18 July 2013

Shadow immigration minister talks up English language tests for Australian citizenship

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Opposition Immigration Spokesperson Scott Morrison has said stricter English language tests could be introduced for Australian citizenship applicants.

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Opposition Immigration Spokesperson Scott Morrison says the Coalition could introduce more English language testing for Australian citizenship applicants.

Speaking to an interfaith group this week in a speech titled 'Reasons to be optimistic about Australia's immigration future', Mr Morrison said a series of English language 'barriers' could be introduced into Australian immigration policy should the Coalition win the upcoming federal election.

Under current legislation, Australian visa applicants have to score at least 4.5 on the language sections of the IELTS test but Mr Morrison said a more involved, progressive testing process could be introduced to ensure that new migrants continue to integrate over time.

"There is a great opportunity to have a series of barriers," said the shadow minister. "A temporary entry [test], a permanent residence and potentially even citizenship.

"English language proficiency is critical to ensuring employment outcomes for migrants.

"I've said before there is a need to revisit the English language test requirements Australia currently holds to ensure that they are fit for purpose rather than a one-size-fits-all approach."

Mr Morrison said current testing procedures could be improved upon.

"In order to apply for a visa within the skilled stream or access the student visa program for example, applicants need to demonstrate a working knowledge of English. Currently the English language test requires an applicant to score at least 4.5 in all four categories of the IELTS system. This is a quality system, IELTS, used by more than 6,000 organisations across 135 countries including immigration agencies and authorities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

"But we must be wary of creating a closed shop on the testing program or having English language testing used as form of none-tariff barrier used by trade unions trying to crash the skilled migration program as an industrial tactic.

"We should be moving towards a more competitive framework, Australia needs to have the capacity to have progressive levels of English language capability. We also need greater flexibility, and the nation having an English language test that is fit for purpose instead of a one-size-fits-all."


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