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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 109

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (19:54): The government opposes this disallowance. I heard both Senator McKim and Senator Brown, and, as somebody who has spent over 35 years in what is multicultural and diverse Australia, I have to say that some of the assertions that were made by both Senator McKim and Senator Brown are plainly wrong.

Since World War II, this government has welcomed 7.5 million migrants, including about 850,000 under our humanitarian program. Indeed, my parents were part of that migrant cohort that came to Australia. The reality is that any examination of issues pertinent to citizenship English and English language is vitally important. When we were predominantly a manufacturing based economy, English was not as important, but today English is very important.

Also, this disallowance motion is not about the sorts of things that both Senator McKim and Senator Brown were talking about. This is, plain and simple, about citizenship applications fees. Currently, citizenship application fees do not cover the increasing costs of administering the program. These changes will in some part offset that rise. The changing profile of applicants—including those with complex identity issues that need to be assessed—and strengthened integrity screening, biometrics capture and regional testing have all have driven the increased costs. It should be noted that the costs of applying for Australian citizenship is significantly lower—and I want to stress that—than comparable OECD countries. In the UK it is $1,995, in the United States it's $940, in Canada it's $595 and in New Zealand it's $440. Also, only three per cent of applicants were eligible for a concession over the past year. So, the figures Senator Brown and Senator McKim have sought to tell us about this evening are totally overblown.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the disallowance motion moved by Senator McKim be agreed to.