A Senate Committee has produced an account of the Australian Citizenship Bill which was presented in June 2017. The Committee discovered issues with the proposed legislation and suggested that amendments be made before it is passed.
A movement has been passed by the Senate that if the Bill has not passed by 18 October 2017, it will be struck off the list of legislation being considered and should be re-acquainted with Parliament for it to pass. This article gives a synopsis of the Senate Committee Report and points of interest of the steps to release the Bill.
On 13 September, the Australian Senate has passed a movement to have the Citizenship Bill released from the Notice Paper of legislation under consideration. Accordingly, if the Bill is not passed by 18 October 2017, it will never again be under consideration to be passes by the Senate and would need to be introduced again to the Parliament. As there are just 4 sitting days of the Senate before this date, it is looking likely that the Bill will be released. The Senate Inquiry got 13,500 entries on the Citizenship Bill. The dominant part raised genuine concerns, and just 0.01% of the entries were in support (one of which was from the Australian Government).
The Bill requires most candidates for citizenship to indicate “Competent English”, yet did not determine the level required. This is indicated somewhere else in the Migration Regulations as 6 in each band of IELTS or proportional score in one of the other English tests, yet the Bill did not mention any such thing. Presently, no formal English test is required though.
The majority report recommended that the requirements the proposed “Competent English” requirement be clarified. It recommended against adopting a standard that many current citizens could not reach – this would imply that a standard lower than competent should be applied.
The reports expressed concern that the proposed level of English was inappropriate, and in particular:
v It would lead to large segments of the Australian community unable to attain citizenship
v Refugees and migrant spouses would be disproportionally affected
v The proposed level of English is very high – the Australian Council of TESOL Associations estimates that approximately 7 million Australians were below IELTS 6 level in 2012-13
At the point when the proposed changes to citizenship prerequisites were reported on 20 April 2017, the aim was that these would apply to any applications held up on or after this date. This is of worry to numerous lasting inhabitants on the grounds that there was no early notification of the change. The Committee got many letters from perpetual occupants who were at that point qualified for Australian citizenship before the declaration of the progressions.
The main report recommended that the Government of Australia consider introducing transitional provisions so that people who held permanent residence prior to 20 April 2017 would not be affected by the changes.
Dissenting reports recommended that the legislation not be retrospective in effect in any way.
The Bill proposes that the current 1 year minimum period of holding permanent residence of Australia be increased to 4 years for most applicants. As of now, time spent legally in Australia on transitory and crossing over visas can tally towards the 4-year residence requirement.
The primary report did not suggest changing the proposed residence requirement, but rather acknowledged the huge effect on perpetual occupants who had made future arrangements in view of qualification for Australian citizenship. Therefore, the board prescribed that transitional arrangements apply to individuals who held Australian lasting home starting at 20 April 2017.
Disagreeing reports were searing on the proposed residence requirement and specifically:
Disagreeing reports held that the proposed changes will adversely affect the cohesion of Australian culture and would really build the danger of security issues. For example:
Children born in Australia currently become Australian citizens by operation of law on their 10th birthday – even if they spend time in Australia without a visa. The proposed legislation would eliminate this pathway.
The main report echoed concerns expressed by the stakeholders on the impact of the proposed changes, especially for children of asylum seekers and children of parents who had overstayed their visas. However, it made no recommendation to change this aspect of the Bill.
The Bill presented new powers for the Minister to:
The principle report communicated some concerns about the extension of ministerial discretion yet expressed that the ability to revoke was justified on national security grounds.
On this ground, the primary report demonstrated that the Minister’s energy was defended on the premise that they were responsible to the Australian individuals, though the AAT is “responsible to nobody”. The report expressed concern about the Minister’s broad instrument making power, particularly in relation to the Australian Values and integration assessment components.
The Bill allowed the Minister to set a maximum number of times an applicant can sit the Citizenship test – the Department of Immigration to Australia indicated it would set a limit of 3 times. The main report suggested that repeat sittings be allowed, but taking the test after 3 times would require the applicant to pay for the cost of the test.
Passage of the Citizenship Bill is far from assured. The majority Senate Report expressed concerns about the retrospective impact of the Bill and the English language requirement, and dissenting reports expressed concerns with most aspects of the Bill, including the proposed residence requirement, the impact on children born in Australia and the increased powers of the Immigration Minister.
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