New Australian citizens to need better English

Australia has announced plans for tougher rules for anyone wanting to become a citizen, including the need to show allegiance to “Australian values”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said basic English would also no longer be enough and that applicants would need to show four years of permanent residency – up from a single year at present.

“Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It’s a privilege,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

“What we are doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values.”

He added: “I reckon if we went out today and said to Australians, ‘do you think you could become an Australian citizen without being able to speak English?’ they’d say: ‘You’re kidding. Surely you’d have to be able to speak English’.”

Applicants will also need to show what they have done to integrate and how they have contributed to Australian society.

A government statement said examples included being employed, joining a community organisation, and having children enrolled at school.

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Applicants would also need to show what they have done to integrate into society

Until June, the public will be able to add their own ideas on how Australian values might be tested, before the proposals go before parliament.

Mr Turnbull said the current multiple-choice questionnaire – which examines an applicant’s knowledge of Australian laws and national symbols, for example – could not judge whether someone accepted “Australian values”.

He said: “If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence… is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen?

“Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions?

“This is not about administration. This is about allegiance and commitment to Australian values.”

Earlier this week, Mr Turnbull said a temporary work visa popular with foreigners would be abolished.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he thought it was “reasonable to look for English proficiency” and to “have some period of waiting time before you become an Australian citizen”.

But Shen Narayanasamy, from activist group GetUp, said the new test “accuses all immigrants… of not adhering with some confected notion of Australian values”.

She added: “The announcement implicitly accuses people who want to live in Australia of being more likely to abuse their wife, not learn English, and engage in crime.”

Pauline Hanson, leader of the One Nation party which wants zero net immigration, said Mr Turnbull was “finally acting on the suggestions I made to him about the citizenship test”.

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