The value of values

Published: 20 April 2017

TurnbullDutton

The PM tightens up citizenship requirements for new applicants

Prime Minister Turnbull and Immigration Minister Dutton talk about the importance of Australian values
Image © 2017 AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists citizenship must reflect Australian values as he unveiled tighter requirements for new applicants.

"There is no more important title in our democracy than Australian citizen," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

"Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It is a privilege."

To become citizens applicants will need to have been a permanent resident for four years - up from 12 months now - face a stand-alone English test and commit to embracing Australian values.

Some of the new citizenship test questions will canvass issues such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and child marriage.

Applicants will only be allowed to fail the citizenship test three times.

"We need to ensure that our citizenship test enables applicants to demonstrate how they have integrated into and engaged with our Australian community, so that they're part of the community," Mr Turnbull said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton denied the changes were targeted at any one religion, but rather at particular behaviour and attitudes.

"They're pointed at people who might think that domestic violence is okay. Well it's not," he told the Seven Network ahead of the announcement.

The citizenship crackdown follows the decision to overhaul the 457 temporary foreign worker visa system.

The government is also pursuing several other citizenship reforms, which will apply to all new applicants, including:

* They must show the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community (evidence of employment, membership of community organisations, school enrolment for all eligible children);

* Applicants who cheat during the citizenship test will automatically fail.

Prospective citizens with a permanent or enduring incapacity, as well as those aged under 16, would be exempted from the English reading, writing and listening test.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong doesn't understand the need for the changes.

"If English grammar is the test there might be a few members of parliament who might struggle," she told ABC radio.

The existing pledge ensured new citizens committed loyalty to Australia, its people and its laws.

"I think those sentiments are pretty good," Senator Wong said, noting the opposition was yet to see the details.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is again taking credit for the government's latest crackdown.

"Good to see the PM is finally acting on the suggestions I made to him about the citizenship test," she tweeted on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Senator Hanson said while the government might deny it was talking tough on temporary foreign worker visas because of One Nation, "we all know the truth".

"Looks like Malcolm Turnbull has been reading One Nation 2016 campaign flyers for inspiration. Should I get a speech writing credit?" she said.

- AAP