Information for New Zealanders living in Australia

Labor resolves to block citizenship changes

Labor says it will oppose tougher citizenship laws (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
Labor says it will oppose tougher citizenship laws (ABC News: Marco Catalano)


18 October 2017

The proposed citizenship changes will not be implemented after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was struck down by the Senate today. Oz Kiwi can now confirm that current citizenship law applies.

21 September 2017

The ABC article has been updated since yesterday, it now includes:

With both the Australian Labor Party and Australian Greens already publically stating that they will oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill, an additional three (3) votes are required to block the Bill in the Senate.

Nick Xenophon Team have 3 Senate votes and One Nation have 4 Senate votes. There are 5 other Senator whose votes are yet to be determined.

Labor resolves to block citizenship changes

Government in fight to pass tough new rules after Labor resolves to block changes

20 June 2017

By political reporter Stephen Dziedzic

Key points:

The Coalition will look to the crossbench to support its proposal. The ALP caucus met this morning and formally resolved to block the citizenship legislation in its current form.

The Greens have already vowed they will also vote no, which means the Government will now have to negotiate with the Senate crossbench in order to make it law.

Under the changes, migrants would be asked to prove their commitment to Australia by passing a new citizenship test, as well as a more stringent English language test. They would also be asked to demonstrate they have integrated into the community, and face a longer wait before being able to apply for citizenship.

Opposition spokesman for citizenship, Tony Burke, said the proposed new English test was a “bizarre act of snobbery” and many Australians would struggle to pass it. “This introduces permanently in Australia, an increasingly large group of people, who will also live here, who will never be asked to take allegiance to this country, and will always be told by the Australian Government they don't completely belong,” Mr Burke said. “Now, that is a big change in how this country operates, and a change that Labor cannot support.”

He also criticised the Government's push to make permanent residents wait four years before applying for citizenship, saying many applicants already faced long waits under the current laws. “How can it be good for Australia to be further delaying whether or not someone takes allegiance to this country…how can it be good for Australia to be saying someone who is ready to be fully part of this Australian society that the Australian Government is going to stand in the way?”

MPs pressure Shorten to reject changes

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was open to the changes when they were first floated by the Government in April. “I think it is reasonable to look for English language proficiency and I think it is reasonable to have some period of time before you become an Australian citizen,” he said.

But several Labor MPs have been fiercely critical of the overhaul since then, and have been pressing the party leadership to reject it. The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton lashed out at Mr Shorten, accusing him of folding to pressure from the party's left. “The problem with the modern Labor party is that the left are ruling internally, and these red herrings about the English language [test] … and four years — it's a nonsense. There's a much deeper current running here and it's clear to me that Bill Shorten has not been able to contain the left of his party again.”

Mr Dutton said he would not water down the proposed laws. “We're not going to compromise to the left of the Labor party. The left of the Labor party is out of step with the broader Australian public. The public wants to see an increase in the English language requirement, they want to see people meet Australian laws and values. If people have greater capacity to speak English in our country they have the greater capacity to achieve whether it's at school, the workplace or in society.”

Mr Turnbull also took aim at the ALP, accusing it of “disrespecting” Australian citizenship. “The role of Australian citizen is the most important in our democracy. Surely we care enough about that citizenship to say it should be granted to people who make a commitment to our nation and share our values,” Mr Turnbull said.

Another crossbench negotiation looms

The Government will now turn its attention to the Senate crossbench as it tries to find a path through parliament for the changes. The Prime Minister says Australia's new citizenship test will be even more stringent than it already is. Try your luck with some of the questions in the current test. Mr Dutton said he was “confident” the Government could secure the votes it needs.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has previously said her party would back the changes — although she wants permanent residents to wait for at least eight years before being permitted to apply for citizenship.

Nick Xenophon has also said he is open to backing the legislation — but emphasised this morning that he did not want to see “punitive” English language tests. “There are many migrants who have come to this country, including my parents back in the 1950s, whose English was not so good,” Senator Xenophon said. “But in my parents' case, my father went on to become a court interpreter within a year or two of coming here and my mother went on to get tertiary degrees in education and become a teacher.

“So I think you need to just see the test is one that is not punitive that it's about ensuring we have a welcoming immigration policy … no doubt there will be more negotiations in respect of that.”

Read the ABC News article.