Becoming an Australian citizen is about to get tougher as the country plans a major shake-up of its immigration process — including a new test of "values."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday announced rules that require migrants to have lived permanently in Australia for four years — up from one year — before they can apply to become a citizen.
He also pledged to raise the standard of English required for citizenship and said the current citizenship exam was a “civics test” that failed to judge whether a person would accept “Australian values.”
Australia’s immigration system is already notoriously stringent and has been cited as a model by President Donald Trump. In recent years the country has seen the rise of nationalist, anti-immigration politics with far-right wing parties such as One Nation attracting public support.
Applicants for Australian citizenship are currently tested on their knowledge of law and national symbols such as the colors of the Aboriginal flag. But the new test will include questions that assess how migrants have assimilated, such as whether they send their children to school or if they have a job.
"If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence ... is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part ... of our process to be an Australian citizen?" Turnbull said in Canberra. "Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions?"
"Australian citizenship should be honored, cherished. It's a privilege."
Under Turnbull's new plans, basic English will no longer be enough and applicants will have to show they have at least the equivalent of 6.0 in the International English Language Testing System.
"I reckon if we went out today and said to Australians, 'Do you think you could become an Australian citizen without being able to speak English?' they would say 'You're kidding'," Turnbull said.
It comes two days after he unveiled stricter visa requirements for foreign skilled workers in a bid to put "Australia first."
"What we are doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our values," he said Thursday. "Australian citizenship should be honored, cherished. It's a privilege."
His plans are expected to be passed by parliament with the backing of right-wing lawmakers. "We're standing up for Australian values and the parliament should do so too," Turnbull said.