CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Draconian Citizenship Tests?

Jan 3, 2008

There have been some complaints about the new Australian citizenship tests. Evidently around 20 per cent of those taking the test for the first time are failing it. Ethnic groups are calling for their scrapping, or at least a major overhaul. Labor says it will seriously look into this issue. The Opposition says the tests are not so draconian, and do not need any major changes.

The multiple choice test, comprised of 20 questions, was introduced by the former Howard Government. But some groups seem to think it too difficult, or unnecessary.

A few things can be said in defence of the tests. Every country that accepts in people from abroad must expect a minimum of compliance, loyalty and understanding from them. Speaking the language helps of course. But agreeing to the basic ethics and values of a nation is also important. So too is having at least a cursory understanding of the nation’s history, its political and social institutions, and major customs.

There is a study book people get before taking the test, with all the information needed to answer the mere twenty questions which are randomly chosen from a larger pool of questions. A person passes if they simply get at least 60 per cent (12 of the 20 questions) right. And those who fail this test can take it again. Of the 8400 people who have taken the test, 90 per cent have passed it in their first or second attempt.

Moreover, the questions really are ridiculously easy. Let me give a few examples of what these questions are like (WARNING: for those who experience a major hissy fit over humour and/or a bit of satire, please stop reading now.) Here then are a few citizenship questions, not much unlike those found in the current citizenship test.

-What letter does the word Australia begin and end with?
A. A
B. X
C. Z

-What is the title of the political leader in Australia?
A. Prime Minister
B. Chief witch doctor
C. Head coach

-Does Australia have an official religion?
A. No
B. Yes
C. Beats the heck out of me

-Which of the following animals are not found in Australia?
A. Unicorns
B. Kangaroos
C. Koalas

-What is the nation’s capital?
A. Canberra
B. Ballarat
C. Washington, DC

-Which of the following is not a major political party in Australia?
A. The Nazi Party
B. The Liberal Party
C. The Labor Party

-Who is the current Prime Minister?
A. Kevin Rudd
B. Elmer Fudd
C. Genghis Khan

-When did Australia become a Commonwealth?
A. 1901
B. 269 BC
C. 2010

-What is a favourite Australian bread spread?
A. Vegemite
B. 40W motor oil
C. Asphalt

-The recently defeated Prime Minister was who?
A. John Howard
B. John Travolta
C. George Bush

– Recently freed prisoner David Hicks had been found guilty of what?
A. Supporting terrorism
B. Cheating on Sudoku
C. Selling dodgy sun tan lotion

-Which one of the following is a famous Australian tennis player?
A. Lleyton Hewitt
B. Tiger Woods
C. Babe Ruth

-Australia is a part of which geographical region?
A. Asia
B. North America
C. Europe

-What is the main language spoken in Australia?
A. English
B. Tahitian
C. Bulgarian

-A famous Australian actress is Nicole who?
A. Nicole Kidman
B. Nicole Saradowski
C. Nicole Jones

-What unique Australian mammal has a duck bill, webbed feet and a broad tail?
A. Platypus
B. Bengal tiger
C. Octopus

As can be seen, the questions are not exactly the stuff of rocket science. Most are no-brainers. So for groups to complain that the tests are too onerous is really a bit rich. The truth is, it is remarkably easy to become an Australian citizen here. Many other countries have much tougher and stricter conditions. So I think we need to take the current round of complaints with a grain of salt. It seems merely to be yet another attempt to bash Howard, even if after the fact.

[663 words]

12 Responses to Draconian Citizenship Tests?

  • They need to do more than test for positive knowledge. There needs to be negative questions as well – people need to be expected to reject certain beliefs and practices. I am thinking of those connected to fundamentalist Islam and sharia law which are obviously antithetical to our democratic and secular gov’t system.
    Damien Spillane

  • Let’s also bear in mind that these tests do not determine whether a person can live and work in Australia as a permanent resident, rather, they determine whether or not a person can participate in appointing government.

    Whilst many American brethren would disagree (!!), we have a very fine policy of compulsory voting that does not allow our citizens to be passive in the determination of who should represent us in parliament. One does not need to understand the preferential voting system to understand political debate and cast a vote for their local MP, but it is very difficult to make a constructive contribution if you don’t have a rudimentary understanding of how an Australian Government is elected, impossible if you can’t understand English.

