What happened to Australia's proposed citizenship law?
The Federal Opposition have decided to oppose the Coalition Government's proposed changes to the citizenship legislation. These changes seek to introduce a mandatory english proficiency requirement and increase the waiting time for permanent residents before they can be eligible for Australian citizenship.
The Labor caucus met on 20 June 2017 and decided to vote against the Federal Government's proposed citizenship law in its current form.
Tony Burke, Shadow Minister for Citizenship called the proposed legislation a "massive overreach". Commenting on the english requirement, he said a large number of "Australians would" never reach the level of english required.
"The challenge with the english language test, that they've set it so high, is just ludicrous and absurd, and dumb," the ABC quoted Mr Burke as saying.
"It is not over cooking it to say this is about who we are as a country. This is who we identify as an Australian citizen," he said.
Mr Bourke also dismissed the argument that the proposed changes were in the interest of national security.
"If there is a national security problem for these people, then why on earth does the Government have them already living here permanently," he said.
When the changes were first announced in April, Labor said that some of the proposed changes were reasonable and that it would consider them.
But on Monday night, the shadow cabinet decided to block the changes, Labor are also opposed to a tougher English language test.
According to the Government's proposed legislation introduced in the lower house of parliament last week, citizenship applicants will be required to achieve a score of 6 in each IELTS band (or equivalent english test) to be eligible for citizenship.
Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA), the representative body of the multicultural communities in Australia is also opposed to the introduction of a stringent language test.
"Australia is a country of immigration and for forever we've not only received people, but allowed them to work and contribute regardless of their linguistic background. I know thousands and literally thousands of older Australians now who don't speak English well, who've made an enormous contribution" says Pino Migliorino of the FECCA.
Among the laws brought before Parliament is one grants the Minister for Immigration & Border Protection the power to overrule the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This means if the Tribunal give citizenship to someone despite a Refusal from the Immigration Department, the Minister can override it.
The Immigration Minister already has the power to override the AAT's decisions relating to visa applications, but not in relation to the grant of citizenship.
The proposed law also seeks to introduce an Australian Values Statement that a citizenship applicant would be required to sign.
Labor's opposition to the bill means the Coalition will have to seek 10 crossbench votes to pass the legislation through the Senate. The Greens have already refused to support it, labelling it xenophobic and unfair.