Citizenship Legislation report speech – Julie Owens – TONY BURKE
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Citizenship Legislation report speech – Julie Owens – TONY BURKE

That’s one of the more outrageous contributions
I’ve heard in this House in a long time. I want to deal with a few things.
I live in one of the most diverse electorates in the country. People
from all over the world have come to Parramatta to make it their home, and I don’t find people
who have spent years to become an Australian citizen wandering
around my community and undervaluing that right. In fact,
they’re proud of it, and I am very proud of them.
The previous speaker wanted us to talk about the economy today. Let’s do that. Let’s acknowledge
that the two million people who have come as migrants to
this country since 1901 have contributed greatly to the economy of this country. Some of our
biggest companies were built by migrants who would not pass the test that this
government wants to impose. Out there in the world, in spite of the protestations opposite,
very few people support the proposal. We know that from the
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry, where
over 14,000 submissions were made. Two submissions were in favour and one of those two was from
the government, so let’s ignore that. One submission
was in favour of the test and 14,000 were against. That’s the view
out there. What causes 14,000 people to get off their bottoms, go to their desk and start
writing submissions to the Senate? I’ll tell you: some of the most appalling changes to
citizenship that I could have imagined. The citizenship changes will prevent many,
many people from becoming citizens, even after they have committed to this country with their
hearts, with their families, with their minds, with their investment, with their taxes, with
their work hours and with literally the fruit of their loins and wombs—sometimes with
35 grandchildren; I have them in my electorate. They would not pass the English-language test.
They have spent their lives here building businesses. They have
had children, they have raised them and they have sent them to
university. They have had grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and would still be without
citizenship if this English-language test had been in place when
they migrated to Australia. It’s outrageous. It doesn’t recognise who
we are and it doesn’t recognise the reality that our economy is built in large part by
people who come here from around the world, brought their skills, which
we didn’t even pay for, to this country and used them for the benefit
of this country. They came here with education, or came here without it, and worked their
bottoms off—because I can’t use the word I’d like to use—to make
it work for their family. There are people who worked two jobs and
people who turned up here like the Vietnamese boat people. I was working in the Golden Circle
cannery at the time to pay my way through high school. They
turned up in boats and, in their thousands, turned up at the factory.
They worked every hour they could to get their family ahead—any hour, any overtime hour.
They were extraordinary people who would not have passed
this test. This is outrageous. Let’s look at what exactly
the rationale for this is. The government says it’s about national
security, except there’s no evidence that these changes would improve national security.
There’s no request from any of the security agencies at all and none
of them put in submissions to the Senate inquiry. There’s a claim that
it’s about improving integration. How does it improve integration? You could have a mum
staying at home and looking after children, with a husband who
is an Australian citizen and children who are Australian citizens, and,
15, 20 or 25 years later, she still can’t pass the English-language test. How does that
make us better? How does that improve integration? How does it do that?
It doesn’t. It is ridiculous. You can see an example in my electorate
of a business person who came here on a business visa and set up their business and who probably
wouldn’t pass the English-language test because it is, in
spite of the protestations on the other side, IELTS 6, which is a
university-level entrance test. It’s administered internationally by a private company. It’s
used all around the world for universities to test whether a person
has the appropriate international-level English. It’s not based on
Australian language; it’s based on an international level; it’s designed for university entrants.
It effectively puts the requirements for English language in the hands
of a foreign company that has built a test for a completely
different reason. It makes no sense. It’s incredibly unfair. We will be a worse country
that is less integrated and less safe because of these changes. It simply
does not make any sense and it’s profoundly unfair.

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