Lib MP attacks plans for citizenship test
March 15, 2007
The Age (Melbourne)
REBEL Liberal MP Petro Georgiou last night savaged a colleague's assertion that “many people” were taking out citizenship just for the sake of a passport, during an attack on the Government's planned citizenship test.
In an inflammatory speech in Melbourne, Mr Georgiou said the only basis for claims that the present test was too easy was a “single, unsourced assertion” that at one citizenship ceremony people left before the national anthem.
“It is difficult to imagine a flimsier basis on which to launch a major reversal of a policy direction that has stood the test of time for almost 60 years,” Mr Georgiou told guests at the Italian Assistance Association in Carlton.
Mr Georgiou did not personally name former immigration parliamentary secretary Andrew Robb. But Mr Robb, who was promoted to vocational education minister this year, told the Sunday program last year he had heard about a Sydney ceremony at which several hundred people became citizens.
“When it got to the point of of singing the national anthem, there were less than 100 people in the hall. I thought that suggests there are many people who are taking out the citizenship who may see it as no more than a passport,” he said.
Mr Georgiou said the testimony of MPs from all political persuasions who attended ceremonies was that people who took the citizenship pledge did so “genuinely, enthusiastically and after reflection”.
“Why should this be outweighed by a single anecdote?”
Mr Georgiou, who was among a group of moderates who last year successfully opposed the Government's plan to process all asylum seekers offshore, also rubbished Mr Robb's claim that the citizenship test was “common sense”.
“Unfortunately this is not the case. What is involved even if it is not intended is a fundamental political and social regression that will erect unreasonable and unnecessary barriers to citizenship that are unprecedented in this country.”
Legislation for the citizenship test, which would assess English skills and knowledge of Australia, is expected to be passed before the federal election later this year.
Mr Georgiou said the new test would be not an incentive but a punishment for those with low literacy who happened to be born overseas.
“The plain fact is that thousands of people would fail such a test, even when English is their native language,” he said.
“Let there be no misapprehension about the impact of the proposed new test: it will stop many immigrants who are committed to Australia as their home from becoming citizens and thereby full members of our community.”