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Sunday, 17 February 2019 20:17

Audit Office slams the Department for Australian citizenship backlog

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Back-log in processing citizenship applications

Official Audit Report

The Australian National Audit Office has slammed the Department of Home Affairs for "long delays" in approving citizenship applications from people aspiring to become Australian citizens.

The Audit Office found that over the past four years, the number of citizenship applications stuck in the pipeline blew out by 771 per cent, with 244,765 applications on hand at 30 June 2018.The number of cases decided decreased by 47 per cent over the period to 101,422 in 2017-18. The Audit Office condemned the Department for failing to use its resources efficiently and falling short of its goal of processing 80 per cent of applications within 80 days.

The Audit Office concluded that "Applications for citizenship by conferral have not been processed efficiently by the Department of Home Affairs”. "Processing times have increased, and long delays are evident between applications being lodged and decisions being taken on whether or not to confer citizenship.

Proposed changes to citizenship law

VisAustralia has thrice written on the retrospective changes to the citizenship law proposed by the Liberal Government in this blog.

The changes would have increased the time would-be citizens needed to reside in Australia as a permanent resident from one year to four years, required applicants take a strict English-language test and an Orwellian “Australian values” test, and given the Minister for Immigration personal veto powers over any citizenship application deemed not to be in the national interest.

Chinese communist billionaires be careful!

From our perspective, the issue was not the substantive changes to the law but the fact the changes were to be retrospective, taking effect from the date of the Press Release on 20 April 2017 announcing the changes, rather than the date the new legislation passed the Parliament.

The Government is entitled to make the law, but fairly

Our view is the Government can make the changes it wants to both citizenship and migration law. It is the Government and has been elected and has the authority to determine who can come to Australia and the circumstances under which they can come, and later, apply for citizenship. However, it should do this in accordance with ordinary Parliamentary standards of law making and must not do this retrospectively.

The proposed changes introduced by the Australian Government have since been defeated in the Senate by the Greens and the Australian Labor Party and will not be going ahead in the life of this Parliament.

Processing chaos

Immediately after announcing the changes, the Department of Immigration made changes to its on-line application portal that prevented people from applying for citizenship if they did not meet the new citizenship rules.

It made it administratively impossible for people who were eligible for citizenship under the law to apply.

As a lawyer it is unacceptable that the Department began administering the system as if a law existed that did not exist. In Australia the Parliament makes the law and the executive arm of Government is obliged to obey the law.

It is fundamental to the rule of law that the executive arm of Government follows the law and does not act outside the legal brief laid down by the Parliament. There is no place for the application of imaginary laws or possible future laws in Australian democracy.

Sometime later, and after significant protest, the Department quietly restored the ability of people to apply under the old rules. However, the Department then stopped processing those applications pending the passage of the new legislation.

The law did not pass, and the obvious result was that a severe back log of applications built up in the system.

We are not surprised

VisAustralia and people in the citizenship pipeline are not surprised by the findings of the Audit Office.

In fact, we do not need the Audit Office to tell how poor the service and how inappropriate the management of the Citizenship program has been. We have seen what has happened and understand the broader political context for the proposed changes to the law. Pauline Hanson and the Liberal Party may think their are votes in bashing migrants but we and current polling do not think this is the case.

Australian citizenship is an important destination for many migrants and the sense of arrival after an arduous journey is not something that should be altered without proper consultation or due process.

We can only hope for better standards of governance of this important part of the migration program.


Looking for permanent residency in Australia? Contact VisAustralia migration lawyers for hassle free migration process.

Read 5563 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 February 2019 13:46

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