Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

Primary content

A Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, and for related purposes.
Administered by: Immigration and Citizenship
For authoritative information on the progress of bills and on amendments proposed to them, please see the House of Representatives Votes and Proceedings, and the Journals of the Senate as available on the Parliament House website.
Registered 04 Jun 2007
Introduced HR 30 May 2007

2004 – 2005 – 2006 – 2007

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT (CITIZENSHIP TESTING) BILL 2007

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship,

the Honourable Kevin Andrews MP)

 


AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT (CITIZENSHIP TESTING) BILL 2007

 

OUTLINE

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Testing) Bill 2007 (‘the bill’) amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (‘the Act’) to provide for the testing of prospective applicants for Australian citizenship by conferral.

On 11 December 2006, the Australian Government announced the introduction of a test for certain applicants for Australian citizenship. The introduction of a citizenship test is a key part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to help migrants successfully integrate into the Australian community.

The bill will amend the Act to require applicants for Australian citizenship by conferral under the general eligibility provisions (subsection 21(2)) to have successfully completed a citizenship test, before making an application, in order to be eligible to become Australian citizens. The bill provides that successful completion of a test will enable the Minister to be satisfied that applicants understand the nature of their application for citizenship, possess a basic knowledge of the English language, and have an adequate knowledge of Australia and of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.

Persons may be required to satisfy eligibility criteria to be able to sit a citizenship test. These criteria may include requirements that a person is a permanent resident and satisfies the Minister of the person’s identity. The bill also provides that the fee prescribed for an application to become an Australian citizen under section 21 of the Act, in relation to persons who have sat a test or tests, may include a component that relates to the test or tests sat by the applicant. 

Special arrangements will be made for people whose literacy skills mean they have difficulty undertaking a test. 

financial impact statement

The cost to implement and administer the citizenship test and the proposed requirement for certain visa applicants to make a statement of Australian values has been estimated at $123.6 million over 5 years from 2006-07, of which $107.4 million is the estimated cost for the citizenship test. This amount has been included in the 2006-07 Additional Estimates and 2007-08 Budget and forward year estimates..
AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT (CITIZENSHIP TESTING) BILL 2007

 

 

notes on individual clauses

 

Clause 1          Short title

1.      Clause 1 provides that the short title by which the Act may be cited is the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Testing) Act 2007.

Clause 2          Commencement

2.      This clause provides a table that sets out the commencement provisions of the Act. The table provides that:

·        sections 1 to 3 and anything in the Act not elsewhere covered by the table will commence on Royal Assent; and

·        Schedule 1 to the Act will commence on a day or days to be fixed by Proclamation.

3.      The table does not provide that Schedule 1 to the Act will commence by default at the end of a specified period if day or days are not fixed by Proclamation within the period. An unspecified period of time is required prior to commencement to implement arrangements for the test and any computer systems required to conduct the test, and to ensure that applicants for Australian citizenship who will be required to complete the test will have reasonable access to necessary information and testing facilities. 

4.      The table makes it clear that the provisions of Schedule 1 may commence at different times. Commencement of new section 23A before new subsection 21(2), for example, would allow approval of a test so that prospective applicants could take the test in preparation for lodging a citizenship application as soon as the requirement to have successfully completed a test comes into force.   

Clause 3          Schedule(s)

5.      This clause provides that each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule concerned. In addition, any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.


schedule 1 – amendments

 

Australian Citizenship Act 2007

 

Item 1             Section 2A

6.      This item amends section 2A in Part 1 of the Act to substitute a paragraph in the simplified outline of the Act with a new paragraph. The new paragraph (dealing with citizenship by conferral) refers to the new requirement, inserted by item 4 of this schedule, that an applicant may need to successfully complete a citizenship test.

Item 2             Subparagraph 10(2)(c)(i)

7.      This item makes an amendment to subparagraph 10(2)(c)(i) in Part 1 of the Act to include a reference to a person seeking to sit a citizenship test approved in a determination under new section 23A. New section 23A is inserted in the Act by item 5 of this schedule. This amendment complements the amendments made by this schedule, in particular item 5, which allow the Minister, or persons authorised by the Minister under subsections 40(3) or (4) of the Act, to request a person who seeks to sit a citizenship test to provide one or more specified personal identifiers for the purposes of the Minister being satisfied of the identity of the person.

