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.
In referring the bill for inquiry, the Selection of Bills Committee noted that
the complexity of the bill required investigation.
Purpose of the bill
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.
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
Requiring all applicants to pass a
stand-alone English test, involving reading, writing, listening and speaking;
Requiring applicants to have lived
in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years (instead of one
year at present);
Strengthening the citizenship test
itself with new and more meaningful questions that assess an applicant’s
understanding of - and commitment to - our shared values and responsibilities;
Requiring applicants to show the
steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.
Examples would include evidence of employment, membership of community
organisations and school enrolment for all eligible children.
Limiting the number of times an
applicant can fail the citizenship test to three (at present there is no limit
to the number of times an applicant can fail the test);
Introducing an automatic fail for
applicants who cheat during the citizenship test.
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
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
Overview of the key provisions of the bill
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:
increase the general residence requirement to require applicants
to have been a permanent resident for at least four years;
require applicants to undertake an English language test by a
registered provider and achieve a level of 'competent';
require applicants to sign an Australian Values Statement;
require applicants to demonstrate their integration in the
allow for the Minister to determine the eligibility criteria for
sitting the citizenship test that may relate to the fact that a person has
previously failed the test, did not comply with one or more rules of conduct
relating to the test, or was found to have cheated during the test;
rename the 'pledge of commitment' the 'pledge of allegiance' and
require a person to pledge their allegiance to Australia and its people; and
allow for the Australian Citizenship Regulation 2016 or an
instrument under the Act, to determine the information or documents that must
be provided with a citizenship application.
These requirements would apply retrospectively from the date of the
Government’s announcement on 20 April 2017.
Additionally the bill would confer the following powers so that the
provide for the mandatory cancellation of approval of Australian
citizenship if the Minister is satisfied that the person would be subject to
prohibitions on approval related to identity, national security or criminal
provide for the discretionary cancellation of approval of
Australian citizenship under certain circumstances;
provide the Minister with the discretion to delay a person, for
up to two years, from making the pledge of allegiance to become an Australian
citizen on the basis of the applicant's identity having been assessed as a risk
to security, criminal offences, or because the applicant would not meet the
requirements for being approved as an Australian citizen;
provide the Minister with the discretion to revoke a person's
Australian citizenship under certain circumstances;
confer on the Minister the power to make legislative instruments;
provide the Minister with the power to set aside decisions of the
Administrative Appeals Tribunal concerning character and identity;
provide that certain decisions made by the Minister are not
subject to merits review; and
allow the Minister, the Secretary or an officer to use and
disclose personal information obtained under the Act.
The bill also proposes changes to eligibility requirements for children
applying for citizenship by:
modifying the rules around the automatic acquisition of
Australian citizenship so that in a number of cases, a child born in Australia
will no longer automatically acquire Australian citizenship after residing in
Australia for 10 years;
requiring all applicants, including applicants under 18 years of
age, to pass a character test; and
modifying provisions relating to applicants for citizenship by
conferral who are under 18 years of age, including provisions relating to
access to merits review.
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
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of this inquiry were advertised on the committee's website,
including a call for submissions to be received by 21 July 2017.
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.
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.
The table below outlines the number of signatures received for each type
of campaign letter and the respective submission number:
|Campaign letter 1
|Campaign letter 2
|Campaign letter 3
|Campaign letter 4
|Campaign letter 5
|Campaign letter 6
|Campaign letter 7
|Campaign letter 8
|Campaign letter 9
|Campaign letter 10
|Campaign letter 11
|Campaign letter 12
|Campaign letter 13
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.
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
The Explanatory Memorandum notes that the financial impact on the
proposed amendments 'is low'.
Reports by other committees
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.
The Explanatory Memorandum addresses the human rights implications of
these proposed amendments.
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'.
Structure of this report
This report consists of three chapters:
This chapter provides an overview of the bill, as well as the
administrative details of the inquiry.
Chapter 2 provides a brief background to the bill and other
inquiries and consultations relevant to the bill.
Chapter 3 outlines the provisions of the bill in more detail, and
discusses the key issues raised by submitters about the proposed amendments, as
well as providing the committee's views and recommendation.
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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