catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Howard's test

with 14 comments

So it appears that John Howard is going ahead with plans for his citizenship test. Now, just take a look at this link to the sorts of topics this test is likely to cover and tell me this isn’t going to backfire some time in the future if another government takes power:

People of Australia include:
• Indigenous Australians
• descendants of 19th century settlers/migrants
• 20th century settlers/migrants/ recently-arrived migrants. Australian multiculturalism encourages:
• use of the national language – English
• use of community languages
• expression of cultural practices and religious beliefs …

• historical disadvantage of Indigenous peoples since British settlement
• steps towards self-determination
• goals of Reconciliation.

Yes that’s right. The citizenship test will just become another battleground like the education syllabus where the Kevin Donnelys and Maoist educationists of Australia will battle it out to indoctrinate the minds of new arrivals. And at the end of the day what abilities other than verbal memory does this test select for? I suppose all those imams who have to memorise the Koran from back to front will have an advantage in this kind of test. I’m sure a bilingual version of El-Hilaly would pass the test with flying colours.

If we’re going to have a test to get into Australia, it might as well be an IQ test than this pointless reeling out of facts and wet propaganda. But then we know that’s not on the cards as this SMH story says: ‘Those aged under 18 or over 60 and people with physical and mental incapacities would not have to sit the test. People with low literacy would take it in an alternative format’. So what’s the point of it?

On the other hand, as Liberal MP Russell Broadbent is reported as saying here:

    Fellow Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said he had raised his concerns with government citizenship spokesman Andrew Robb, saying: “The questions could be very difficult for many current Australians.
    “I’ve said to the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr Robb), don’t make this test too hard – Frank Lowy and Sir Peter Abeles might not have become Australians if the test were too hard,” Mr Broadbent said yesterday. “In fact, half of Gippsland might not be able to pass the test.”

Written by Admin

December 12, 2006 at 8:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

14 Responses

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  1. The only test should be the ability to speak English. English is the official language of Australia and the unofficial language of the world.

    Anyone who comes here without the ability to speak English will be at a significant disadvantage so had better have something else worth offering if they are to be accepted.

    Andrew Bartlett – however inadvertently – makes a good point when he says that applying it to citizenship is pointless. Whether a person takes out Australian citizenship or not is irrelevant to whether they remain here. There are many people who have lived here all their lives who are not citizens.

    The test should apply to anyone wishing to become a permanent resident.


    December 12, 2006 at 8:40 am

  2. Our prisons are full of people who speak English perfectly well.

    I think it’s hilarious that someone who has escaped a tyranny through pluck, ingenuity and determination has to submit to a test about “having a go” and other facets of Aussieness that is administered by risk-averse shinybums. Goodonya!

    Andrew Elder

    December 12, 2006 at 9:15 am

  3. “Our prisons are full of people who speak English perfectly well.”

    So what’s your point?


    December 12, 2006 at 9:42 am

  4. Anyone who comes here without the ability to speak English will be at a significant disadvantage so had better have something else worth offering if they are to be accepted.

    Accepted into what? I don’t think English is the sine qua non you make it out to be, especially when you consider that the best way to learn English is to be in an English-speaking community. Making a rule like this creates a Catch-22 situation, especially as there’s been a cutback on English-language classes to those not able to pay for them straight away.

    Andrew Elder

    December 12, 2006 at 10:05 am

  5. “Anyone who comes here without the ability to speak English will be at a significant disadvantage so had better have something else worth offering if they are to be accepted.”

    But why do you care Yobbo?

    They’ve made their bed, they can lay in it.

    Mark Hill

    December 12, 2006 at 10:29 am

  6. actually when this was first proposed Howard gave a talk at a Greek Community meeting.

    It was pointed out that many old Greeks couldn’t speak English.
    He said they had assimilated well.
    When asked didn’t this contradict his policy he merely put on his Donald duck embarrassed smile.

    It could be a good policy but it hasn’t been well thought out.
    That is because it is purely a political decision.

