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Govt's planned citizenship test is regressive -

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TONY JONES: The outspoken Federal Liberal MP Petro Georgiou has ramped up his campaign to convince
the nation that his party's proposed new citizenship test is flawed. In a speech tonight in
Melbourne, Mr Georgiou outlined why the plan shouldn't make it through Parliament. He described the
new laws as regressive and said they would stop many immigrants becoming fully involved in their
community. Helen Brown reports.

HELEN BROWN: It is well known that Petro Georgiou opposes the proposed new laws. Tonight he
outlined why.

PETRO GEORGIOU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR KOOYONG: What is involved, even if it is not intended, is a
fundamental political and social regression that will erect unreasonable and unnecessary barriers
to citizenship unprecedented in this country.

HELEN BROWN: In a speech delivered to an Italian organisation, Petro Georgiou made several points
as to why he thought the new test would ruin, rather than enhance, the nation's success in
accepting people from different lands. He dissected the rationale behind them and said a tougher
English test would deny many good people the chance to become citizens.

PETRO GEORGIOU: They assume, without evidence, that many migrants are unmotivated or even resistant
to learn English. They assume, without evidence, that the threat of denial of citizenship is an
appropriate and an effective spur to get them to study harder.

HELEN BROWN: The Federal Government is proposing to tighten the current test and applicants would
have to give answers in English to further questions that covered issues about privileges and
responsibilities. Petro Georgiou says it is wrong to think such a test is needed just because
people with cultures far different to Australia's are coming in. He says the nation has managed
much greater shifts in immigration than anything being seen today.

PETRO GEORGIOU: There have been some difficult and ugly periods - the Asian debate of the 1980s and
the Hansonite outbreak in the following decade - but Australia has surmounted these challenges,
prospered, and we have grown stronger. We did so without resorting to new and higher barriers to
citizenship.

HELEN BROWN: He told the audience that a tougher test that requires an affirmation to a shared
identity and values is not the way to make Australians feel safer.

PETRO GEORGIOU: I don't believe that we can reassure people about Australia's identity by turning
our back on our historic achievements. One of these is an inclusive citizenship policy, another is
a belief that we need to respect our cultural diversity and recognise that it has enriched and
strengthened our nation.

HELEN BROWN: Petro Georgiou has gone against his party before on immigration issues, crossing the
floor with two colleagues over the Prime Minister's now abandoned asylum laws. At tonight's speech,
Federal New South Wales MP Bruce Baird was there to lend his support. About a hundred invited
guests listened to the MP cement his stand against the proposed legislation, including a man he
used to work for, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who says the Government is underestimating
public feeling about the issue.

MALCOLM FRASER, FORMER PRIME MINISTER: We are seeing part of that in the polls now. Labor can still
talk its way out of a victory, it is too early to tell, but at the moment people are seeing an
alternative.

HELEN BROWN: As to whether Mr Georgiou will cross the floor again...

PETRO GEORGIOU: I'm an eternal optimist about being able to persuade my colleagues. There is not a
bill there yet and as I said, I'm an eternal optimist.

HELEN BROWN: Mr Georgiou says that the Government should perhaps research how it could better help
immigrants to learn English and become part of Australian society.