Labor says the government’s proposed citizenship changes are a “massive over-reach” and will be opposed in parliament.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has proposed migrants wanting to become Australians will have to sit a stand-alone English language test before being allowed to apply for citizenship and demonstrate a “competent” level of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The government also wants to change the period of permanent residency from one year to four, introduce a new values test, and stronger character checks.
As well, an applicant can be barred for two years if the minister has refused to approve them becoming a citizen on grounds other than failing to meet the residence requirement.
Labor spokesman Tony Burke says the caucus unanimously decided on Tuesday to oppose the bill, meaning the coalition will need to seek 10 crossbench votes to pass it through the Senate.
“The government in its bill has engaged in a massive over-reach … and they have taken some steps, which, put simply, Australia should never take and are inconsistent with who we are as a country,” Mr Burke told reporters in Canberra.
He said it had nothing to do with national security.
“If there is a national security problem for these people, then why on earth does the government have them already living here permanently?” Mr Burke said.
Labor also took exception to the longer time frame for people to wait for citizenship and the English language test.
“Once you set the test at a level by definition large numbers of permanent residents will never reach, no matter how hard they try, that changes our country.”
Mr Burke also took aim at Mr Dutton, saying the minister was playing a “dangerous game” linked to leadership tensions in the Liberal party.
Labor will back a Senate inquiry into the bill.
If the inquiry comes up with any reasonable changes, Labor would support them being included in a new bill.