Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton has confirmed the Department is considering an overhaul of the citizenship test to reportedly assess people’s ability to integrate into Australian society.
The current citizenship test asks 20 questions, randomly drawn from a larger pool, covering Australia’s history, government structure, election rights and duties of an Australian citizen.
Mr Dutton said he’d like to see the test place greater emphasis on the adoption of Australian values and way of life by quizzing their employment, children’s education, English attainment and criminal record rather than be questioned on what he dubbed “Australian trivia”.
“We need to see whether people are abiding by Australian laws, whether they are educating their children, if they are able-bodied and of working age, whether they are engaged in work or whether they have had a long period of time on welfare,” he told AW.
The Migration Council of Australia’s concerns
Migration Council of Australia Chief Executive, Carla Wilshire responded to the news saying, “Our current migration and citizenship system is robust and has a number of safeguards are built in, including character checks and security clearances.”
Ms Wilshire told FairFax Media that while there is a continual need for improvement of the citizenship testing process, it should not risk unfairly targeting people.
“The statistics show that migrants are less likely to access welfare payments and their children perform at above average academic levels,” she said.
“In considering any changes we need to be careful that we do not lock migrants out of citizenship or create a guest worker society”.
Other opinions in the media
Further debate was raised by The Conversation, who reported that if poor English and understanding of Australian values are recognised as barriers to citizenship, the Government needs to increase efforts to promote inclusion by educating prospective citizens rather than change citizenship test requirements.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic crossbench senator David Leyonhelm welcomed the push for tougher citizenship restrictions, saying permanent residents should wait a decade before being deemed eligible to sit the test.
He also believes Australia should look to Switzerland’s citizenship process whereby applicants need to be sponsored by citizens and take a test on democratic values such as free speech, rights of women and respect for diversity.
Listen to the full interview with Mr Dutton on 3AW Radio or read our post on a leaked draft cabinet document obtained by FairFax Media, which proposed changes to tighten Australia’s permanent residency and citizenship frameworks.