Q&A: Derryn Hinch says it's 'too easy' to become a citizen
EX-SHOCK jock Derryn Hinch used Monday's Q & A to say it was "too easy" to become an Australian citizen.
And he should know - he's an immigrant.
The New Zealand born Senator also took a pot shot at the Liberal's leadership woes saying the ongoing saga between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his predecessor, Tony Abbott, was "as boring as bats***".
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke, had to admit there was "friction" between the pair.
Monday's program was largely dedicated to last week's Government announcement that the current 457 temporary visa program would be axed to be replaced by two new visas with tighter restrictions and less options for citizenship.
Mr Hawke justified the increased time immigrants must now be permanent residents before being eligible for citizenship.
"We want to get to know people who want to become citizens a little better. We want to understand they will be integrating and sending their kids to Australian schools".
However, audience member Kirsty Popple, who was halfway through her citizenship paperwork when the new rules came in, said her family had integrated just fine.
"We have been here seven or eight years now. We've had two kids here. They go to school here. We volunteer at the local rugby league club and our son plays there.
"So we are very much a part of the community, just like any Australian."
She said she feared her family's application for citizenship, lodged last Friday, would miss the deadline by just hours to be assessed under the previous rules meaning they would have to wait a further three years before they could call themselves Australian.
"Shouldn't you be giving hardworking, taxpaying lawyer-abiding immigrants like us a fair go?"
Mr Hawke said changing the rules immediately was the only option to prevent a "rush" of citizenship applications.
"When we make any kind of change of this nature, we have to put a hard deadline on when people can make an application.
"We understand there will be people impacted, but the requirements we are putting forward in setting a higher bar in the citizenship has the support of the public."
He said he would look into exactly when the Popple's application was lodged to see if it had met the deadline.
But Labor's Tony Burke said he was deflecting the issue.
"I respect, Alex, you are not wanting to answer the question on the run, but certainly the documents that the Government has released would make it clear that Kirsty has got to wait three years."
The Shadow Finance Minister said Ms Popple was a victim of a Government announcing policy merely to get a bounce in the polls. He questioned why further restrictions were being put on the eligibility for citizenship at all.
"How can this announcement be relevant to national security? The rhetoric claiming somehow people who are permanent residents, who've [already] had their security checks and we've decided that they are fine to live here - but if we make them citizens they are suddenly dangerous - is absurd."
Mr Hawke denied that he had raised the issue of security when it came to permanent residents becoming citizens.
But that didn't mean security wasn't an issue when it came to immigration overall, he said.
"Every country is wrestling with issues of integration and assimilation. Security in our modern world is a theme facing so many countries and these are part of the measures to improve our security."
Hinch said he had emigrated in the 1970s from his native New Zealand.
"I became an Australian citizen 35 years ago and it was far too easy. You didn't need police checks. You didn't have to fill in a questionnaire. I didn't have to know what Don Bradman's batting average was," he said.
"Some of the changes are good [but] the biggest thing is if you lie in your application, and then you commit a crime in Australia down the track, they have got that hidden weapon and can throw you out of the country".
Q & A regular Germaine Greer said she was a dual Australian-British citizen but had actively avoided signing up for the UK passport.
The pioneer of the 1960s feminist movement and author of groundbreaking book, The Female Eunuch, said it was only her familiarity with customs staff at UK airports that made her eventually take the plunge.
"They said, 'Just do it. Don't be such a pain in the a***. We are sick of seeing you here.' So I did," she said.
Mind you, Greer wasn't impressed by having to take an oath to the Queen.
"I, as an Australian with dual citizenship, have to be a royalist. It is all b*****ks."
Attention turned to the ongoing ructions at the top of the Liberal party with a questioner asking if the turmoil between Abbott and Turnbull could cost the Coalition government?
Mr Hawke said no. "The team is focused on governing the country."
Pushed as to whether that team included Abbott, Hawke said it did.
Although he conceded the former PM and Turnbull were unlikely to be on the best of terms.
"Of course, there's friction between a leader and a former leader. There will be friction."
A clearly exasperated Hinch then jumped in.
"I think this whole Abbott-Turnbull stuff is as boring as bats***," he remarked.
But it was left to a somewhat wistful, but possibly quietly pleased, Mr Bourke to reflect on the current government's pain.
"Your worst days are when your side is fighting. It is an awful time and one thing I learnt when you change a first-term Prime Minister is you unleash an entire Shakespearean tragedy," he said.
"I watched it unfold and we are watching it unfold again."