Citizenship and human rights

02 Jan

Two issues getting some airplay as 2008 begins are suggestions that amazing Australian Citizenship Test needs looking into, and Victoria enshrining human rights in legislation.

On the first, you may recall how we were sold this by the Gnome and the Plonker:


Remember them? I had a good deal to say on the matter, some of it amusing. One entry, appropriately enough, was called “When Asses Rule”.

Well it now appears the whole thing is turning into a bit of a fiasco: Future of citizenship test in doubt.

THE Federal Government will review the operation of the citizenship test after the release of figures that show more than a fifth of those sitting it are failing.

Since the test was introduced in October 10,636 citizenship tests have been sat around the country, and 2311 were failed.

Under laws introduced by the previous government anybody wanting to become an Australian citizen must now pass a 20-question, computer-based quiz on Australian history, “values” and way of life and demonstrate an adequate knowledge of English. Only residents who have lived here for four years can apply for citizenship.

Those who fail to meet the 60 per cent pass mark can resit the test as often as they want until they get it right…

The former prime minister John Howard was directly involved in crafting the themes covered in the test. Despite the high failure rate, the test questions, which are drawn from a pool of 200, are comparatively simple and only need be answered in multiple-choice format.

A sample question asks the applicant to say which one of three given values is important in modern Australia: that everyone has the same religion; that everyone has equality of opportunity; or that everyone belongs to the same political party.

Another asks which Australian was most famous for playing cricket: Rod Laver, Sir Donald Bradman or Sir Hubert Opperman. Others questions include the colours of the Aboriginal flag; the number of states and territories in Australia; and where the 1956 Olympics were held.

All the answers are contained in a 46-page booklet that applicants can obtain free over the phone or the internet.

When the test was introduced the immigration minister Kevin Andrews denied it was racist or an election stunt, and said new immigrants needed to better integrate into the community.

The test was opposed by the Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou, who warned it would create unreasonable barriers for some people wanting to become citizens, especially those who could not speak English or read and write properly.

It was possibly not racist in the proper sense of the word, but it certainly was ill-conceived, and as partly a security initiative to keep out terrorists it was almost totally pointless as a well-schooled terrorist would have no problem passing it and saying “yes” to whatever he/she was asked…

The other matter is very well covered by Legal Eagle: Rights or wrong?

When I was younger, I was very taken with the idea of a Charter of Rights for Australia. I simply couldn’t fathom the fact that Australia didn’t have certain rights in its Constitution. But now that I’m older, I’m not so sure that a Charter of Rights is the panacea for all ills in society. I know that human rights are malleable, and that one human right can conflict with another…

That’s a very thoughtful post which I can’t improve on. Wonder if Marcel will take it up?

Channel Seven gives the “dumbed down” cliche a run

Always a risk for Today Tonight, I would have thought, being itself very often a genuine case of “dumbing down” complex issues; it’s the stock-in-trade of tabloid journalism after all.

Tonight, after a half-way decent report on car safety, the Great Mind turned its attention to the Citizenship Test story, getting poor old Prof David Flint to opine that people who want to become citizens should know a thing or two about how the country works. Yes, Prof, one can’t disagree with that; but do they have to know it in English, and pass what is essentially an English test? TDT cited one apparently reasonable question, failing to note that you or I may have failed it too if it was in Swahili or Mandarin or even Icelandic…

Why the hell did Channel Seven run this report in this way tonight? I regard it as both mischievous and irresponsible. Who is it supposed to help? It sure doesn’t help the country, nor does it seriously examine the weakness of the Citizenship Test. Guess it does allow the Great Program Demographic to feel superior and/or outraged for ten seconds though… Guess that is the point.

All a bit of a Howardite throwback too, the whole thing. Most of us are just tired of that snide chipping away at community harmony. Wake up to yourselves, TDT.

And who did this report? You’ve guessed it. The same dolt that discovered Asians are not sure about what pavlovas are: see Chaser on tabloid TV and Asians (17 October 2007). In fact it is worth rerunning that, with the same warning about colourful language:

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4 responses to “Citizenship and human rights

  1. Legal Eagle

    January 2, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you Ninglun. *blush* I have no doubt that Marcellous will take it up.

  2. Antony Shen

    January 7, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    And you are still treating the segment carefully chosen by the disgraceful Chaser Team and aired by taxpayer funded channel that supported fake APEC motorcade, sponsored the outrageous “eulogy song”, and endorsed illegal trespassing as Bible?

    I just re-watched the 18th July 2007 Today Tonight recording. The story on Today Tonight was NOT what disgraceful Chaser’s twisted. The Chaser simply do everything at everybody else’s expenses.

  3. ninglun

    January 7, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    While Chaser, being a satire, may have exaggerated, I still deplore the report on the citizenship issue TDT ran on the night of this post and stand by what I said about it. It was both unhelpful and uninformative and existed only to stir resentment or anger on the part of viewers. The report before it on car roof structure was on the other hand very good.

    That Chaser is publicly funded is, by the way, totally irrelevant. What is relevant is “Did they have a point?” and in this case I think they did.

  4. Daniel Samisota

    January 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Check this out, makes a great comment on citizenship tests:

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