Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (18:25): It is indeed a great pleasure to be able to stand and speak to this motion, because it gives me the opportunity to defend the right and it allows me to advocate for our departmental people and to say what a fantastic job I believe are doing in this space. They should be rewarded and complimented for the work that they do. I take objection to the blithe disregard shown by members on the other side for the amount of time it has taken to process applications—hopefully not casting any slurs on the departmental people for the way that they are assessing applications. They do an enormous task for our community—
Mr Hill interjecting—
Mr BUCHHOLZ: And I would remind the good member that I sat very patiently and listened to your opening remarks, even when you showed contempt for the House and cast a personal slur on the minister. I sat and listened. I do not expect the same level of respect from the other side, but I just note that I showed you a level of respect in this place.
Australian citizenship is the highest privilege that we can bestow upon eligible Australians. In my own electorate, going to citizenship ceremonies is one of the highlights of my year. They are incredibly emotional journeys. Can I tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, my electorate is not as mixed as some of the more metropolitan areas, but we have Scottish and Irish and Germans and, for those new citizens that have come to this place, I suggest that they protect the Australian values far more aggressively than others, and they are far more protective of the rights and privileges of new Australians seeking to live here. They are very protective. Given that they have gone through the front door, they are protective of that front-door measure.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection assesses each citizenship application individually and on its merits, ensuring that Australian citizenship will only be conferred on people who fully satisfy the provisions under the Australian Citizenship Act under which the departmental people make their assessment. They make their assessment based on the act. So don’t come in and attack the minister, don’t come in and attack—indirectly—the departmental people; put amendments to the act. All applicants must meet a range of legislative criteria under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 including satisfying the residence requirements, passing the Australian citizenship test, having basic English, being of good character, maintaining residence or a close and continuing association with Australia, and safely identifying the provisions. I do not think anyone in this House takes umbrage at that set of criteria. So when the departmental people then make an assessment against that criteria, we should not be suggesting that one group of personnel are being shown favouritism over another group.
The department has received a sustained increase in the number of applications for Australian citizenship, including a significant increase in applications from humanitarian entrants, including former illegal maritime arrivals who arrived under the previous Labor government. The department assesses each citizenship application individually and on its own merits. All applications for Australian citizenship to be conferred must meet the legislative criteria, regardless of how or when the person arrived in Australia. The departmental staff act with the utmost professionalism in these cases, and they should not be held in blithe disregard by those opposite. There is no separate process regarding citizenship applications for IMAs. Applicants who present limited identification information or who have inconsistent or altered identity information may undergo more extensive checking if necessary, irrespective of how they arrived here.
This government has moved very proactively and has acted to ensure that those dual nationals who betrayed their allegiance to Australia by engaging in terrorist related activities lose their privilege of Australian citizenship. This government believes there should be a high standard for those seeking to be Australian citizens. Australian citizenship carries with it a great privilege and it should be respected by all Australians.