June 22, 2018 With minister warning against possible “parallel communities”, PM says that Australians must be able to converse properly.
Migrants may be required to take a primary-school level English test in order to become permanent residents or citizens in Australia.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that speaking English is the key for anybody to actively take part in Australia’s education, economy and society. “Everyone should recognize we all have a vested interest in being able to converse and engage in the national language,” said the Prime Minister.
According to him, the concept of the test is reasonable, as it would help migrants do better in Australia.
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge supported this proposal, saying that rather than using international exams, Australia might design a test locally, with special focus on local, conversational English.
“If you have a lot of people not speaking the language, then you start to get social fragmentation and we don’t want to see that happen”, he said.
He also added that the government is debating whether the test should be made a pre- requisite for permanent residency.
“We’re looking at whether or not we can have a reasonable, basic conversational English language requirement at that stage,” he said. “We want people to be able to interact with one another, work together, play together and continue to contribute to Australian society.”
Tudge expressed his concern about the rise of non-English speaking population in Australia, with the numbers quickly approaching one million, which could give birth to “parallel communities”, as can be seen in some parts of Europe.
Shayne Neumann, Labor’s immigration spokesperson, said that it would be better for the government to wait for the recommendation of a parliamentary committee regarding the program to expand and improve English language education for migrants.
“Minister Tudge needs to explain where this has come from and what evidence it is based on,” said Neumann. “We still haven’t seen the detail – but we’ve seen this rhetoric before and the government doesn’t have a good track record.”
In order to implement this new test or any other changes in the existing program, a parliamentary agreement is required.
In March 2018, Tudge had said that he wants migrants to make an effort in order to be a part of the Australian society and be committed towards the local values.
Last year, changes to citizenship laws had been blocked in the Senate, and fresh talks with cross bench senators are required to implement any new amendments.