A basic test in conversational English has been proposed as a requirement for migrants wishing to becoming Australian citizens.
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge announced the plans in a speech to the Sydney Institute on 14 June. Minister Tudge claims that “close to a million” Australians do not speak English.
He suggests the situation exists because up to 190,000 permanent migrants are accepted each year, but although they are required to understand English, their spouses, children and extended family are not.
The government attempted to change citizenship laws last October, requiring new citizens to pass a Level 6, or university-level, English test. This move was blocked in the Senate, so did not go ahead.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) warned against any proposal to use English language skills as a basis for exclusion.
The Chairperson of FECCA, Ms Mary Patetsos, said that over decades, a great number of migrants from many countries have arrived here with limited English skills, but have contributed hugely to Australia as permanent residents and citizens.
“People arriving in Australia should be provided with English language education which is realistic and attainable,” Ms Patetsos said. “Our immigration policy should not be designed to punish and exclude the vulnerable such as women, older people and humanitarian entrants simply because they have not arrived with English proficiency.”
Ms Patetsos added that it was “also remarkable” that at a time when discrimination on the basis of gender or sexuality has been outlawed, it is now to become official policy to discriminate against people on the basis of languages acquired.