Australia has toughened its requirements for new citizens and will insist they commit to “Australian values”, including passing a test which could have questions on child marriage and female genital mutilation.
Insisting that citizenship should be “cherished”, Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, announced a range of tougher requirements for would-be citizens, including high-level English language skills and a demonstrated willingness to integrate.
Prospective citizens will be required to have been a permanent resident for four years – rather than one – and prove they have integrated by, for instance, showing that they have a job or enrolled children in a school or even joined a community organisation.
“What we are doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values," he said.
"Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It's a privilege."
Mr Turnbull plans to expand the existing twenty-question citizenship test to include questions about values. This could include asking about attitudes towards gender equality and domestic violence, in addition to the current test which focuses on Australia’s laws, history and national symbols such as the Aboriginal flag.
"This is defending, reinforcing, Australian values,” Mr Turnbull 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?"
The proposal comes just two days after Australia tightened the rules for skilled migrants, including reducing the intake of temporary workers.
Putting Australians first - the 457 Visa for foreign workers to be abolished. Read more: https://t.co/PLKUyz46Uq— The PMO (@thepmo) 18 April 2017
Commentators said Mr Turnbull was adopting a harsher approach to migrants to try to reverse the ruling conservative Coalition’s poor standing in opinion polls and his own falling approval ratings. The Coalition’s vote has come under threat from the rise of One Nation, a far-right anti-migrant party which is receiving about 10 per cent support in recent polls.
The Labor opposition party said Mr Turnbull was “desperate to save his own job”.
“He [Mr Turnbull] said it's a test for Labor [on] where we stand on domestic violence, where we stand on genital mutilation or child brides,” said Labor leader Bill Shorten.
“Just how desperate is this man? Just how desperate is Malcolm Turnbull?"
The new test will be formulated after a public consultation which will continue until June 1.
Applicants will have three opportunities to pass the test.