One million Aussies can’t pass English test
Migrants will be soon able to access free English language classes amid fears one million citizens and residents in Australia would fail a basic proficiency test.
The Morrison Government will unveil the changes today that also include a strengthened statement of values that will need to be signed by those wanting to be permanent residents.
But there will be no English test for citizens as was previously proposed in reforms that were scuttled in the Senate.
In an address to the National Press Club today, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge will outline his concerns that around half of migrants still can't speak English fluently after living in Australia for 15 years.
"This is not to blame anyone whose English language proficiency is poor, but clearly full participation in the community is difficult when there are language barriers," he said.
"Without English language skills, migrants are less likely to get a job, less likely to integrate, and less likely to participate in our democracy.
"Moreover, living in Australia does not guarantee that English will be acquired. Based on census data, it is estimated that around half of the overseas-born who arrived with no English still cannot speak English well, or at all, after 15 years of residency."
Mr Tudge said poor English skills would leave the migrants at a disadvantage in the job market.
"And when the number of people with poor English skills is high, our national cohesion is also affected. How can we fully connect together without a common language? How can everyone fully and comprehensively participate in our democracy?" he said.
"Further, malign information or propaganda can be spread through multicultural media, including foreign language media controlled or funded by state players. This can be particularly influential if local residents' English is poor and hence they are more reliant on foreign language sources."
Without expressly mentioning China, Mr Tudge will warn of unnamed foreign actors are putting migrants under surveillance in Australia.
"I am particularly concerned about the reach of some foreign actors into our multicultural communities. Members of our diverse communities have been both victims of interference and used as vectors to engage in foreign interference," he said.
"Despite now being proud Australians, some communities are still seen by their former home countries as 'their diaspora' - to be harassed or exploited to further the national cause.
"Some who criticise their former country are silenced through threats and intimidation, including to family members back in their country of heritage. Others are persuaded or forced to monitor or harass members of their own community who may hold views contrary to those of the governing regimes in their former countries."
However, Mr Tudge will argue Australia remains one of the migrant success stories of the world.
"When you see Buddhist monks providing free massages to weary firefighters, Muslim builders putting on barbecues for bushfire survivors, Irish truck drivers delivering hundreds of thousands of litres of water, and Sikhs cooking and delivering curries to Melbourne's public housing estates during the COVID lockdown, you know we have something special in this nation," he said.
The updated Australian citizenship test will include new questions on Australian values.
"Australian citizenship is both a privilege and a responsibility, and it should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to contribute to Australia's future. We should ensure that those who come here and those who want to settle here clearly understand - and are willing to commit to - the shared common values that unite us all as Australians," Mr Tudge said.
Originally published as 1 million Aussies can't pass English test