The Senate inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment
(Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures)
Bill 2017 (the Bill) received more than 13,500 submissions. The overwhelming
number of submissions raised serious concerns regarding this Bill.
Despite the evidence provided and concerns raised by submitters, the Chair’s
report has recommended that this Bill be passed, subject to the Government
considering three recommendations.
The Australian Greens are concerned that the Bill will cause hardship
and suffering to those seeking citizenship and undermine one of the ways that
Australia forges an inclusive and multicultural society. The Australian
Multicultural Commission notes the Bill will '...create a growing pool of
long-term permanent residents and potentially undermine the high levels of social
cohesion we currently enjoy'.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA)
FECCA believes that this Bill will create a permanent
underclass of Australian residents who will be denied the rights and
opportunities of being welcomed and included as Australian citizens. Such
exclusion undermines the ideal described in the Preamble to the Australian
Citizenship Act 2007 'that citizenship is a 'common bond' that unit[es] all
The Greens are concerned that the English Test mandated by the Bill is
unfairly prohibitive, by expecting a level of competency and comprehension that
is grossly unreasonable.
As submitted by the Language Testing Research Centre, the International
English Language Testing System (IELTS) was not designed as a test to ascertain
citizenship readiness. It was developed as an academic skills test. As such it
is not fit for the purpose for which the government intends to use it. The
requirement that applicants reach Level 6 on the IELTS is unreasonably high.
Many submissions noted that many Australian citizens who have spent
their whole life in Australia would fail this test. Fair Go For Migrants
The English test will unfairly discriminate against partners
of students, workers or citizens who may not have the same language skills, and
refugees who may have missed years of education in the process of fleeing from
danger. If one family member passes but others do not, families could be torn
The Launceston Hazara Community submitted that:
The Process of learning English is very difficult considering
the problems we have been through. Failure to pass the citizenship test will
deny us a sense of belonging to Australia.
Enforcing this standard of English will present a substantial economic
burden on those seeking Australian Citizenship as eligibility for free English
classes ceases once immigrants reach Level 4 on IELTS.
The Greens are concerned that the pressure to pass the English test
outlined in the Bill will detract from other activities necessary to
successfully migrate to Australia, including prioritising the education of
children, participating in the workforce and settling.
The Greens do not accept that strict, advanced language skills are
required to become a contributing Australian citizen. The Language Testing
Research Centre noted:
Research has shown that in a multilingual and multicultural
society such as ours, people can function adequately within their own
multilingual networks, and at the same time contribute effectively to the
society with relatively low levels of English.
Increase to four years
The Bill's Explanatory Memorandum outlined that extending the period of
permanent residence that potential citizens needed to fulfil before applying
for citizenship was designed to foster better integration into Australian
society and to give applicants more time to have their good character tested.
However, many submitters challenged whether there was evidence to support such claims.
GetUp! submitted that:
There has been no evidence provided to show that forcing
people to stay in Australia for an extended period of time improves the
likelihood of successful integration into the community. Rather, a sudden
increase in residency requirements has plunged thousands into deep uncertainty
about their futures.
At a public hearing Oz Kiwi Association Inc. (Oz Kiwi) described the
impact of the proposed increase in residency would have on families and their
Oz Kiwi has been contacted by hundreds and hundreds of
families who are now in between permanent residency and citizenship. Some
parents have gained permanent residency, either through a skilled visa or
resident return visa or a spousal visa, and have then sponsored their child, or
children, with the intention of that child becoming a citizen and then going to
university and accessing higher education. With these proposed changes, from a
one-year to four-year wait as a permanent resident, that's a very pertinent
time in a child's life because they're finishing their high school education
and would then like to go onto university. The issue is now that they will not become
a citizen as they expected, perhaps, either in 2017 or 2018. They will not
become a citizen for some three or four years more, which means their
university education is most likely on hold because, despite the government's
intention of opening up the higher education loan scheme to all permanent
residents, it is out of the question for most families to pay $30,000 per year
for each of their university-age children.
Oz Kiwi went on to explain:
We have been contacted by families who have withdrawn their
application for permanent residence for their child, because it means that
child is going to be in limbo.
Fair Go for Migrants submitted that:
The legislation is based on misleading assumptions about the
circumstances of people currently applying for citizenship. These persons have
already had to live in Australia for at least four years on a valid visa in
order to apply. In our experience, most persons have lived in Australia for
4-10 years before they are eligible to apply for citizenship under current law.
... This bill requires people to wait another 4 years after
becoming permanent residents, discounting the years and the effort and money
people have spent while on temporary visas, and throwing the lives and plans of
thousands of people into disarray.
The Greens are also concerned that refugees will be disproportionately
affected by this change. Refugees who arrive in Australia without a valid visa
are only offered a Temporary Protection visa or a Safe Haven Enterprise visa.
These visas present a longer road to permanent residency, which means refugees
who fulfil all the requirements mandated to them by their visa status and who
are working towards citizenship may take in excess of ten years to achieve
Increase in Ministerial discretion
The Greens share Refugee Legal's concern relating to the increase in the
The proposed changes are extensive in reach and would amount
to a radical erosion of fundamental legal protections that would in practice
ultimately deny many people due process, in the important matter of whether
they can become an Australian citizen. No compelling case has been made out to
warrant such a radical erosion of fundamental legal protections.
While the Bill allows the for the Minister to override determinations of
the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in the 'public interest', the AAT
already considers public interest during their deliberations.
The Greens endorse Australian Lawyers Alliance submission that allowing
the Minister to reverse AAT decisions '...is contrary to the public interest in
the broader sense, and the separation of powers that ensures that power is not
exercised unchecked where it can have negative impacts on people’s lives'.
Australian Lawyers Alliance submitted that:
Centralising power in this way also foments suspicion of, and
facilitates, corruption that could persist unchecked and uncorrected. 
The Greens are highly concerned by the dramatic expansion of Ministerial
power to revoke citizenship. And share the concerns of Australian Lawyers
Alliance who submitted:
Rather than founding the revocation on a finding of criminal
guilt, proposed s34AA requires only that the Minister be satisfied. Proposed
s34AA(2)(b) specifies that the fraud need not constitute an offence or part of
an offence. Particularly alarmingly, it appears the provision would have
retrospective operation, as revocations can take place on the basis of frauds
or misrepresentations that occurred up to ten years prior to the revocation, as
The Greens strongly agree with the following statement of Refugee Legal:
Ultimately, denying a person a fair hearing heightens the
risk of an incorrect and unjust outcome. Increasing the risk of an incorrect
and/or unjust outcome is significant, particularly given the consequences that
would follow - that is, that a person is denied citizenship, or has their
Children born to non-citizens
The Greens are concerned that the Bill increases the risk that children
born to non-citizens will be unfairly punished for the actions or circumstances
of their parent(s).
UNICEF Australia in their submission stated:
The Explanatory Memorandum states, that in exercising
discretion to revoke a child’s citizenship the Minister can take into
consideration relevant circumstances, including the best interests of the
child. However, there is no specific obligation for the Minister to do so. As
such there is a risk that the Minister may not take the best interests of the
child into consideration at all as required by the CRC [Convention on the
Rights of the Child].
The Greens share the concerns of Australian Lawyers Alliance that the
... has the potential to give rise to statelessness, in
contravention with Australia’s obligations as a party to the Convention
Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954), and the Convention
on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961).
The Greens share the Law Council of Australia's concern that by extending
a test of good character to children under the age of 10 years contradicts the
doctrine of doli incapax, that children under ten should not be held criminally
responsible for what in an older person would be considered a criminal offence.
The Greens recommend that the Bill is not passed.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page