This is a government that takes pride in its hard headedness and faux populism. Knowing it would have to brave a sceptical, even baffled Senate, Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, resembling a bit dictator struggling for traction, decided to ignore the signals.
What was required, claimed Dutton, were tougher citizenship laws to govern Australia, an ironic state of affairs given the number of Australian parliamentarians facing the High court over their eligibility to sit in the chambers of Canberra.
The proposed legislation, titled the Australian Citizenship Legislative Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill, would be given a good serving against large swathes of the immigrant community.
It would have required the applicant for Australian citizenship to pass a stand-alone English test involving reading, writing, listening and speaking and show a minimum permanent residency requirement of four years.
Not feeling those measures to be suitably onerous, Dutton insisted on slipping a few other measures into the package: a limit, for instance, to the number of times the language test could be taken (three); and steps demonstrated by the applicant to show forms of integration into the Australian community. (The fumes of charred meat on an Australian sausage sizzle come to mind.)
The reasons for these changes, outlined in the government’s shoddy paper Strengthening the Test for Australian Citizenship…