Days after Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled – on his personal Facebook page – plans to abolish Australia’s so-called “457 skilled visa programme” and replace it with a temporary visa with new requirements for temporary foreign workers, he has announced plans to make the country’s citizenship test harder to pass.
In a statement today – this time not on Facebook, but on his official website, www.pm.gov.au – Turnbull said a new four-year probation period would be added to the requirements Australian citizenship applicants needed to meet, along with a new English language proficiency standard and proof of the applicant’s acceptance of “Australian values”.
His government, Turnbull said, would “strengthen Australian citizenship by putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements”.
“Our reforms will ensure applicants are competent in English, have been a permanent resident [of Australia] for at least four years and commit to embracing Australian values,” he added, in the statement.
“Australia is an immigration nation. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. More than 130,000 people from around 210 countries are invited to become Australian citizens each year. We welcome the contribution, opportunities and energy they bring to our community.
“Membership of the Australian family is a privilege, and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia.”
The statement goes on to detail the planned reforms, which it noted had been “informed” by feedback received in a 2015 consultation, and a 2016 report on Australia’s migrant intake.
Meantime, New Zealand’s government on Wednesday also let it be known that, in the words of its immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, it was also preparing to make changes to the way temporary as well as permanent immigrants are accepted to its shores.
As reported, Turnbull’s Facebook announcement of plans to abolish Australia’s 457 skilled visa programme came within hours of US president Donald Trump’s announcement of a planned review of America’s short-term H-1B work visa, and within 48 hours of far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s vow to suspend all immigration to the country if elected, ahead of making major changes to France’s immigration laws.
Press and public reaction to the proposed changes included comments that the proposed measures could be damaging to the people and economies in the affected countries.
The Daily Mail said more than 2,300 comments, “many of them negative”, had “flooded” the Prime Minister’s Facebook page on Tuesday in response to his announcement that the 457 visa was to be scrapped, while the Financial Times on Thursday said, in its lead editorial, that although it remained to be seen what came of Trump’s review of the H-1B visa, “slamming down the drawbridge [on foreign products and workers] is only likely to impoverish the residents of the citadel”.