Australia to Revoke Citizenship Application Concession for Migrant Pensioners, Widows

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has revoked the Australian Citizenship Regulation that offers migrant pensioners, veterans and widows a concession of $20 or $40.


The Australian government has moved to revoke the concession granted to migrant pensioners, veterans and widows applying for citizenship. The migrants, who receive certain welfare payments from Centrelink and Newstart, will have to pay the full fee — $285 — for citizenship application from July 1 onward.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on June 7 revoked the Australian Citizenship Regulation that currently offers migrant pensioners, veterans and widows a concession of $20 or $40. The change affects those with a pensioner concession card, the disability support pension, parenting payments, and widows with health care cards. These changes will also apply to those who are applying for citizenship the second time. The full fee will have to be paid with each application.

Centrelink delivers a range of government payments and services for retirees, unemployed, families, carers, parents, and people with disabilities while the Newstart allowance is an unemployment benefit for those aged between 22 and 64 years who are actively looking for work.

The Opposition party, the Greens, have registered their protest against the legislative instrument that plans to change the Australian Citizenship Regulation, promising to overturn it when the Parliament sits. A legislative instrument does not require legislation to pass the parliament, but it can be overturned with a disallowance motion.

The Greens have been calling for Labour and cross-bench to support their disallowance motion once the parliament sits.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities, which represents migrant groups in Australia, has been calling for the removal of the legislative instrument, saying it is a “needless imposition.”

Saying that the move is inconsistent with Australia’s approach to encourage migrants to join the broader community, chair of the group Mary Patestos said: “This is a needless imposition. It puzzles me why you would want to create a hurdle that makes a resident who is entitled to claim for citizenship choose between paying their bills and applying for citizenship.”

The Department of Home Affairs, however, has tried to justify its act. Only three per cent of people who applied for citizenship via the entrance test, as opposed to those who became citizens by descent or adoption, paid a concession fee in the past 12 months, a spokesperson from the department told SBS News.

“Australia’s citizenship application fees remain internationally competitive and among the lowest in  Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations. The Department is committed to ensuring that application fees remain compliant with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines” the spokesperson wrote to the publication.

Questioning the need for the move, Greens Senator Nick McKim told SBS News on the phone: “It’s an incredibly small-minded and vindictive move by this government. If it’s correct that this only applies to about three per cent of applicants in the recent past, it begs the obvious question as to why in fact the government is moving forward.”

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