Bill English reportedly wants Kiwis exempted from Australia's new citizenship policy

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New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English speaks in Wellington, New Zealand. Reuters/Charlotte Greenfield

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English supposedly said one proposal his administration may consider is an exemption for New Zealanders from the new rules of acquiring Australian citizenship.  He called the changes, which were announced by Aussie Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month, “disappointing.”

English stated that there was no formal contact between himself and the Turnbull government before the Down Under announced its immigration crackdown. He said the changes are being studied by officials to ensure that all implications are well understood. "But on the face of it, it's disappointing that New Zealanders would have to wait longer,” he added.

The Kiwi leader said officials will also be working to ensure that the new policy would not impinge on those taking up the pathway. English revealed that NZ Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee had discussed pleading the case for New Zealanders seeking a pathway to be legal citizens of Australia.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton previously said the new policies would apply to New Zealand citizens. A spokesperson for the minister clarified that the citizenship changes come into effect immediately and will apply to all applications for Australian citizenship.

But since Australia recognised its strong relationship with New Zealand, Dutton said the new visa arrangements were more generous for New Zealanders than those for citizens of other countries. "Australia and New Zealand have a strong relationship, and will continue working together to enhance bilateral arrangements," quoted his spokesperson saying.

Australia's new citizenship policy requires New Zealanders and others to be permanent residents in Australia for four years before being considered eligible. Would-be-Australians are also required to pass tests to assess their commitment to Australian values as well as their English proficiency.

Dutton has also clarified that the new changes were not targeted at any religion, but at certain behaviour and attitudes. He told Seven Network that the modified policies were specifically pointed at people who might think that domestic violence is fine. The minister insisted that it’s not okay.

Turnbull said the citizenship test must enable applicants to show how they have integrated into and engaged with the Australian community. Those who cheat in the aforementioned test will automatically fail. Some exemptions were provided for applicants with a permanent or enduring incapacity, as well as those aged 16 and below. These applicants would not have to face the English reading, writing and listening tests. The new citizenship policy comes after the decision to overhaul the 457 temporary foreign worker visa system.

YouTube/Al Jazeera English

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