Overseas-born migrants with poor English are risking Australia’s multicultural society the Federal Government warns, as it renews its push for tougher requirements for citizenship.
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge has used a speech to the Menzies Research Centre to claim “complacency” could lead to more separated “ethnic separatism” in the country, with migrants failing to integrate and develop proficient English skills.
The Federal Government plans to pass changes to the Australian citizenship test including an English and Australian values test, despite previously voted down in the Senate last year by Labor and crossbench senators who criticised the changes for being too harsh.
Mr Tudge said multicultural integration was not as successful as it had been in previous years.
“Integration of migrants has been the secret to our multicultural success but there are a few emerging, early warning signs we are not doing it as well as we used to,” he said.
Government statistics reveal nearly 25 per cent of migrants who arrived in Australia between January and August did not speak English or had limited English language skills.
He said many migrants were becoming isolated and limited their interaction with Australian society, with “little desire to share or mix with their local community.”
“They live side by side rather than merged with the existing population,” Mr Tudge said.
He said the country needed to work harder to make sure migrants integrate with society
“More people from more countries have come her to start a new life than almost any other nation and we have generally been able to maintain strong social cohesion in the process,” he said.
“But I want to sound a note of caution: Australian multiculturalism is not God-given and cannot be taken for granted.”
However, he said migrants should “integrate” but not “assimilate” and lost their home culture.
Citizenship Changes to be Re-Attemtped
Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton said the government will attempt to pass changes to the citizenship test in the near future, despite being abandoned last year.
Changes will include a standalone English language test that would be set at a higher level than current test requirements.
The test will also involve an a test assess a commitment to “Australian values”.
Mr Dutton has suggested reducing the difficulty of the English test from Band 6 to Band 5 under the international standard to gain Senate support.
Mr Tudge said the onus was on new arrivals to develop English skills.
“It is also partly incumbent on the new migrants when they come here that they want to learn English and we want to raise the aspirations in relation to that,” he said.
He said the test did not have to be a “university level” standard but needed to show “a modest understanding of the language.
However, opposition Citizenship spokesperson Tony Burke said the changes were “snobbish” and “divisive”.
“A requirement for conversational level English is completely reasonable and it’s already in place,” Mr Burke said.
“The Turnbull Government’s first round of proposed changes to citizenship caused unnecessary distress to many communities all across Australia.”