For years, the residence qualification for citizenship in Australia was a total of 5 years out of 8. Then, reflecting a quaint policy of harnessing ethnic votes, including offering some ethnic empowerment, the qualifying period began to be reduced. One government reduced this period to 3 years. The other government educed this period to 2. Just like competition in the retail sector.
Reducing the waiting period for permanent residents to apply for Australian citizenship from 5 years out of 8 to 3, and then to 2, may not have captured the ethnic vote. The reality is that immigrant voters engaged in business tended to vote conservative; the workers generally voted labour. However, this diminution of the value of citizenship allowed those with criminal intent to keep their heads down during this period. With citizenship, they could not be deported.
Prime Minister Howard’s 4-year residence requirement was a pragmatic solution. Was lawful temporary residence included in the qualifying period? Currently, a total of 4 years’ residence, with a minimum of 1 year’s permanent residence is required. As a consequence, now there is a perception that a 1-year residence as a permanent resident should be enough, even without any prior temporary residence. What are the risks for the nation?
Dual citizenship (introduced for political purposes) had already diminished the value of our citizenship. Australian citizens can now fight for their country of origin, if they have dual citizenship.
To re-clad citizenship, which requires a commitment to the nation, it is surely desirable that 4 years of permanent residence be a primary requirement. A secondary requirement is that those seeking our citizenship should demonstrate clearly that they wish to integrate into the nation. What is unfair about these requirements?
(I was the Head of the Citizenship Branch in the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs, whose expert team conducted the first ever review of our Citizenship Act – in the early 1980s. It was my recommendation, which was accepted by the government, that no one should govern, administer, or fight for the nation without Australian citizenship.
Beware those who want to make citizenship easy to access. Ask ‘Who benefits?’
I am also the author of a number of books, under my author name Raja Arasa Ratnam, on the successful settlement – integration – of immigrants and refugees. Refer amazon kindle)
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