Chapter 2

Background to the bill

2.1        There has been a significant amount of activity in the citizenship policy arena over recent years. This chapter will outline recent policy development and consultations that have informed the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (the bill).

2014 bill

2.2        On 23 October 2014 the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, on behalf of the former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, introduced the Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (2014 bill) into Parliament.[1] Large parts of the 2014 bill are replicated in the current bill. This includes the following provisions:

2.3        The 2014 bill was referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report.[3] The committee made three recommendations—to clarify whether the provision relating to the revocation of citizenship due to fraud could render a child stateless; to clarify the discretionary nature of the Minister's power to revoke citizenship under this provision; and subject to the first two recommendations, that the 2014 bill be passed.[4] In April 2016 the 2014 bill lapsed on prorogation of the Parliament.

National Consultation on Citizenship

2.4        On 26 May 2015 the Government commissioned a National Consultation on Citizenship which was led by the then Parliamentary Secretary for Social Services, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and the Hon Phillip Ruddock MP, Special Envoy for Citizenship and Community Engagement. Feedback was sought over a number of months and held consultations with key stakeholders in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney; held public consultations in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania; and received 2,544 responses to an online survey and more than 400 written submissions.[5]

2.5        On 2 May 2016, the final report of the National Consultation, Australian Citizenship: Your right, your responsibility, was presented to the Prime Minister and made 15 recommendations, which largely related to strengthening the requirements for citizenship.[6] The recommendations are listed at appendix 3 of this report.

2.6        The committee notes that this survey reflects the views of the wider public as represented by their federal parliamentarians.

Government's response to the National Consultation

2.7        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 that the Government would be introducing changes to strengthen the integrity of Australian citizenship.[7] The Prime Minister explained that the changes were informed by feedback received from the National Consultation on Citizenship and on the Productivity Commission's 2016 report, Migrant Intake into Australia.[8]

2.8        The announcement coincided with the release of a discussion paper, Strengthening the Test for Australian Citizenship, which sought submissions by 1 June 2017. The discussion paper noted that the new citizenship-related legislation would be introduced in Parliament by the end of 2017; that the legislation would be informed by responses to the discussion paper; and that the reforms would apply to applications received on or after 20 April 2017.[9] The paper sought submissions in relation to the following areas:

2.9        The above policy proposals largely form the proposed additional requirements for people seeking to obtain citizenship by conferral. The current bill incorporates elements of the discussion paper, alongside proposed measures made by the 2014 bill, as well as feedback from parliamentary members.

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