8.      Subsection 10(2) specifies what the Minister must be satisfied of before the
Governor-General may make regulations prescribing a personal identifier under paragraph 10(1)(f). Subparagraph 10(2)(c)(i), as amended by this item, provides that obtaining the personal identifier is necessary for assisting in the identification of, and to authenticate the identity of, a person in relation to an application under Part 2 of the Act or seeking to sit a test approved in a determination under new section 23A.

Item 3             Section 19G

9.      This item amends section 19G in Division 2 of Part 2 of the Act to substitute a paragraph in the simplified outline of Subdivision B “Citizenship by conferral” with a new paragraph. The new paragraph includes a reference to the new requirement, inserted by item 4 of this schedule, that an applicant seeking to satisfy the general eligibility provisions in subsection 21(2) of the Act must have successfully completed a citizenship test.

Item 4             Subsection 21(2)

10.    This item repeals subsection 21(2) in Division 2 of Part 2 of the Act and substitutes it with new subsection (2). This item also inserts new subsection 21(2A).

11.    New subsection 21(2) provides that a person applying to become an Australian citizen by conferral may be eligible if he or she satisfies the general eligibility provisions in paragraphs 21(2)(a) to (h).

12.    The criteria in paragraphs 21(2)(a) to (h) of the bill are essentially the same as those in subsection 21(2) of the Act with some minor modifications. The criteria in new paragraphs 21(2)(a), (b), (c), (g) and (h) respectively of the bill are identical to those in paragraphs 21(2)(a), (b), (d), (g) and (h) respectively of the Act.

13.    New paragraph (f) has been expanded to include the requirement that an applicant has an adequate knowledge of Australia, in addition to the requirement that an applicant has an adequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.

14.    New subsection 21(2A) provides that paragraphs 21(2)(d), (e) and (f) are taken to be satisfied only if the Minister is satisfied that the person has, before making the application, sat a test approved by the Minister under new section 23A and has successfully completed that test. There is no other way for these criteria to be satisfied, other than by successfully completing a test. A person applying under subsection 21(2) will not be eligible to become an Australian citizen unless he or she has successfully completed a test prior to applying for citizenship.

15.    New subsection 53(2), inserted by item 11 of this schedule, has the effect of requiring the Minister to personally approve a test by a determination in writing under new subsection 23A(1).

Item 5             After section 23

16.    This item inserts new section 23A in Division 2 of Part 2 of the Act.

17.    New subsection 23A(1) provides that the Minister must approve, by written determination, a test for the purposes of new subsection 21(2A). The Minister may approve more than one test for the purposes of new subsection 21(2A). This allows for the possibility that the Minister may consider that some people, for example those with low levels of literacy, may need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they meet the criteria in paragraphs 21(2)(d), (e) and (f) in a different way to the majority of prospective citizenship applicants.      

18.    New subsection 23A(2) provides that the written determination must also specify what amounts to the successful completion of the test. What constitutes successful completion of the test may be more than correctly answering 50% of the questions asked. For example, in the United Kingdom, applicants must correctly answer 75% of questions asked. In Canada, applicants must correctly answer 60% of random questions asked, and a further three mandatory questions on the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship must all be answered correctly.

19.    In considering the test or tests to be approved, the Minister may decide that certain mandatory questions must be answered correctly. For example, questions relating to the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.

20.    New subsections 23A(3), (4) and (5) relate to eligibility criteria for sitting a citizenship test. New subsection 23A(3) provides that a determination under new subsection 23A(1) may set out the eligibility criteria a person must satisfy to be able to sit a citizenship test. New subsection 23A(4) provides that the determination may provide that a person is not eligible to sit the test unless:

·        the person is a permanent resident ; and

·        the Minister is satisfied of the identity of the person.

21.    New subsection 23A(5) makes it clear that new subsection 23A(4) does not limit the operation of new subsection 23A(3). The determination may set out other criteria not mentioned in new subsection 23A(4) which a person must satisfy to be eligible to sit a citizenship test.

22.    New subsection 23A(6) allows the determination to cover any other matter related to the test that the Minister considers appropriate. The determination could include provision for special arrangements for people with special needs, such as those whose literacy skills make it difficult for them to undertake a test without assistance. The determination could also specify that a test would be conducted using a computer program under the control of the Minister which randomly selects a number of questions from a larger collection of approved questions. This method is currently used in a number of countries. For example, the United Kingdom uses a computer program which randomly selects 24 multiple choice questions from a collection of 200 questions.

