Opinion: A ‘tougher’ citizenship test should not be used to further divide and exclude

January 10, 2017

Associate Professor Mary Anne KennyImmigration Minister Peter Dutton recently raised the prospect of changing the law around acquiring Australian citizenship.

He acknowledged the vast majority of migrants are well-integrated, and should be fast-tracked for citizenship. However, Dutton would like to see criteria tightened to deny citizenship to those who have not integrated into Australia. While details are unclear, he referred to people involved in serious crime, those who are welfare-dependent, or who have links with extremism.

Dutton was also concerned about people who don’t undertake English lessons or prevent their children from being educated.

Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny from Murdoch University’s School of Law has co-authored a piece with Professor Alex Reilly from the University of Adelaide in The Conversation, discussing the complexities of this issue.

The article states: “The most important benefit of citizenship for migrants is the sense of inclusion and acceptance into their adopted community. Requirements for citizenship should therefore promote inclusion, not exclusion.

“Discussions that focus on exclusion have the potential to alienate sectors of the community. They are a hindrance to people obtaining a sense of connection in Australia.

“As Dutton observed, there are good reasons to encourage permanent residents to take up citizenship: for one, it enhances their integration in the community.

“To the extent that poor English and poor understanding of Australian values is a barrier to this integration, the government needs to increase its efforts to educate prospective citizens – not look for ways to exclude them.”

The full article can be read here.

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Media contact: Pepita Smyth
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