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Mandatory English language classes, new test under consideration for migrants – Politics



Updated

June 14, 2018 10:54:31

The Federal Government is considering new English language requirements for anyone seeking permanent residency, with figures showing close to 1 million people in Australia cannot speak basic English.

Key points:

  • Coalition figures suggest number of Australians who don’t speak English is rising
  • Government considering options including mandatory language classes, customised English tests
  • Malcolm Turnbull says any new test would be assessing “conversational” or “primary-school” level English

Australia accepts up to 190,000 permanent migrants each year and while they need to prove they can understand English, their spouses, children and extended family accompanying them do not.

Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge argued this had created the “concerning situation” where “close to a million” Australians now do not speak the national language.

“That’s not in the interests of those migrants but nor is it in the interests of social cohesion, because if we can’t communicate with one another, it’s very difficult to integrate,” he said.

Figures released by the Coalition suggest the numbers have been steadily rising.

In 2016, about 820,000 permanent residents in Australia had little or no English, compared with 300,000 in 1981.

According to Mr Tudge, in some suburbs, up to one in three people “cannot speak the national language well or at all”.

He said the Government was determined to ensure Australia did not repeat the experience of some European countries where migrants become isolated in “parallel communities”.

“Australia’s multicultural model has been built on integration where communities merge together, where we play together, where we work together,” he said.

“But in order for that to occur you do need to have a common language.”

The Government is considering a range of options, from mandatory language classes for anyone seeking permanent residency, to a new, customised English test.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged concerns with the Government’s previous attempt at toughening language requirements for migrants and said any new test would be assessing “conversational” or “primary-school” level English.

“Everyone should recognise that we all have a vested interest in being able to converse and engage in our national language,” he said.

The Coalition has been forced to change tack after the Senate blocked its controversial changes to citizenship laws, which would have required new citizens to pass a Level 6, or university-level, English test.

That proposal sparked a backlash, with a Coalition-dominated Senate Committee warning it would “disqualify from citizenship many Australians who, in the past, and with a more basic competency in the English language, have proven valuable members of the Australian community”.

Mr Tudge has spent the past six months consulting widely over the Government’s plans and is likely to present a new, watered-down version of that bill to Parliament.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

federal-government,

immigration,

federal-parliament,

australia

First posted

June 14, 2018 10:44:03



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