Howard's migrant test to be dumped
November 22, 2008
THE Rudd Government will dump John Howard's citizenship test for migrants and replace it with a new, simpler test based on Australia's democratic values rather than obscure historical or sporting facts.
Immigration Minister Chris Evans will today announce a major overhaul of the test, accepting almost all of the recommendations made by a review led by Australian diplomat Richard Woolcott.
In a scathing critique, the review found the present test to be “flawed, intimidating to some and discriminatory” and in need of reform.
The new test will be based on the five-line Pledge of Commitment recited by new citizens, which recognises Australia's democratic beliefs and laws, and the rights and liberties of citizens.
Senator Evans said this would ensure new citizens understood their civic responsibilities, but they would not have to complete a “general knowledge quiz”.
“The Rudd Government is committed to the citizenship test,” he said. “It encourages potential citizens to find out more about Australia and understand the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.”
But the new test would remove unnecessary obstacles to citizenship for vulnerable groups, such as refugees. “The changes will ensure the test does not disadvantage these people who most need our support,” Senator Evans said.
Among the arcane questions due to be included in the current test before the Government announced the review was: “What is Ludwig Leichhardt famous for?” (Answer for those worried about being branded un-Australian: Trying to cross Australia by land from east to west).
And, in a question that can also be found on a Carlton Draught bottle top: “For what invention is Mervyn Richardson famous?” (The Victa lawnmower).
Educational experts will be recruited to write a new resource book in simpler English, which will be divided into testable and non-testable sections.
The testable section, from which the new test questions will be drawn, will focus on basic democratic concepts associated with the pledge.
The non-testable section will cover facts about Australian history, culture and notable people such as Sir Donald Bradman, to provide migrants with broader knowledge of the country.
But in a toughening of the standards and departure from the committee's recommendations, the Government will raise the pass mark for the test from 60 per cent to 75 per cent.
“Raising the pass mark will ensure we have A-grade citizens who understand our democratic beliefs and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship,” Senator Evans said.
The Government has also rejected the committee's recommendation to conduct the test in other languages.
But it will make a range of test formats available, including possibly an oral or written test, instead of just the computer-based test that is available now.
The Government accepted the committee's recommendation that new citizens should have a level of English that allows them to exist independently in the wider Australian community.
The new resource book and test is due to be completed next August. But until then, would-be citizens will continue under the current test, which consists of 20 multiple choice questions drawn randomly from a bank of 101 questions.
The Government rejected interim measures recommended by the committee, including publication of all the test questions and reducing the number of mandatory questions required to be answered correctly from three to two questions.
From October 1 last year, when the test was introduced, to March 31 this year, about 25,000 people born in more than 172 countries sat the test, with 95 per cent of them passing on their first or subsequent attempts.