23.    New subsection 23A(7) provides that a written determination made under new subsection 23A(1) is not a legislative instrument within the meaning of section 5 of the Legislative Instrument Act 2003. The purpose of new subsection 23A(7) is to make it clear that a written determination under subsection 23A(1) is not of a legislative character. This provision is declaratory of the law, and is only included to assist readers.

Item 6             Subsection 40(1)

24.    This item repeals subsection 40(1) in Division 5 of Part 2 of the Act and substitutes it with new subsection (1). New subsection 40(1) has the effect of extending the power in section 40 to also apply to a person who has sought to sit a test approved in a determination under new section 23A, inserted by item 5 of this schedule. Section 40 continues to apply to the Minister being satisfied of the identity of a person in relation to an application under Part 2.

25.    New subsection 23A(4) provides that, among other things, a determination in writing made under subsection 23A(1) may provide that a person is not eligible to sit a citizenship test unless the Minister is satisfied of the identity of the person. The amendment made by this item allows the Minister, or persons authorised by the Minister under subsection 40(3) or (4) of the Act, to request in writing that a person who has sought to sit a citizenship test provide one or more specified personal identifiers.

26.    The term “personal identifier” is defined in section 10 of the Act to include:

·        fingerprints or handprints of a person;

·        a measurement of a person’s height and weight;

·        a photograph or other image of a person’s face and shoulders;

·        an iris scan;

·        a person’s signature; or

·        any other personal identifier prescribed by the regulations (in accordance with subsection 10(2) of the Act).

Item 7             Subsection 40(3)

27.    This item makes a technical amendment to subsection 40(3) in Division 5 of the Act which is consequential to the amendments made by item 6 of this schedule.

 

Item 8             Subsection 40(4)

28.    This item makes a technical amendment to subsection 40(4) in Division 5 of the Act which is consequential to the amendments made by item 6 of this schedule.

Item 9             After subsection 46(1)

29.    This item inserts new subsection 46(1A) in section 46 in Part 3 of the Act. New subsection 46(1A) provides that the fee prescribed by the regulations for applications made under section 21 of the Act, in relation to persons who have sat a test or tests approved in a determination under new section 23A, may include a component that relates to the sitting of that test or tests.

30.    This will allow for some or all of the costs of a person sitting a test or tests (whether different tests or repeat sittings) to be recovered through the application fee when the person applies to become an Australian citizen under section 21.  

Item 10           Section 53

31.    This item makes a technical amendment consequential to the insertion of new subsection 53(2) by item 11 of this schedule. Section 53 in Part 3 of the Act provides that the Minister may delegate in writing all or any of the Minister’s functions or powers under the Act or regulations made under the Act.

Item 11           At the end of section 53

32.    This item inserts new subsection 53(2) in Part 3 of the Act. New subsection 53(2) provides that the Minister’s power to delegate any of the Minister’s powers or functions under the Act or regulations made under the Act does not apply to the Minister’s function under new subsection 23A(1) to approve a test by written determination for the purposes of subsection 21(2A). The effect of new subsection 53(2) is that the Minister’s power to approve a test cannot be delegated to another person. 

Item 12           Application

33.    This item provides that the amendments made by item 4 of this schedule apply only in relation to applications for Australian citizenship made on or after the commencement of that item.

34.    This means that only persons applying after the commencement of new subsections 21(2) and (2A) will be required to have successfully completed a citizenship test (if this requirement is applicable), before making an application.

Item 13           Transitional

35.    This item provides transitional arrangements in relation to requests made under subsection 40(1) for persons to provide personal identifiers and authorisations to make such requests under subsections 40(3) and (4).

36.    Subitem 13(1) provides that if a request was made under subsection 40(1) of the Act before the commencement of this item, and the request had not been complied with before that commencement, the request has effect after that commencement as if it were a request made under that subsection after that commencement.

37.    Subitem 13(2) provides that an authorisation in force under subsection 40(3) or (4) of the Act immediately before the commencement of this item has effect after that commencement as if it were an authorisation made under that subsection after that commencement.