By Syed Atiq ul Hassan

The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 is now under debate in the Australian Federal Parliament.

According to this proposed change in the citizenship law, the citizenship applicants must demonstrate University level (IELTS band 6) English competency. This is the most horrible amendment item in the bill I have ever seen in my 28 years in Australia as it clearly reflects the discrimination and division among the Australian people. This is against the proud ‘fair go’ and equal opportunity Australian policy. It is unfair to correlate the ability of having high-level competency in English with the gaining of Australian citizenship.

This is simply an act of finding a tool to limit the Australian citizenship for those who are from non-English speaking backgrounds. There can be several examples presented that should this proposed amendment be a part of the citizenship law, then many permanent residents would never be able to gain Australian citizenship.

I can present my own family’s example; my son who came to Australia with me as a migrant when he was 6 years old, has grown up and studied in Australia, he has been working on top jobs, paying tax, following Australian values as an adult since he finished his degree, he doesn’t have any issue of English, he married a Pakistani girl in Pakistan who came to Australia as his wife (on spouse visa) and made Australia her permanent home with her husband (my son) and their 3 years old daughter (my granddaughter), she can speak and write English but if she has to sit in IELTS (English proficiency test) I don’t think she would be able to pass, which means she will never become an Australia citizen, so her husband is an Australian citizen, their almost 4 years old daughter is Australian citizen but she will not be able to gain because she cannot pass the English test – what a joke. According to Australian Bureau of statistics, 28 percent of Australians are overseas born Australians. What about those non-English speaking background parents who are sponsored by their Australian born children. How can anyone expect from them to sit in a University level English

According to Australian Bureau of statistics, 28 percent of Australians are overseas born Australians. What about those non-English speaking background parents who are sponsored by their Australian born children. How can anyone expect from them to sit in a University level English test. So, if this amendment in citizenship bill becomes the law, majority of parents of non-English speaking backgrounds will never be Australian citizens. What this government trying to do? This is totally absurd and considered as an act of discouraging Australian permanent residents not to enjoy full rights in Australia that is not to serve in the Australian Defence Forces, cannot get employment in some government agencies, not to vote and take part in the Australian democratic system and so on. A person’s loyalty with the land cannot be judged by his/her competency in a particular language. English is a language just like any other language. There are more non-English speaking people in the world than English-speaking. Australia is a multicultural society, whatever we see, today, in the modern, developed and democratic Australia is a result of continuous and hard work in almost every field by migrants who came to Australia

A person’s loyalty with the land cannot be judged by his/her competency in a particular language. English is a language just like any other language. There are more non-English speaking people in the world than English-speaking. Australia is a multicultural society, whatever we see, today, in the modern, developed and democratic Australia is a result of continuous and hard work in almost every field by migrants who came to Australia

Australia is a multicultural society, whatever we see, today, in the modern, developed and democratic Australia is a result of continuous and hard work in almost every field by migrants who came to Australia in different times in the last 200 years. From Afghan cameleers, Indian farmers, European labours to modern high-tech professionals from different parts of the world contributed to build Australia. I came to this country as an IT professional migrant 28 years ago with my wife and 2 children. I have worked on top professional jobs for government and private companies. When my wife came with me she could barely speak English, but now she speaks good English, she works in the community as a social worker. I take part in community projects. I have spent over 20 years of the peak time of my life in promoting harmony, friendship and multiculturalism through organising multicultural events. Indeed, my public work has been acknowledged by NSW and local governments and I was awarded Premier’s Harmony Award in 2014 for which I felt proud to be an Australian.

The politicians who run this country and making laws in legislative assemblies should focus on uniting people and promoting multiculturalism for which Australia has a top reputation and respect in the world today. Australia is located in the Far East of the globe where all big neighbours are non-English speaking countries. What message this government is going to deliver to neighbours by making hard citizenship laws for the people who came from these countries that you can live in this country but this country is not yours for ever and you cannot take part in the democratic process of this country, you cannot serve arm forces and so on. Today, majority of Aussies who speak English in a typical Aussie accent are the 3rd or 4th generation of non-English speaking migrants who gave sacrifices to raise their children in a changed environment. Even most of the parliamentarians who are advocating the change in Australian citizenship law are the grandchildren of non-English speaking migrants. Wishing and choosing to have Australian citizenship is an act of demonstrating loyalty and allegiance to Australia and this should be encouraged and appreciated by the government. When I with my family took my Australian citizenship 26 years ago I felt proud and since then we have been proudly living in this country as proud citizens.

I teach overseas students. I know many overseas students who after finishing their education found professional jobs in Australia, settled as permanent residents and now they are Australian citizens. If they want to sponsor their parents to be with them permanently their parents can live in Australia but they will never be Australian citizens. The Immigration Minister, Mr Dutton says the changes are needed because Australians are living in a different age than they were less than a decade ago, yet with all due respect, Mr. Dutton never explained what a new age? Has the world changed the parameters of nationalism? Is this an age where loyalty to the land is judged by what language you speak? The fact of the matter is in this age where conservatives and fanatics around the world powers are increasing, Australia needs to do more to open the doors for their loyal residents to have Australian citizenship and become 100% citizen of this land and serve this country 100%. The only reason what I can understand is that it is a political move to gain votes from conservative elements who hate multicultural society. Perhaps for them Australian means Anglo-Saxon citizens who look white and speak English. This is what one-nation and Pauline Hanson wants to see Australia. So, does liberal want to secure votes from one nation.

The reality is that majority of Anglo-Saxon, non-Anglo Saxon and multi-ethnic Australians of any colour, race or faith enjoy multicultural activities. I have been working in the community organising large multicultural events for the last 20 years, these events are expanding year by year, more and more people from different backgrounds are participating in these events. People have no problem which language you speak and how you speak English because every second Australian belongs to non-English speaking backgrounds. On Australia Day, when citizenship ceremonies are held across Australia, the excitement, pleasure and proudness of the recipients of citizenship certificates are the genuine feelings of their love and loyalty to Australia. Therefore, all Australians should stand-up against this proposed amendment bill in the citizenship law. People should compel the Australian liberal government to back off from this discriminatory act.

The writer is Sydney-based journalist, educationist, and winner of NSW premier harmony award 2014).