NEW CITIZEN RULES

Becoming an Australian citizen is set to get harder, with the government announcing a crackdown that involves an Australian values test, a new English language test and a longer waiting time for migrants wanting to become Autralian citizens. Just days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration minister Peter Dutton announced major changes to the 457 visa system, the new measures signal a shift to the right in the policy area, which Fairfax reports has been pushed by Dutton and other leading conservatives in the government.

Turnbull has labelled Australian citizenship a “privilege” and says “we must ensure our citizenship program is conducted in our national interest”. 

The Herald Sun reports potential citizens could be asked if they support female genital mutilation, child marriages and using violence against one’s spouse at home. All applicants will be required to pass an English test and prove that they have integrated into the Australian community, and they will be limited to only taking the test three times.

So why the change? The Australian cites a position paper on the issue mentions national security and the threat of terrorism as reason for the changes.

This isn’t the last we will hear on the issue. Fairfax reports a third tranche of immigration changes is also on the table, and it “could include the creation of a ‘provisional visa’ class which would tighten access to social security payments”. The idea, which was leaked to Fairfax back in November, has already been slammed by bureaucrats, who have warned the move “could undermine Australia’s social cohesion”.

COMPLAINTS ABOUT 457 VISA CHANGES

While business groups have welcomed the slashing of the 457 visa category and the tightening of rules for new temporary work visas, there are sectors, like the university, information technology and hospitality industries, voicing concerns about how all the changes will affect them. Fairfax reports university vice chancellors want to know if studying for a PhD will count as part of the two years experience required for qualifying for a new working visa. The Oz has leading restaurateurs saying the standard at their venues will drop without foreign workers, and IT companies are threatening to outsource to Asia. 

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Jakarta: US Vice-President Mike Pence will visit a mosque and meet with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in the Indonesian capital as part of his tour of the Asia Pacific today. Pence is expected in Sydney on Saturday, and The Australian reports Trade Minister Steve Ciobo will be talking up trade opportunities between Australia and the US with the Vice-President.

Canberra: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will announce changes to Australia’s citizenship test, details above.

Melbourne: A Victorian parliamentary inquiry will hold a hearing on a proposal to ban plastic bags.

Darwin: Dylan Voller is expected to give evidence to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. Yesterday the royal commission heard from staff at the Don Dale detention centre, who defended themselves Voller’s allegations.

Canberra: The Climate Council will release its first national gas report, “Pollution and Price: The Cost of Investing in Gas”.

Perth: A Senate committee will hold a hearing into shark deterrent measures.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Wages may have stalled, but inequality is not rising in Australia — David Uren (The Australian $): “The evidence from HILDA shows that, contrary to popular opinion, the pain has been evenly shared: the incomes of the top-earning 10 per cent have stagnated just as much as those of the bottom 10 per cent and everyone between.”

Migration does Australia good, 457 visas all the more so — Peter Martin (The Age): “Australians worried about population growth would be wise to examine total growth rather than the relatively tiny number of temporary workers on 457 visas.”

457 visa reform like a bad joke — Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun $): “No more foreign workers? Not quite.”

Opponents of Safe Schools are scared because the world is moving on without them — Catharine Lumby (Guardian Australia): “The program is about giving kids an awareness that they may have classmates or friends who differ from the mainstream norms of gender or sexuality. And now that we know more about how many people diverge from those norms, the norms are indeed changing.”

THE WORLD

Star Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has been forced out in the wake of a string of sexual harassment allegations, which the company spent at least $13 million settling. As news of the allegations and settlements broke, sponsors distanced themselves from O’Reilly’s program, and by this morning the host had reportedly lost the support of the Murdoch family. Despite the scandal, O’Reilly’s unabashedly conservative commentary remained popular with viewers to the end. Just weeks ago, President Donald Trump said O’Reilly was a “good person”. — New York Times

The number of people killed during massive protests in Venezuela has risen to six, after hundreds of thousands of people again took to the streets to show their opposition to the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro. Shortages of food and basic goods, and efforts to undermine the power of the nation’s parliament, have fuelled the sometimes violent demonstrations, with delays to planned gubernatorial elections also causing anger. — Reuters

A “quick count” of Jakarta’s gubernatorial election appears to have handed Anies Baswedan a decisive victory over incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (generally known as Ahok). The race was infused with religious divisions after a campaign by Islamic hardliners to try Ahok — an ethnically Chinese Christian — for breaching blasphemy laws. Ahok was also an ally of President Joko Widodo, and the outcome could be a bad sign for the president as he braces for the nation’s 2019 elections. — The Guardian

Britain will hold a general election on June 8 after the House of Commons passed a motion moving the scheduled 2020 poll to this year. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn kicked off his pitch to voters by promising a £10/hour minimum wage and vowing not to make Britain an “offshore tax haven”. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

Receding glacier causes immense Canadian river to vanish in four days (The Guardian): “An immense river that flowed from one of Canada’s largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world’s geography. The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 metres at its widest points, is the first observed case of “river piracy”, in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another.”

Trump’s Indonesian allies in bed with ISIS-backed militia seeking to oust elected president (The Intercept): “Associates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in a campaign that ultimately aims to oust the country’s president. Prominent supporters of the coup movement include Fadli Zon, vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives and Donald Trump’s main political booster in the country; and Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who is building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta.”

From love to fear: The rise of King Vajiralongkorn (Al Jazeera): “Many saw the new Thai King as an erratic playboy more interested in fast cars, parties, and women than in ruling a country that over the past four decades has turned to his father to arbitrate political conflicts. Since his ascension to the throne, King Vajiralongkorn has proved them wrong … while the late King Bhumibol ruled by inspiring love in his subjects, Vajiralongkorn is starting his reign by instilling fear.”

Fox News has decided Bill O’Reilly has to go (New York Magazine): “It’s still unclear exactly how the tide turned. According to one source, Lachlan Murdoch’s wife helped convince her husband that O’Reilly needed to go, which moved Lachlan into James’s corner.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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