New citizenship law rejected by the Senate
The government’s citizenship reforms, which included longer waiting times for permanent residents and a tougher English language exam, were struck off the Senate notice paper on Wednesday after missing a deadline to pass the bill.
Mr Dutton on Thursday said the government was willing to accept migrants who pass an English entrance exam at the Band 5 on the international testing standard, rather than Band 6 as previously proposed.
The tougher Band 6 test was a major sticking point in the Senate, including for the crucial Nick Xenophon Team on the crossbench. Band 5 is described as “modest” English user, rather than a “competent” one.
Mr Dutton also confirmed tens of thousands of citizenship applicants who applied since the changes were announced in April will now be processed under the existing rules. The minister told a committee in mid-July this year there were 47,328 people who would be affected because they lodged their citizenship applications on or after April 20.
The original bill failed to pass with Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team all opposed. On Wednesday night, a deadline imposed by a Greens tactical manoeuvre expired, and the bill was struck down.
But the government plans to reintroduce the bill later, aiming to have the new requirements come into effect on July 1 next year.
Mr Dutton accused Labor of “acting against the national interest” by siding with the Greens to defeat the bill, speaking with reporters on Thursday.
He said the government had moved “a fair way” in compromising on the package.
“The government moves, and you hope that the people you’re negotiating with move their position as well, ultimately to a position of agreement,” Mr Dutton said.
“Our discussions with the crossbenchers continue.”
The changes included making permanent residents wait four years to apply instead of one, introducing tougher English language tests and giving extra powers to the immigration minister to veto tribunal decisions on citizenship.