    Damien Carson

  • Damien Carson, compulsory voting is anti-democratic. The right to vote should also include the right to abstain. Also, people who are too lazy to inform themselves, or just vote on image, have a duty to the country not to vote and skew the process. Our system favours the lazy, which is why Labor wins more often than they should 😛
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Australians, in my opinion, have become a nation of apologisers.
    We stand for nothing!
    The Indians make derogatory remarks about one of our players and we see ourseves as whingers, the Japanese do not appreciate our stance on whaling and now they call us racists.
    If we do not stand for something we will fall.
    Jim Sturla

  • Hi, Bill
    I understand your point of view “Every country that accepts in people from abroad must expect a minimum of compliance, loyalty and understanding from them”. However i don’t believe these 20 multiple choice questions really represent much of the true Australia. I doubt passing this test gives a person a fuller and deeper understating of the way of life in Australia or even proves their loyalties. If the aim of this is to teach people more about Australia and to help them develop and deeper understating, 20 multiple choice questions are not the answer.
    Diyana Dias

  • Bill, you cannot be serious. Are you sure these are the examples of some of the multiple choice answers on the citizenship test? I have a copy of the study book which the potential citizen candidates have to study for before doing the test titled ‘Becoming an Australian citizen’ (which anyone including Australian citizens can request a copy for free from the Immigration Department or download a copy for free from http://www.citizenship.gov.au/test/preparing/index.htm and also contains a practice test which anyone can do) and it has it does have one question from the actual test printed on the study book as an example. The question as printed was:

    What is the floral emblem of Australia?
    A. Waratah
    B. Banksia
    C. Wattle

    to be quite frank, that question does not sound like a no-brainer. That question I believe is a challenging one for the potential citizen candidate to answer as all these are plants found in Australia. For interest sake, the answer is C. I’m curious of how many average Australian would already know this answer, I have my doubts it would be in the large numbers.
    The examples that you have provided are a no-brainer, but they are completely different from the serious official examples. So I must ask you Bill if I may, where did you come up with the examples you provided because they are definately not in the study book or the Immigration Department’s website.

    Michelle Edwards

  • “Damien Carson, compulsory voting is anti-democratic.”

    lol! I’m not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I knew that Jonathon would say that!!

    I have been staggered at the number of high profile anti-citizenship test Australians who have blithely quothed, “I’d probably fail the test…” The government samples are not too different to Bill’s parody in this article, but there are much tougher “practice tests” offered by independent groups. The strategy is probably to over-educate, but I wonder if the critics are using these non-government practice tests to misrepresent the real thing?

    http://www.australianexam.com/oztest/index.jsp

    Damien Carson

  • Thanks Michelle

    Here are sample test questions from the Immigration Department website:

    Which one of these Australians is famous for playing cricket?

    Rod Laver
    Sir Donald Bradman
    Sir Hupert Opperman

    Which one of these values is important in modern Australia?

    Everyone has the same religion
    Everyone has equality of opportunity
    Everyone belongs to the same political party

    I repeat, they are no-brainers, and everyone gets the study guide in order to prepare for these questions, and they can re-take the test if needed.

    By your reasoning, anyone should be able to get a driver’s license, regardless of whether they even take a written test, or if they crash the car 16 times in the practice test. No wonder why we are dumbing down as a nation, if we make such a stink out of ridiculously simple questions as these.

    By the way, I got 100 per cent on the sample test, and I am not originally from Australia.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • A test is a test, keep it hard, keep it a test!
    Judith Bond

  • Thanks Diyana

    The main point of my article was simply that the questions were not all that difficult, and therefore the critics had little ground to stand on. Whether the questions are sufficient for a “deeper understanding” is another matter altogether.

    But a quick look at the study guide shows that a fair amount of historical, cultural and social information about Australia is found there. It seems that just getting some of that basic knowledge into people’s heads would be a good first step.

    This test may not be a panacea, but it does not seem to be competing against any other panaceas. If you have a better idea how we might help newcomers to integrate into, and appreciate, Australia, then you might like to share those thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hello Bill,
    Yes point well made. However what we may find to be simple and obvious may not be for some, despite the fact how easy it maybe. I mean for 10 percent of people out of 8400 to fail is a lot of people and also it’s not like the other 90 percent passed it the first time round.

    I totally agree with you on the fact getting at least some basic knowledge of Australia into people’s heads is a good first. I am all for that, but my only worry is that how long will this information retain in peoples minds, due to the approach of how this information is being taught.

    Maybe a different approach should be taken to help the newcomers integrate and truly appreciate all the wonderful thing Australia has to offer. Instead of 20 multiple choice questions, there should be programs held which should be hosted by momentous Australians who will share there perspective of Australia. This might help newcomers get a better perspective of the historical, cultural and social aspects of Australia. This process may even help develop a deeper truer understanding and it may even leave a sense of loyalty in their hearts.

    Diyana Dias

    Thank you

  • Australian citizenship test is not so tough. If we practice nothing will be impossible, this test main aim is that we need to have basic knowledge of Australian history and traditions. Also there are many online sites which offer us online practice tests.

    Stella Thompson

Leave a Reply