House debates

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Test Review and Other Measures) Bill 2009

Consideration in Detail

1:05 pm

Photo of Laurie FergusonLaurie Ferguson (Reid, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services) Share this | Hansard source

I will make a few points. Firstly, the eligibility requirements for citizenship in section 21 of the act remain in place. There are no changes whatsoever to the requirements for becoming a citizen. Secondly, we are here today because, under the previous government, the permanent residency requirement went from two years to four years. A few years ago the people we are arguing about today would have been quite eligible for citizenship. The extension of the residency requirement to four years means applicants have to be here for a far greater length of time than would have been the case seven or eight years ago.

Whilst the shadow spokesperson might be correct in saying that under their proposal the minister can refuse to give people visas, the fact of life is that people would still be able to apply. It is not only about what the minister would do; it is about the possibility of people launching vexatious claims and cluttering the system. A minister in this portfolio, whether Labor or Liberal, already has a significant workload with regard to ministerial discretion in the area of refugees, so why does the opposition insist that any Tom, Dick or Harry should be able to launch these kinds of claims?

At the moment, only the Australian Olympic Committee, the Paralympic Committee and Tennis Australia can make these references. But that is not the end of Western civilisation; that is not the end of the game. The only reason why these are the only three organisations listed at the moment is that they are the ones who came to the government and asked for it. Others can be added at the minister’s direction within five minutes.—and we have no doubt that other organisations will come forward in the future. This is not some conspiracy theory concocted between the Australian Olympic Committee and the government; it has wider application for the future.

We very firmly reject these opposition submissions. Below the surface, this is an attempt to mire the debate, to somehow put forward the proposition that the fact that somebody might be able to represent Australia at the Olympic Games or the Paralympic Games is a weakening of our rules, a weakening of our requirements. It is all to do with border protection again. That is what driving the opposition’s position in this matter, not the substantive legislation itself.


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