Turnbull defends 'uniquely Australian' values

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says his revamped citizenship test will give migrants "more time to integrate" and ensure they subscribe to what he termed "uniquely Australian" values.

In a testy and at times cheeky interview with the ABC's Leigh Sales, Mr Turnbull vigorously defended several controversial prongs of the tougher citizenship regime he announced on Thursday.

Increasing the period permanent residents must live in Australia before they can attain citizenship from one year to four would give people "more time to integrate to be part of the Australian community", he said.

"We're catching up with the rest of the world," he added, citing the waiting time of five years to become a US citizen, and eight years in Germany.

Mr Turnbull identified Australian values as freedom, equality of men and women, the rule of law, democracy and "a fair go", and claimed these were "uniquely Australian".

"They are shared with many other democracies but they are in and of themselves unique. There's something uniquely Australian about them," he said.

The Prime Minister at times expressed disbelief that people could and had responded cynically to Thursday's announcement, chiding presenter Leigh Sales over her questioning.

"I'm surprised you're challenging this on the ABC," he said. "I don't think your heart's in it actually, Leigh. I think you agree with me."

The Turnbull government is entering a six-week period of consultation over what constitutes Australian values and how someone should be assessed for "integration" into the Australian community.

The Prime Minister suggested that ways of demonstrating integration could involve being on the Parents and Citizens council of their child's school, or joining a surf club or "service club".

"In other words, demonstrating they're involved in the broader Australian community," Mr Turnbull explained. "That is what sociologists call bridging [social] capital - it's encouraging people to reach out and become engaged."

Jews who celebrate Hanukkah, or a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf, should be considered as integrated in the Australian community as long as they showed "mutual respect" for others, he said.

A tougher English language test was "perfectly fair" for those seeking the additional honour of Australian citizenship, Mr Turnbull said - even if migrants had little time to learn in between raising families and managing a business.

"It's in their interests to do so and maybe they can take a little longer before they make their application," he said. "It is perfectly fair and it's in their interest to have a competent level of English."

Mr Turnbull said the changes had been "carefully considered" by cabinet over many months but he welcomed and encouraged feedback during the coming consultation.

Labor leader Bill Shorten on Thursday said his party would consider the detail of the proposal, which he said had some "good features".

But he said the changes were mostly about Mr Turnbull "fighting against Tony Abbott" and pandering to the right-wing.

This story Turnbull defends 'uniquely Australian' values first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.