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Tighter citizenship test elevates "Australian values"

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UPDATED: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has insisted citizenship must reflect Australian values as he unveiled tighter requirements for new applicants.

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“There is no more important title in our democracy than Australian citizen,” he told reporters in Canberra today.

“Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It is a privilege.”

To become citizens applicants will need to have been a permanent resident for four years – up from 12 months now – face a stand-alone English test and commit to embracing Australian values.

Some of the new citizenship test questions will canvass issues such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and child marriage.

Applicants will only be allowed to fail the citizenship test three times.

“We need to ensure that our citizenship test enables applicants to demonstrate how they have integrated into and engaged with our Australian community, so that they’re part of the community,” Turnbull said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton denied the changes were targeted at any one religion, but rather at particular behaviour and attitudes.

“They’re pointed at people who might think that domestic violence is okay. Well it’s not,” he told the Seven Network ahead of the announcement.

The citizenship crackdown follows the decision to overhaul the 457 temporary foreign worker visa system.

The government is also pursuing several other citizenship reforms, which will apply to all new applicants, including:

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong doesn’t understand the need for the changes.

“If English grammar is the test there might be a few members of parliament who might struggle,” she told ABC radio.

The existing pledge ensured new citizens committed loyalty to Australia, its people and its laws.

“I think those sentiments are pretty good,” Wong said, noting the opposition was yet to see the details.

Key components of the new citizenship test

Applicants must be permanent residents for four years before seeking citizenship (up from 12 months now).

Must demonstrate competent English language skills through a tougher reading, writing and listening test (people with permanent or enduring incapacity, or aged under 16, exempted).

Must show steps taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community (evidence of employment, membership of community organisations, school enrolment for all eligible children).

Citizenship test will include “new and more meaningful questions” about an applicant’s understanding of and commitment to Australia’s shared values and responsibilities.

Applicants who cheat during the citizenship test will automatically fail.

Tougher criminal history checks, including involvement in gang activity or domestic violence.

Wording of the citizenship pledge will change.

– AAP

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