Nick Xenophon Team says it’s ‘deeply worried’ about Coalition’s citizenship Bill

Nick Xenophon Team senators Stirling Griff, Nick Xenophon and Skye Kakoschke-Moore NXT senators Stirling Griff, Nick Xenophon and Skye Kakoschke-Moore. The Coalition’s citizenship bill will sink without their support. (Photo: Mike Bowers for the Guardian)

22 June 2017

Gareth Hutchens

NXT says it will not support giving Peter Dutton greater powers and has concerns about English language test.

The Nick Xenophon Team says it has significant concerns about several elements in the Turnbull government’s citizenship bill, ensuring the bill will not sail easily through the Senate.

Labor and the Greens have vowed to oppose the bill, so the government must secure support from 10 out of 12 crossbenchers.

The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) has three senators, so the bill will sink without its support, and NXT senator Stirling Griff has told Guardian Australia he has “significant concerns” with it.

The government is proposing to extend permanent residency requirements from one year to “at least four years” before someone can apply for citizenship, and it wants most applicants to provide evidence of “competent” English language proficiency before they can become a citizen.

It also wants to give the immigration minister power to overrule decisions on citizenship applications by the administrative appeals tribunal (AAT) if the minister doesn’t think the decisions are in the national interest, and give the minister power to decide whether or not the applicant has integrated into the Australian community.

But Griff says the NXT is “deeply worried” about the power the bill will grant to the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, to overrule citizenship decisions by the AAT.

“That’s very much a first,” he said on Thursday. “We don’t feel comfortable at all with that … that’s something we certainly won’t be supporting in any form.”

He said he was also concerned about the English language test, which appears to have been designed to “exclude as many people as possible” from coming to Australia.

He was also concerned about the “retrospective” nature of the bill, particularly the plan to extend permanent residency from one year to four years before someone can apply for citizenship.

“The retrospectivity, the waiting periods, with the goalposts having effectively been changed for many existing people, that’s a significant concern,” Griff said.

“So yeah, we haven’t arrived at an overall position on the bill, we do have significant concerns with it, but we need to sit down and formally agree on a party position.”

“At this point there are many components that deeply worry us.”

It means the government’s citizenship bill will sit idly over the coming six-week parliamentary winter recess, which begins next week.

A spokesman for independent senator Lucy Gichuhi, who became Australia’s first African-born senator when she replaced Family First senator Bob Day in April, said Gichuhi had no position on the bill yet.

Senator Derryn Hinch said he hadn’t seen the legislation – it has not yet been introduced to the Senate – but he was on the committee to which the legislation will be referred for a review.

The Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm told Guardian Australia he didn’t have a philosophical problem with the bill, though he hadn’t seen the details.

“Broadly speaking the idea of accepting Australians values and being able to integrate into the community are consistent with our view of the world,” he said, adding that he had no problem with national governments determining the conditions of entry and exit for immigration.

“I’ll take some interest in what the government regards as Australian values, because I think they probably pinched some of their policies from us.

“We were out there talking about this well before they changed their policy.”

[Read the Guardian article].

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