Australian govt aims to add ‘values’ section to citizenship test, tighten English requirements
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of the changes on Thursday, saying the current citizenship questionnaire – which tests a person's knowledge of Australian laws, national symbols and colors of the Aboriginal flag – is not adequate to judge whether a person will accept "Australian values."
"If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence... is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen? Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions?" he told reporters in Canberra, as quoted by Reuters.
The new test would include questions about whether applicants are employed, if they send their children to school, and how they feel about certain social norms – including whether joining unruly gangs is an "Australian value."
Turnbull also said that English requirements will be tightened for applicants, noting that basic English will no longer be sufficient to become an Australian citizen. Applicants will now need a level 6.0 equivalent on the International English Language Testing System.
In addition, a person will only become eligible for citizenship after four years as a permanent resident – a sharp increase from the current requirement of one year.
"What we are doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values," Turnbull said, adding that "Australian citizenship should be honored, cherished. It's a privilege."
Turnbull's plan still requires parliamentary approval, but is expected to pass due to the large number of conservative lawmakers in both houses of parliament.
However, not everyone shares Turnbull's enthusiasm for the changes. Some took to social media to express their disapproval.
"My migrant parents didn’t speak a word of English when [they] came from Greece. Raise[d] two human rights lawyers with 8 degrees..." Twitter user @Kon__K wrote.
My migrant parents didn't speak a word of English when came from Greece. Raised two human rights lawyers with 8 degrees & Order of Australia pic.twitter.com/qbYI2vd8Mt— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) 20 апреля 2017 г.
"My migrant parents have been contributing to Australian society for 28 years. F**k you, Turnbull. Migrants are part of this nation," another person wrote.
My migrant parents have been contributing to Australian society for 28 years. Fuck you, Turnbull. Migrants are part of this nation.— WeAreSydney سارا (@SaraIsSkyBlue) 20 апреля 2017 г.
Others suggested the changes are taking Australia backward, rather than forward.
However, one person who seemed to side with Turnbull said that segregation is taking place in the country because some migrants don't want to be Australian – only in Australia.
The announced changes to the citizenship test come just one week after Turnbull's government axed a popular work visa to help foreigners get started in the Australian labor market.
Canberra has come under fire numerous times for its increasingly strict migration policies, despite one in four Australians either being born overseas or having a parent who was. The government has been particularly criticized for its offshore island camps which house refugees and have allegedly seen the mistreatment of asylum seekers.