Seems Australians, unlike their Canadian cousins, have had enough of celebrating diversity and welcoming all comers to the fair land of Oz. No "Ministry of Refugees" for them! In fact, the Australian government plans to reform its immigration programme by lengthening the waiting period for citizenship, adding a new "Australian values" test and raising the standard for English language ability.
While announcing the end of an overly generous temporary worker programme, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the time had come to "put Australia first." The current immigration process, he said, was mainly "administrative" while the citizenship test is largely "a civics test." The current multiple-choice questionnaire tests a person's knowledge of Australian laws, national symbols and colours of the Aboriginal flag, but Mr Turnbull said it was not adequate to judge whether a person would accept Australian values.
"If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence...is an Australian value, and it is," he explained, "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 new citizenship test will include questions about whether applicants have sent their kids to school, whether they go to work, and whether they think it's consistent with Australian values to become part of unruly gangs. "We’re standing up for Australian values and the parliament should do so too," said the PM.
On the question of language, Mr Turnbull said basic English would no longer be sufficient to become an Australian citizen under the new test. New applicants need a minimum level 6.0 equivalent of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), and will only become eligible for citizenship after four years as a permanent resident, up from one year. He told reporters in Canberra, "I reckon if we went out today and said to Australians, 'Do you think you could become an Australian citizen without being able to speak English?', they’d say, 'You’re kidding. Surely you’d have to be able to speak English.'" Just like the gentleman in the drawing at right.*
"What we are doing," Mr Turnbull said, "is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values." Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. “Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It’s a privilege."
* Note from Ed: Australian English is a dialect, or at least a variant, which is unintelligible to non-residents of the Antipodes. It is sometimes known as "Strine", from the way native speakers pronounce the RSE "strain". You can look it up in The Oxford Companion to the English Language.