Subject: Australia Day citizenship ceremonies, strengthening the character test, citizenship loss and Tamil asylum seeker family
Hadley: Rather appropriate that I should be talking to our next guest because online right now is the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman. Minister good morning.
Coleman: Good morning Ray.
Hadley: Well firstly is to congratulate you on what you've done with Australia Day. That'll shorten a few councils up, tell my listeners exactly what you've decided to do.
Coleman: Sure Ray, what we're doing is making it compulsory for councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day. It's already the biggest day of the year for citizenship ceremonies, but not all councils do hold those ceremonies and we want to give more people the opportunity. So apart from very small councils in regional areas where there's very small numbers of new citizens, everyone else will have to hold a ceremony on Australia Day.
Hadley: Now Launceston council's on the front page of the Australia Day saying they're moving it back to the 25th of January. I guess you can't stop them having their Australia Day a day before, but what you're saying is they can't hold those citizenship ceremonies unless they're held on Australia Day. Correct?
Coleman: Yeah that's right. So they'll have to hold one on Australia Day and if they don't, their right to hold citizenship ceremonies would be removed and then the government would step in and we would hold the ceremonies ourselves. It's just it's common sense Ray, I mean…
Hadley: Just before you go, would you hold them in those council areas did you just say?
Coleman: Yeah absolutely. So if a council doesn't hold ceremonies on Australia Day then they lose the right to hold them and the government would hold them directly. We already do that sometimes now, but we would we would do it in on more occasions if there were councils that didn't comply with the rules.
Hadley: Well I think I mentioned earlier that Toowoomba, Ipswich and another council, Rockhampton counsel in Queensland have done the same thing and then there are the northern New South Wales councils who've done the same thing, and now Launceston. So the simple message to them is, do what you like but if you don't do it on Australia Day will do it for you. Correct?
Coleman: That's right and it's like you know we saw in Byron Bay this year where they said they weren't going to hold a citizenship ceremony and we said we'll take away your right to hold them at all, and then they did hold one. This is broadening out that concept so that any council, except for the very small ones, needs to hold a ceremony and I think that's good for the new citizens that want to commit to Australia. Australia Day is a great day to do it and it's good for the country.
Hadley: Okay well done congratulations. If I could just pick your brain another matter without reference to the case I just spoke to. But as the minister in charge of citizenship and I guess in league with your colleague Peter Dutton, are you notified or is your department notified when people who are here on various visas are sentenced to long sentences beyond 12 months. Is that an automatic notification your department so that you can perhaps be warned that people are incarcerated and may need to have a look at their visa arrangement when they are released from jail.
Coleman: Well when someone is sentenced to 12 months or more Ray and they're not a citizen, that's a mandatory cancellation of their visa. So we've cancelled the last six years about 4700 visas of people in that situation. Labor did 650 in six years. So we've done about seven times as much. And in fact Ray, just this week, literally a couple of days ago we passed through the Parliament a new law which will make it easier for us to cancel visas where people have been convicted to sentences of less than 12 months and Labor voted against it, the strengthening the character test law. So under that law if someone's convicted of a violent crime or a sexual offence of say eight months or seven months, it would be much easier for us to kick him out. Makes sense – Labor voted against it.
Hadley: Now where's that before the lower house and got to go to the Senate now?
Coleman: Yeah. So that'll go to the Senate, just passed the House yesterday and Thursday, and so we'll we'll take that to the Senate shortly. I think it was just outrageous that Labor voted against that. The law only applies to non-citizens who have committed serious crimes and generally against Australians, and Labor walked into Parliament and said we shouldn't do that.
Hadley: Well it might be outrageous, but given Kristina Keneally is your opponent on the opposing benches it's not surprising.
Coleman: It's a very fair point Ray.
Hadley: Yeah given the way she conducts herself in relation to such matters. What I spoke to, as I always every Thursday, spoke to your colleague Peter Dutton yesterday about these laws pertaining to terrorists and the like who may be dual citizens. Where did that end up, did it get before Parliament yesterday? Is it still ongoing?
Coleman: That was introduced as I understand it by Minister Dutton yesterday, and that's part of the government's broad approach on this issue of keeping Australians safe Ray. We need to do everything we sensibly can to ensure that people who are terrorists or associated with terrorists suffer the most severe consequences, and losing citizenship is one of them.
Hadley: I guess that you, like Peter Dutton, were not surprised by the decision yesterday in the Federal Court in Melbourne from his honour Mordy Bromberg in relation to the Sri Lankan family. That will be an ongoing process now in seeing he wants a full hearing into the qualification of the youngest of the children.
Coleman: Yeah that's right Ray, that will go on for some time now. I'm actually the party to the case so I have to be a bit cautious about what I say…
Hadley: I think we've all got to be cautious about Mr Justice Bromberg, I certainly will be as well…
Coleman: It'll go for some time yeah.
Hadley: Okay. I appreciate your time. Congratulations on that move on Australia Day, well done.
Coleman: Thanks very much Ray.
Hadley: David Coleman, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs.