Author: CHARLIE MOORE
Australia should introduce a ‘values test’ for immigrants applying for citizenship, federal Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge has said.
The country is veering towards multicultural segregation and must do more to ensure the integration of migrants, Mr Tudge warned in a speech at the Australia/UK Leadership Forum in London overnight.
He said immigrants ‘must blend into the fabric of our nation’ and can’t expect to bring ‘their entire practices, language and culture with little expectation placed upon them to share or mix with the local community.’
Our ship is slightly veering towards a European separatist multicultural model and we want to pull it back to be firmly on the Australian integrated path,’ he said.
‘Some of the challenges to social cohesion that we are facing today are similar to ones that the UK is facing – such as ethnic segregation and liberal values being challenged.’
Mr Tudge said a proposed English language skills test for those seeking permanent residency should be extended to include a ‘values’ assessment.
‘We place an emphasis on Australian values as the glue that holds the nation together,’ he said.
‘We do this through requiring people to sign a values statement before coming into Australia, satisfy a citizenship test and pledge allegiance before becoming a citizen.
‘The weakness of this, however, is that we presently have few mechanisms to assess people against their signed statement.’
He added: ‘We need muscular ongoing promotion of our values: of freedom of speech and worship, equality between sexes, democracy and the rule of law, a fair go for all, the taking of individual responsibility.’
A revamped citizenship test including a values test and a harder English test was rejected by the senate last year – but ministers have said another attempt at reform will be made this year.
In April, Daily Mail Australia reported how sweeping changes could be made to the Australian citizenship test in a bid to test the values of migrants looking to settle in the country permanently.
A set of questions determining if a potential citizen shares the same values as the nation could be added to the test, including questions on domestic violence and child marriage.
Sample questions include: ‘can you strike your spouse?’, ‘does Australia’s principle of freedom of religion mean that in some situations it is permissible to force children to marry?’
Applicants may also be asked: ‘Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?’
The values questions are intended to be put to the public for their opinion, and could include topics such as genital mutilation.
There will also be an English test which requires the applicant to display reading, writing and listening skills.
Prospective citizens with a permanent or enduring incapacity, as well as those aged under 16, would be exempted from the English reading, writing and listening test.
Applicants will also have to demonstrate steps they have taken to contribute and integrate into their community, whether by employment, school enrollment or membership of community organisations.
The test can only be taken by those who have held permanent residency for four years, whereas previously it was one.
Behaviour inconsistent with Australian values will also be taken into account during the process, with a light shone on criminal activity – including domestic violence – and involvement in organised crime.
Applicants can take the test three times, and then must wait two more years before taking it again. Previously, there was no limit to the amount of times the test could be taken.
Cheating will result in an automatic fail.
The move came just two days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced an overhaul of the 457 temporary foreign worker visa.
‘Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,’ Mr Turnbull said.
‘We must ensure that our citizenship program is conducted in our national interest.’
Speaking on Wednesday at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Breakfast, the Prime Minister said the changes are intended to help increase national security, as well as social cohesion.
‘Australia must continue to attract people who will embrace our values and positively contribute – regardless of their nationality or religious beliefs,’ he said.
‘This is important for temporary visas and vital for permanent residency and citizenship.
‘Citizenship must be valued and we are making changes so that the practices and principles of those obtaining citizenship are consistent with our cultural values.
‘Our reforms are designed to get more out of our migration system, to realise its potential to contribute to our economy.’
Mr Turnbull said five million people had committed to becoming Australian citizens since 1949, helping to secure and enrich the nation.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the country should not be embarrassed to say it wants great people to call Australia home.
‘We want people who abide by our laws and our values, and we should expect nothing less,’ Mr Dutton said.