Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017
The submission on the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (the Bill) was prepared by the Law Council.
The Bill would make a wide range of amendments to the Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth) (the Act) and the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the Migration Act) whose broad purpose is to amend the requirements to become an Australian citizen.
Some aspects of the Bill give rise to concern from the Law Council’s perspective. These include:
- The use of legislative instruments to define new citizenship eligibility criteria;
- The power of the Minister to set aside certain decisions of the AAT on public interest grounds;
- The impact of the new four year permanent residence requirement on irregular maritime arrivals;
- The requirement for minors to satisfy a ‘good character’ requirement;
- The Minister’s power to revoke citizenship on the grounds of fraud or misrepresentation.
Further, the Law Council is concerned that the necessity of, and justification for, the proposed amendments has not been adequately demonstrated.
The Law Council makes the following recommendations in relation to the Bill:
- The Bill should not operate retrospectively;
- Items 126 and 127, relating to the ineligibility of certain decisions from review by the AAT and the power of the Minister to set aside certain decisions of the AAT on public interest grounds, should be removed from the Bill;
- Direction 72 be amended to remove subsection 8(1)(g) which sets out the provision that affords lowest processing priority to IMAs who hold permanent visas;
- English language testing thresholds should be lowered from the level proposed in the Bill, with alternative methods to formal testing made available;
- A definition of the relevant English language threshold should be included in the Bill and not in a legislative instrument;
- Exemptions from the requirement to take an English test should be broad and flexible;
- If questions and statements regarding values are to be included, they must be framed in such a way so as not to disadvantage particular migrant groups; There should be no limit on the number of times a person can take the citizenship test;
- The matters to be considered in establishing whether an applicant has ‘integrated into the Australian community’ should be set out in the Bill and not a legislative instrument;
- The whole of the applicant’s circumstances should be taken into account in assessing whether the applicant has integrated into the Australian community;
- If a good character requirement for applicants aged 18 years or under is to be introduced, the good character requirement should apply to applicants aged ten years or older;
- Decisions made by the Minister under paragraph 16(2)(c) of the Act should be reviewable and the Minister should be bound by the directions placed on reviewable bodies;
- The power of the Minister to not approve an application for citizenship under proposed subsection 17(4C) should be discretionary, not mandatory; and
- Items 113-115 of the Bill relating to revocation of citizenship on the grounds of fraud or misrepresentation, should be removed from the Bill.
You can read the full submission below.