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    December 12, 2006 at 11:04 am

  7. I’m afraid I realyl can’t take this proposal seriously because whenever anyone mentions any sort of test liek this I immediately think fo that classic Simpsons episode where Homer is tryign to educate Apu for his citizenship test. A classic episode and imho very relevent.


    December 12, 2006 at 11:40 am

  8. My Dad didn’t speak English when he got here. Although according to him he did learn pretty quickly. It still took him over 40 years to bother with something as mundane as citizenship because he was busy building the nation.

    I think if you have been here four years and you can’t handle the basics of english then there is a problem. You should be able to count to twenty in english and struggle through a basic conversation as well as given and follow basic instructions in English. The point of an english test should not be to keep people out, but rather to show them what they need to learn in order to fit in.

    Expecting people to be able to do computer based tests is asking for a whole stack of extra skills (eg keyboard, mouse, and basic logic literacy). And I hate the idea of a test that contains secret questions.

    A common language lowers transaction costs (just like a common currency does). However attempting to indoctrinate values seems like something that the government should mostly stay out of and leave to civil society.


    December 12, 2006 at 11:44 am

  9. I don’t think it should be a test – I have many relations who would fail it and all are good Australians. It suggests some sort of cultural nervousness – like needing to own a purple Barbie with gold braids in her hair beofre the cool girls will accept a newcomer into the group.


    December 12, 2006 at 11:55 am

  10. As Yobbo pointed out, this isn’t a test on ‘who gets into Australia’. Anyone applying for citizenship is already a permanent resident. If they fail the test, they will remain a (possibly a bit pissed off and alienated) permanent resident

    We already have a basic English requirement for citizenship, which contains reasonable exceptions based on factors like age. A key issue (which probably won’t be able to be legislated for) is how rigidly and ruthlessly the new language and ‘values’ tests are applied.

    Andrew Bartlett

    December 12, 2006 at 12:32 pm

  11. It some ways it is better to be a permanent resident than a citizen. All those years my folks got to avoid voting and avoid jury service. As a citizen by birth I have not been allowed to enjoy the privileges they had.


    December 12, 2006 at 12:39 pm

  12. One of the ironies of this issue is that in general it is refugees and others who have come from less stable lands who seek to become citizens as soon as possible, while many English speakng people from places like UK, Ireland and New Zealand don’t bother, for reasons such as Terje mentions.

    The main benefits of citizenship are voting and qualifying for public sector employment – as well as being free from possible deportation if you happen to get into serious trouble with the law (or the government) down the track.

    There are hundreds of thousands of people in Australia who are long-term permanent residents and qualified to become citizens but haven’t applied. I’m not sure how adding a bit more hassle to the process or making it a little bit harder assists with social ‘cohesion’.

    I’m all for people only becoming citizens if they feel a genuine commitment to the country, but I just don’t see how throwing an extra test or two for people who are already able to live here the rest of their lives anyway really heps cohesion or integration.

    Andrew Bartlett

    December 12, 2006 at 12:59 pm

  13. What Yobbo and Andrew B said. This whole thing seems a bit pointless. I suspect the unwritten background to the issue is the clearly uneasy relationship between a decent number of Muslim migrants and other varieties of migrant, as well as those already here.

    I actually don’t have a solution to that particular conundrum, although it may be that someone (maybe Hanson) needs to come out and suggest dropping the boom on Muslim migration, so we can force the debate out into the open rather than doing stupid stuff like this.


    December 12, 2006 at 1:09 pm

  14. I would be willing to bet that after 4 years, Abeles, Lowy and co spoke pretty good English, so that’s a pretty shallow argument against the proposal.

    This argument arises in the context of the failure of “multiculturalism” as a government social policy. Over 30 odd years this policy has been at odds with the “melting pot” concept of integration which was the natural approach taken by migrants in the absence of government interference.

    The politics of “multiculturalism” has become big business as well as divisive. The best solution is for the government to pull the pin on the whole ediface that it supports.

    If it is worthwhile, then citizens will support organisations voluntarily.


    December 12, 2006 at 5:29 pm

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