The Federal Government will go ahead with a plan to introduce a citizenship test for migrants that will require applicants to have a basic understanding of English. Prospective citizens will have to pass a computerised test that will also test their knowledge of the Australian way of life and history. They will also have to sign a commitment to Australia’s values and way of life. Migrants seeking permanent residency and temporary visa holders planning to stay more than 12 months will also have to give an undertaking to comply with Australian laws and values.
Prime Minister John Howard says the changes are designed to remove divisions in Australian society.
“This is a test that affirms the desirability of more fully integrating newcomers into the mainstream of Australian society,” he said. “This is about cohesion and integration. It’s not about discrimination and exclusion. It’s not designed in anyway to keep some people out and encourage others to come in, that’s not the purpose of it.”
Mr Howard says the new test is a positive move.
“This is not a negative discriminatory test,” he said. “Nothing unites a country more than its common language because from a language comes a history and a culture.” — ABC News.
Kevin Rudd is considering it.
I expressed my reservations vigorously on Rattle of an ignorant man… (corrected). So did someone much more expert than I, Director of the Centre for Immigration Studies and Multicultural Research at the Australian National University, Dr. James Jupp. There’s an “Aussie values” multiple choice as well; the irony of this test being about “mateship” and “having a go” seems to escape John Howard. His colleague Petro Georgiou was quick to see this, on the other hand.
But let’s be positive and consider the possibilities.
1. Perhaps all Australian citizens should be asked to pass the tests before they are allowed to vote. There are some who think this might most affect the Labor Party vote, but given certain Liberal branch-stacking incidents in recent years, this may not be entirely true.
2. Given that “Of ethnic groups, Aborigines [have] the highest proportion of people who do not speak English” this could be a really neat way of disenfranching certain pesky Aboriginal communities without seeming racist.
3. It will be excellent for private English tutors like me and coaching colleges. As for the citizenship test, you just have to be drilled in the right answers. You certainly don’t have to mean a word of them. Anyway, it’s multiple choice, isn’t it?
4. My English and ESL blog should get more visits. There are some excellent links to tests and quizzes there, and I can always post some handy hints from time to time.