By Casey Neill
Greater Dandenong Council is opposing moves to toughen the Australian citizenship process.
At the Monday 10 July meeting, councillor Heang Tak successfully moved that the council write to Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton to strongly oppose the changes in the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill.
The proposed changes include requiring all applicants to pass a stand-alone English test, have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years instead of one, and show steps they’ve taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.
Cr Tak said: “The measures proposed will serve to alienate sections of Australian society.”
He said the proposal to require ‘university level’ English might send a message to every Australian who didn’t have university entrance qualifications that the Federal Government, if given the choice, would prefer those Australians were not here.
He said claims that national security drove the proposed changes were unsubstantiated.
No councillor indicated opposition to the motion, so it was carried.
Cr Tim Dark then said he wanted to abstain from voting on the motion.
Mayor Jim Memeti explained that there would be no vote because no one indicated opposition.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said that what was concerning about the proposed changes was that “it appears that the Federal Government wants to draw a correlation between English language proficiency and whether someone can become an Australian citizen”.
“There are so many of our residents who may not have the best Australian language in the world,” he said.
“These people are still highly productive, hard-working, valuable contributors to our local economy and community.
“They’re great people and we love them in our community.
“We wouldn’t want them to be inhibited from becoming full-blown Australian citizens.”
Greater Dandenong Council confers citizenships on up to 3000 people each year on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.