Background to the bill
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).
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.
Large parts of the 2014 bill are replicated in the current bill. This includes
the following provisions:
Limiting automatic acquisition of
citizenship at ten years of age to certain people
Ministerial power to defer an
applicant making the pledge for up to two years
Ministerial power to cancel
approval of citizenship prior to pledge if an applicant is no longer eligible
or if the pledge is not made within 12 months
Extending the good character
requirement to applicants under 18 years of age
Ministerial discretion to revoke
citizenship on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation in migration or citizenship
processes, without requirement for prior conviction of relevant criminal
Ministerial discretion to revoke
citizenship by descent
Personal decisions made by the
Minister in the public interest not being subject to merits review
The Minister having the power to
set aside decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) concerning
identity and character, in the public interest
The 2014 bill was referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Legislation Committee (the committee) for inquiry and report.
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.
In April 2016 the 2014 bill lapsed on prorogation of the Parliament.
National Consultation on Citizenship
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.
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.
The recommendations are listed at appendix 3 of this report.
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
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.
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.
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.
The paper sought submissions in relation to the following areas:
increasing the general residence requirement to a minimum of four
years permanent residence immediately prior to their application for
introducing an English language test to demonstrate competent
English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills prior to being
able to sit the citizenship test;
strengthening the Australian Values Statement to include
reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an
undertraining to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community;
introduction of a new test for Australian citizenship;
introduce a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their
integration into the Australian community;
strengthening the pledge of commitment and extending the
requirement to applicants aged 16 years and extending the requirement for all
streams of citizenship application take the pledge.
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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