obtained under the Migration Act or Regulation for the purposes of the Migration Act or Migration Regulation. Additionally, subject to a specified exception, the Minister, Secretary or an officer may also disclose personal information obtained under the Migration Act or Migration Regulations to the Minister, the Secretary or an APS employee in the Department for the purposes of the Act and the Citizenship Regulation.

Conduct of the inquiry

1.9        Details of this inquiry were advertised on the committee's website, including a call for submissions to be received by 21 July 2017.[6] The committee also wrote directly to some individuals and organisations inviting them to make submissions. The committee received over 13,000 pieces of correspondence and has published 635 submissions. The submissions are listed at appendix 1 of this report and can be found on the committee's website.

1.10      The committee received a large number of different types of campaign letters. Due to the volume of campaign letters received, the committee decided to publish one example of each type of campaign letter. Some campaign letters used very similar words and were consequently grouped into the same type of campaign letter. Other campaign letters provided an opportunity for people to include information about their particular circumstances or to express additional comments about the bill.

1.11      The table below outlines the number of signatures received for each type of campaign letter and the respective submission number:

Campaign letter Number received Submission number
Campaign letter 1 239 Submission 623
Campaign letter 2 27 Submission 624
Campaign letter 3 25 Submission 625
Campaign letter 4 55 Submission 626
Campaign letter 5 50 Submission 627
Campaign letter 6 15 Submission 628
Campaign letter 7 237 Submission 629
Campaign letter 8 2,627 Submission 630
Campaign letter 9 11 Submission 631
Campaign letter 10 17 Submission 632
Campaign letter 11 28 Submission 633
Campaign letter 12 1,733 Submission 634
Campaign letter 13 8,021 Submission 635

1.12      The committee notes that as a percentage of the overall adult population of Australia the number of those objecting to the proposed bill is very low and that this can lead to the assumption that most Australians support tightening and strengthening the citizenship regime.

1.13      The committee held public hearings in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane on 23, 24, 25, and 31 August 2017, respectively. A list of witnesses who appeared before the committee is listed at appendix 2. All Hansard transcripts of the hearings are available on the committee's website.

Financial implications of the proposed measures

1.14      The Explanatory Memorandum notes that the financial impact on the proposed amendments 'is low'.[7]

Reports by other committees

1.15      The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills noted a number of concerns with the bill, which will be discussed in more detail in chapter 2 of this report.

1.16      The Explanatory Memorandum addresses the human rights implications of these proposed amendments.[8] It concludes that each schedule is compatible with human rights as, 'to the extent that it may limit human rights, these limitations are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the objectives'.[9]

Structure of this report

1.17      This report consists of three chapters:


1.18      The committee thanks all organisations and individuals that made submissions to this inquiry and all witnesses who attended the public hearing.

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