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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 3551


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (13:01): I rise to speak on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Special Residence Requirements) Bill 2013 and to indicate the coalition's support for the bill. In this bill the government proposes to amend the Citizenship Act 2007 to enable the granting of citizenship within a shorter qualifying period in exceptional cases where it is in the national interest to do so.

Currently it is a requirement under the Citizenship Act 2007 that a person must live in Australia for four years before they are eligible to apply for citizenship under the general residence requirement. The 2007 act also provides for several special residence requirement criteria for persons engaging in activities that are of a benefit to Australia, or persons engaged in particular kinds of work requiring regular travel outside of Australia. These special residence requirements allow for the conferral of citizenship under reduced residency requirements, as set out in section 22(a) and 22(b) of the act. This is intended to apply to exceptional circumstances where it is in Australia's national interest for greater flexibility and discretion to be available in the qualifying period applying for citizenship. Currently, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has no discretion in these cases. If the special residence criteria currently specified in the act are not met, then citizenship cannot be conferred. This can result in outcomes inconsistent with Australia's national interest.

The bill provides for the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to invite a person to apply for Australian citizenship under extended special residence requirements. The decision made by the minister would be non-compellable, non-appellable and non-delegable. Our immigration and citizenship system occasionally requires some flexibility, but where that flexibility is used it is important that there are clear, transparent processes where the minister using those powers musts disclose to the parliament his or her decision and the reasons for doing so. That is what this bill does.

Under this bill the minister is required to table in each house of parliament, within 15 days after the date the applicant becomes an Australian citizen, a statement that the power has been exercised, a statement that states the type of activity or work concerned and a statement that sets out the reasons for the exercise of the power, including why the minister considers engagement in that activity would be of benefit to Australia.

As stated by the shadow minister for immigration, in supporting this bill the coalition has had discussions with the government. In these discussions we have sought to ensure that this bill deals broadly with the potential uses of this new non-compellable power for the minister so that it is not limited just to areas of sporting endeavour, but also goes right through the cultural, scientific and business fields.

The coalition is pleased to support this bill. We are pleased to have been part of the process that has brought it to the parliament and we endorse this bill.