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Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Page: 6534

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (12:32 PM) —I would like to continue, briefly, my comments from last night. I was talking about the various concerns that we have about the government’s proposed amendments in the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Test Review and Other Measures) Bill 2009. The Australian Greens position is that we do believe that this bill will offer some improvements on the current citizenship test. I put firmly on the record once again that the citizenship test is something that the Greens have always opposed. We do not believe that the most appropriate way of testing or ascertaining somebody’s allegiance to Australia is by doing a written test. However, we understand that that is the current situation and that this bill does build on the current legislation and improve it somewhat.

We also would like to highlight, briefly, that there were a number of recommendations made by the Australian Citizenship Test Review Committee—on which the amendment that has been put forward by the Greens and circulated in the chamber is based—that have been adopted by the government. But there were a number of other recommendations which the review committee put in their report which have not been adopted by the government. I encourage them to do so. One of the main issues was to ensure that we maintain transparency and appropriate levels of scrutiny over the make-up of the citizenship test. I strongly urge the government to reconsider the recommendation made by the Citizenship Test Review Committee to ensure that all questions are made publicly available, to allow the appropriate scrutiny and discussion around what are appropriate questions to be included in the test.

In summary, our major concerns are with the current wording of the definition of torture and trauma. We understand that the government’s approach is to try to be more inclusive of vulnerable people who are disadvantaged by the way that the test is currently carried out. We understand that, but we believe that the terminology put forward by the government in this amendment bill is not quite clear enough and does not necessarily deal with all of the concerns. We are also concerned that, for people who are listed as sufferers of torture or trauma, and who therefore have an inability to complete the test, that suffering of torture or trauma has to have happened offshore. The legislation does not recognise that there are people who come to Australia on various types of visas. They may be trafficked to Australia as part of the sex trade and they obviously suffer torture and trauma while here in Australia. We would like to ensure that those people are looked after as well.

We are concerned also about the amendment that has been circulated by the government in relation to changes to do with the length of time that somebody needs to be a permanent resident before applying for citizenship—in particular, elite sportspeople. I will take some time during the committee process to question the minister about that. The Greens are not necessarily opposed to the idea, but we would like to see what the evidence is behind needing those amendments, seeing as they were put forward after the committee process. It would have been helpful to have been able to deal with that issue during the committee inquiry. I know that that is the opposition’s view as well. It would have been good to have been able to do that. We were not able to, so I guess in the committee stage we can try and get some more clarity on that issue.

I also stressed last night the issue in relation to minors and removing the ability for somebody under 18 to apply for citizenship without being a permanent resident. I am concerned that that amendment will mean that decisions are not always going to be made in the best interests of the child. That is obviously a concern. We are signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and we need to ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of the child. Many of the migration decisions and visa options put forward for children are not put forward by them, so the ability for the minister to uphold their rights and to act in the best interests of the child I think is an important element we need to maintain. Therefore, the Greens do not support that particular part of this amendment bill. Thank you.