SYDNEY: Canberra on Thursday unveiled plans to put “Australian values” at the heart of tougher requirements to gain citizenship, including competent English, belief in gender equality and a four-year qualification period.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia was “an “extraordinary nation… We’re not defined by race or religion or culture, as many other nations are.
“We’re defined by commitment to common values, political values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, equality for men and women,” he told reporters.
“These fundamental values are what make us Australian. Our citizenship process should reflect that.
“So today we are announcing changes to strengthen citizenship, to make for a stronger Australia, stronger citizenship, stronger citizens.”
The move came against a background of growing populist pressure and a resurgence of the anti-immigration One Nation party led by Pauline Hanson.
Candidates for citizenship will under the new rules be required to be permanent residents for four years against one year today.
They will also need to demonstrate a job record and how they have integrated into the local community.
The new requirements will tighten the current “civics” test, and question would-be Australians on issues such as domestic violence, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said.
“We are entitled to say if you want to be a citizen of Australia, there are a few things that we want you to demonstrate that you share,” Turnbull added.
“Commitment to our values, allegiance to our country, competent English, being here for four years, integration, demonstrating that you have made that commitment, that this is not just an administrative process.”
“This is about allegiance and commitment to Australian values.”
The government on Tuesday scrapped a visa programme for temporary foreign workers and replaced it with a new system aimed at reducing unemployment among Australians.
Echoing US President Donald Trump’s crackdown, Turnbull said the new regime “will be manifestly, rigorously, resolutely conducted in the national interest to put Australians and Australian jobs first.”
Amendments to the citizenship law will be put to parliament shortly.