The Society has a long history supporting new arrivals in Australia, and we believe the inclusive nature of Australian citizenship has been integral to the success of our multicultural society. We are deeply concerned that the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 shifts the focus of citizenship from inclusion to exclusion. We strongly recommend that this Bill be rejected.

Far from strengthening integration and social cohesion, the proposed changes to citizenship requirements have the potential to create alienation and a class of long-term non-citizens who may never qualify for citizenship. We believe this Bill, and the political rhetoric that has surrounded it, risks stoking further divisions and fostering a perception that some groups in Australia are more welcome and worthy than others. An underlying concern with the proposed Bill is that its various provisions will reinforce exclusion and undermine social cohesion and, in particular, compound the marginalisation of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged migrant cohorts. The Bill would disproportionately affect refugees, and would effectively convert citizenship policy from a tool of inclusion to a tool of exclusion.  Other provisions in the Bill, by limiting merits review and greatly expanding ministerial discretion, would weaken the security and protection that is the hallmark of citizenship. We believe that, if enacted, the Bill will disproportionately impact those who already face barriers to inclusion in Australia, including people from refugee backgrounds, and will compound their isolation and exclusion from the Australian community.

We believe, in short, that this Bill is unfair, unnecessary and divisive, and we urge the Committee to recommend that it be rejected.