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Australian Citizenship Overhaul Thwarted in Senate

  • VOA News

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to state and territory leaders during a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Oct. 5, 2017.

After a more stringent citizenship bill failed in the Senate Wednesday, the Australian government says it will lower its standard for English language skills in a trade-off for other, tougher citizenship legislation.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday the government is willing to lower its competency requirement for English language skills to modest, a designation of basic communication skills with many mistakes.

Language skills are not currently tested in the Australian citizenship process although some English is required.

The opposition has said asking applicants to pass a language test had the potential to create an underclass of noncitizens.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced plans to abolish a temporary work visa program popular with foreigners and replace it with a new program requiring better English-language and job skills.

Turnbull also announced plans to raise the bar for citizenship by lengthening the waiting period and adding a new "Australian values" test.

Dutton said the government will work with opposition lawmakers to amend the bill, including changing the language requirements.

But opposition leader Bill Shorten suggested the government abandon the bill.

"If it's bad for the interests of ordinary people, we won't vote for it,'' Shorten said.

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