Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Employment representing the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash. Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches to the government's proposed changes to Australian citizenship requirements?
I thank Senator Hume for the very important question. Australian citizenship is a great privilege, and it is something that we should all value and not take for granted. The government's package of reforms to strengthen the test for Australian citizenship has widespread support, and includes some very important measures to ensure that people demonstrate integration into the Australian community and an understanding of Australian values of respect, equality and freedom.
Unfortunately, to respond to Senator Hume's very important question, I think we are all now aware of alternative approaches to these very sensible reforms. Today, the Australian Labor Party and Mr Shorten, in typical fashion, have confirmed that they have caved to the left wing of the Australian Labor Party in a desperate effort to appeal to Greens voters. Through you, Mr President, Mr Shorten's extraordinary backflip in relation to the government citizenship changes shows that, quite frankly—through you, Mr President—he is a weak leader who is not able to put our national interest first. Who can recall that, but a few weeks ago, on 21 April 2017, Mr Shorten, when he heard about the changes, was initially supportive of them. In fact, he said:
… if there is a discussion about making sure that prospective citizens have got a reasonable grasp of English, well, that's fair enough.
He further went on to say:
If they want to have a discussion about waiting times before you become an Australian citizen, well we will hear the detail of that.
The bad news is he then heard the detail about Mr Albanese and the fact that Mr Albanese wants to be the Leader of the Opposition. So it is quite clear that Mr Shorten has now backflipped to protect his own interests instead of putting the national interest first.
Australian citizenship involves a commitment to our great country, its people and our shared values. It is a privilege, and it is one that on this side of the chamber we do not believe should be taken lightly. It is also important as a government to ensure that we continue to maintain public confidence in our immigration and citizenship programs by demonstrating that the government is committed to the highest levels of integrity. The reforms we have proposed will ensure that a priority is placed on respect for Australian values and on demonstrating an ability and willingness to integrate. This is in the national interest and also for the benefit of aspiring citizens. English language proficiency is essential for economic participation, social cohesion and integration into the Australian community.
As I have said, the Australian citizenship reforms will strengthen the requirements for applicants to commit their allegiance to Australia and Australian values and to demonstrate their contribution to the Australian community. The reforms we have proposed are designed to maintain public confidence in the citizenship program and to support a safe and secure Australia.
We define ourselves and our nation by our commitment to the fundamental principles of allegiance to Australia, integration and unity and the Australian values which people have fought and died for: democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association, the rule of law, rejection of domestic and family violence, education for boys and for girls, equality of opportunity and of course the great Australian value of a fair go for all.