Government Playing Politics With Citizenship

Govt 'playing politics' with citizenship
October 31, 2006 – 2:50PM
Sydney Morning Herald

Labor has accused the government of playing politics with the war against terrorism and Australian citizenship.

Immigration spokesman Tony Burke told parliament the government had made a late change to important amendments to Australia's citizenship law to try to embarrass Labor.

The Australian Citizenship Bill, which was introduced into parliament in November last year, was a result of a COAG agreement in the wake of the London bombings.

Its provisions include forcing people to have spent at least three, rather than two, of the previous five years in Australia before being eligible for citizenship.

Mr Burke said that given all state and territory governments had agreed to the change after being given security briefings, Labor decided to back the change.

But the government had now introduced an amendment raising the time to four years.

Mr Burke said he believed the government was frustrated by Labor's support and wanted to push it into opposing the measure.

“If so, they've won,” he said. “We won't support four years.”

Mr Burke said it was more likely that the change to four years was a result of briefings by Liberal Party pollsters rather than ASIO.

“We don't want legislation like this ever being used as a political wedge,” he said.

Although Labor will oppose the change to four years, it will support the bill as a whole.

Mr Burke welcomed other provisions, which included more flexibility in deciding what forms of residence counted for citizenship and making it easier for children of parents who'd renounced Australian citizenship to become citizens.

Debate is continuing.