Saturday, January 6, 2007

New “Australian values” citizenship test

Howard government unveils new “Australian values” citizenship test

Australian Prime Minister John Howard last month chose the anniversary of the December 2005 race riot at Sydney’s Cronulla beach to outline further details of the citizenship test initially proposed last September. The choice of date was itself indicative of the underlying thrust of the new test, and the entire campaign to restore what Howard’s government calls “Australian values”. The anti-Muslim rampage at Cronulla was whipped up by talk-back radio hosts and other mass media, the Howard government and other promoters of Australian nationalism as part of a campaign aimed at creating the political climate for escalating military aggression in the Middle East, accompanied by attacks on basic democratic rights at home. Its purpose is to divide the working class along ethnic and religious lines, and divert escalating social tensions caused by the growing chasm between a wealthy elite and the vast majority of ordinary people into communal conflicts.

Howard announced that migrants would have to answer 30 multiple-choice questions on Australian society and history from a collection of 200, with all questions and responses exclusively in English. In addition, they will have to pass a yet-to-be specified test to demonstrate a “working knowledge” of the English language. Citizenship will be allowed only after four years of permanent residency, twice the previous requirement. These measures will discriminate against immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds, and against those who are working class and poor, less able to afford the thousands of dollars needed to take intensive English language classes.

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