STATEMENT ON TURNBULL GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSED CITIZENSHIP CHANGES


June 23, 2017

Peter Khalil, the Federal Member for Wills, and his Federal Labor Party colleagues, opposed and condemned the Turnbull Government’s proposed amendment to Australia’s citizenship laws this week in Federal Parliament.

 

The proposed changes to citizenship legislation included residency requirements which would extend by 4 years, a university-level English language test and the Government’s unsubstantiated claims that these changes are necessary for national security. Labor opposed these changes.

 

Mr Khalil, the son of migrants from Egypt, said that not speaking university-level English shouldn’t discount the value of contributions made to this country by both Australians and people who have migrated to Australia.

 

“The suggestion that you should speak university-level English to gain Australian citizenship is elitist and out of touch,” said Khalil.

 

In a speech to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Mr Khalil said, “The effect of these Government measures is to prevent a large number of people from becoming new Aussies. People already living in this country for years, who have worked hard, who have paid their taxes, who have contributed to Australia, and who want to pledge their allegiance to this country.”

 

“Delaying someone’s path to citizenship only further isolates the individual from Australian society and impacts social cohesion. This cannot be good for the person and their sense of belonging in Australia.”

 

Mr Khalil, an expert in national security and foreign policy, also noted that legislation is informed by the advice of Australia’s national security agencies, but Labor has seen no evidence from these agencies to support the Government’s proposal.

 

A Senate inquiry will look in to some of the details, but Labor does not support the package of changes put forward by the Government in their current form.

 

A full transcript of Mr Khalil’s speech in Parliament on 20 June 2017 is provided below:

 

“Members will have noted that Labor will oppose the Government’s proposed changes Citizenship Legislation.

 

Labor is committed to any measure that will keep Australia safe and we know that national security legislation comes on the advice of our national security agencies.

 

But we have seen no evidence whatsoever from our security agencies that the measures proposed in this Bill will substantially benefit national security outcomes.

 

It applies to people who are applying for or already permanent residents. They have gone through extensive security vetting and if they are a security threat, they shouldn’t be here.

 

Delaying someone’s path to citizenship only further isolates the individual from Australian society and impacts social cohesion.

 

This cannot be good for the person and their sense of belonging in Australia.

 

We are committed to supporting new Australians learning English and we back it up with real funding.

 

But what kind of message of snobbery does forcing applicants to reach a level of competency of English higher than that required by most universities send to Australian society as a whole?

 

The effect of these Government measures is to prevent a large number of people from becoming new Aussies.

 

People already living in this country for years, who have worked hard, who have paid their taxes, who have contributed to Australia, and who want to pledge their allegiance to this country.

 

That is the definition of integration that we believe in.”