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Public feedback on "harder" Aussie citizenship test to be kept private: gov't
Last Updated: 2017-06-12 10:18 | Xinhua
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Public feedback concerning controversial changes to the Australian citizenship tests will be kept private, the government has confirmed, in a move which has drawn criticism from refugee groups.

The groups have warned against gagging the public's view on critical issues such as migration.

In April, the government revealed plans to make the citizenship test harder to pass, with potential Aussies required to have a greater understanding of the English language, while they would also be asked their opinions on "Australian values" in terms of issues such as gender equality, sexism and child marriage.

While, at the time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would welcome public submissions on the proposed changes, it has been revealed the Immigration Department would not be publishing the concerns - or praises - of its proposed bill.

In a statement given to Fairfax Media on Monday the Immigration Department said: "Submissions were provided in confidence and were not for publication by the department."

But according to refugee groups including the Refugee Council of Australia, the Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils, they did not provide their submissions in confidence, and have since published their criticisms of the plan to their respective web pages.

Asher Hirsch from the Refugee Council told Fairfax that the Australian public had a right to "judge for itself" the potential "harms" which could come about under the proposed changes.

"All too often, the immigration department refuses to release vital information about its policies to the public," Hirsch said on Monday.

"This must not become another secret decision made behind closed doors. Unless submissions are stated as confidential, they should be made public to allow the Australian community to judge for itself."

The decision to stifle the feedback goes against policy on other recent government-proposed changes, including changes to telecom laws.

The government is yet to respond to the criticism, but last week Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the changes to the citizenship test were required, calling the legislation one which "suits the time we're living in."

"It is a bill that suits the times we're living in and the government is very serious about making sure that people who pledge their allegiance to our country abide by our laws and our values," Dutton said.

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