NZ PM Bill English ‘disappointed’ by Turnbull citizenship changes

PM Malcolm Turnbull on a morning walk with New Zealand PM Bill English in Queenstown, New Zealand. (Picture Kym Smith)


18 October 2017

The proposed citizenship changes will not be implemented after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was struck down by the Senate today. Oz Kiwi can now confirm that current citizenship law applies.

24 April 2017

A Day before ANZAC Day, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has taken aim at Australia’s “disappointing” proposed citizenship changes.

Mr English said he had concerns the crackdown could affect Kiwis living abroad.

He said there had been no formal contact between the Turnbull government and himself or his ministers before Australia unveiled its immigration crackdown last week.

Mr Turnbull and Mr English appeared to have a close relationship after they met across the ditch in Queenstown in February this year.

At the time, Mr Turnbull had even invited Mr English to Sydney to kayak with him across Sydney Harbour.

“The officials are going through a process of understanding exactly what the decision is — it was one that appeared on pretty short notice with very rapid application so we want to make sure that all the implications are understood,” he told reporters in New Zealand on Monday.

“But on the face of it, it’s disappointing that New Zealanders would have to wait longer.”

The changes require New Zealanders and others aspiring for Australian citizenship to be permanent residents for four years before being eligible, up from one year.

It follows the announcement of a pathway to citizenship announced by Malcolm Turnbull last year which allowed Kiwis who arrived in Australia between February 2001 and 2016 earning at least $53,900 a year for five years to apply for permanent residence from July this year.

Mr English said on Monday there had been no formal contact by himself or ministers with the Australian government regarding the newest policy but officials were working to ensure that it wouldn’t affect those taking up the pathway.

PM Malcolm Turnbull on a morning walk with New Zealand PM Bill English and their wife’s Lucy and Mary after attending the annual Australia. Picture Kym Smith

One of newly installed New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee’s first discussions will be to plead the case for Kiwis seeking a simple pathway to Australian citizenship, Mr English said.

An exemption for New Zealanders is one proposal his government may consider putting forward.

However, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed there was no such exemption for New Zealanders tied to the citizenship changes.

“The citizenship changes announced last week come into effect immediately, and will apply to all applications for citizenship received from that date onwards,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

But Mr Dutton said Australian visa arrangements for New Zealand citizens were more generous than those for citizens of any other country.

“Australia and New Zealand have a strong relationship, and will continue working together to enhance bilateral arrangements,” his spokesperson said.
“Last year Australia introduced a pathway to permanent residency for thousands of New Zealanders living in Australia.

“For the past five years, New Zealand nationals have been in the top 10 nationalities of persons who have acquired Australian citizenship.”

‘Citizenship should be honoured’

Turnbull says Australian values underpin the new citizenship requirements while his immigration minister insists they are not aimed at a particular community.

“There is no more important title in our democracy than Australian citizen,” the prime minister said in Canberra on Thursday.

“Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It is a privilege.” To become citizens, applicants will need to have been a permanent resident for four years, up from 12 months now, face a stand-alone English test and commit to embracing Australian values.

Some of the new citizenship test questions will canvass issues such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage.

PM Malcolm Turnbull with New Zealand PM Bill English holding a joint press conference at the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders Meeting in Queenstown, New Zealand. Picture Kym Smith

PM Malcolm Turnbull with New Zealand PM Bill English holding a joint press conference at the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders Meeting in Queenstown, New Zealand. (Picture Kym Smith)

Applicants will only be allowed to fail the citizenship test three times. “We need to ensure that our citizenship test enables applicants to demonstrate how they have integrated into and engaged with our Australian community, so that they’re part of the community,” Mr Turnbull said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton denied the changes were targeted at any one religion, but rather at particular behaviour and attitudes.

“They’re pointed at people who might think that domestic violence is OK. Well, it’s not,” he told the Seven Network.

The citizenship crackdown follows the decision to overhaul the 457 temporary foreign worker visa system.

Among other changes to citizenship rules the government is pursuing:

  • All applicants must show the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community (evidence of employment, membership of community organisations, school enrolment for all eligible children); and
  • Applicants who cheat in the citizenship test will automatically fail. Prospective citizens with a permanent or enduring incapacity, as well as those aged under 16, would be exempted from the English reading, writing and listening test.

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