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Minister discusses the citizenship test.



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Kevin Andrews MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Matthew Abraham and David Bevan

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Interview Matthew Abraham and David Bevan, ABC Adelaide

Subjects Citizenship Test

E&OE

[Greetings omitted]

QUESTION:

Now I suppose you don’t want to talk too much about the questions and answers because you don’t want people to cheat and know the answers before they go in there?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well we, there are two approaches to the questions and answers. One which, for example, the United States adopts and that is to publish all the questions and then expect people to get them all right. We’ve adopted a different approach, namely the one which, for example Canada and the UK adopts and that is to keep the pool of questions confidential and to draw a select number from that pool for each candidate and to have a lower pass mark, in our case 12 out of 20.

QUESTION:

Right, well, well perhaps you better satisfy our listeners because we did run one of the questions by them earlier which is, which of the following are Australian values: a) men and women are equal, b) a fair go, c) mateship, or d) all of the above Minister, the answer is?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well that’s not one of the questions from the actual test so, I’m not sure where that actually came from but, as I said, the questions are not actually public and we decided not to make them public.

QUESTION:

Oh so the Herald Sun is saying these are sample Citizenship Test questions…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I…

QUESTION:

…by the Federal Government.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I, I now understand where that came from. Those questions were actually compiled or created by the newspaper itself and they weren’t the actual, in fact at the time they were published they…

QUESTION:

What do you think the answer should be then?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well men and women are equal in Australia. I think a fair go and mateship are also broadly Australia values, so my answer to that would probably be d) all of the above.

QUESTION:

Correct, correct, you can become an Australian citizen. Do you think it’s easier to get a boat licence than it is to become an Australian citizen?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look, we’re not trying to make citizenship impossible, in fact we’re encouraging people to become Australian citizens but we’re also recognising the reality that people come from more than 200 countries around the world to Australia. They come from a very diverse range of cultures in which there are, frankly, different values that some people come from. Some share what might be regarded as universal values but we think somebody coming to Australia should have at least an understanding of the common values of the country, what the rights and privileges of citizenship are and know something about our history and heritage.

QUESTION:

Lara has sent us a text message asking - is the Citizenship Test in other languages?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

The test itself is in English but the resource book which it’s based on, the book called Becoming an Australian Citizen, is being published in about 29 community languages.

QUESTION:

But you’d need to understand English to pass the test?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

The requirement to have a basic or adequate understanding of English has been part of our citizenship legislation from the first Act which was passed in 1949.

QUESTION:

How would this sit for family reunion immigration? I think this was something that was, the former Labor Government was very keen on, your Government less so, but if people wanted to bring their Mum or their Dad or their Nona out to, to Australia and they would like to be a part of the community, how do you think they would sit with something like this? Their English might not be that good.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

And there are exemptions to taking the test. Young people under the age of 18 don’t, aren’t required to sit it and anyone 60 years or over is not required to sit it as well, so they…

QUESTION:

So they can still become citizens?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well effectively to take into account that, that category of persons.

QUESTION:

But, but, so they can still become citizens?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Yes.

QUESTION:

They just don’t have to take…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

They don’t have to take the test and that’s a, an exemption which takes into account that if somebody 60 years or over, as you say, might have come from, you know, say Italy or Greece or another country around the world, would have more difficulty, we recognise, in perhaps picking up the information as readily as someone who’s maybe in their 20’s or 30’s where, which the age of most migrants.

QUESTION:

Is this the only test as such that you need to pass to become a citizen?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

In order to become a citizen you make an application, then you are subject to health and character checks, and in some cases more extensive security checks if there is some reason for doing that. And then you would become a resident of Australia for a period of time. You now have to be a resident for a minimum four years and then you can apply to become a citizen and you need to take the test if you’re between the ages of 18 and 60. The other exemption is somebody, because of physical or mental impairment doesn’t understand the nature of it.

QUESTION:

Do you think it would affect our lives one bit if we did not have a Citizenship Test?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I think it’s important that people do understand about Australia, and understand something about how modern Australia has come about. About, you know, when we talk about values we’re not talking about things which I think are necessarily controversial, we’re talking about, you know, freedom of speech and religion and association, equality under the law, equality of opportunity, things like our sense of peacefulness and tolerance for one another. These, these are things which I don’t think are particularly controversial but the reality is that some people come to Australia from countries or cultures where not all those values are shared in the way they are in Australia.

QUESTION:

Are there questions which would go to the heart or religious fundamentalists?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

There could be questions, for example, about how and who makes law in Australia. For example, we say in the resource book in terms of values and in

terms of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law that laws in Australia are made by Parliament. They’re not made by any other group. That a religious law, no matter what religious faith group it might be made for, doesn’t apply in Australia. It’s only the laws made by the secular Parliament.

QUESTION:

Now these tests are being done in Adelaide today, the first one had started?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

The first ones in Adelaide today and I’ve already been informed that the first person who sat it has passed.

QUESTION:

What did they get?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I didn’t get the actual details.

QUESTION:

Were they asked who was our first Prime Minister?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

That’s, that’s possibly one of the questions in the pool so it could come up. So the pool currently is about 102 questions, we’re still adding to that…

QUESTION:

Okay.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

…and questions are drawn from that.

QUESTION:

You’d want that there?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well I think it’s important to know who the first Prime Minister is.

QUESTION:

And it was?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Edmund Barton.

QUESTION:

Yes and his party was?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

That’s a good question, I don’t recall that. That’s not in the resource book either.

QUESTION:

Well you’ve got two out of three (inaudible), Minister.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

(Laughs) You won’t get asked his party; I can assure you of that.

QUESTION:

It was the Protectionist Party.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Yes, I think it was, in those days, it was Protectionist and Free Trade largely.

QUESTION:

Yes. Minster are there also questions asking people, questions say about Don Bradman or, you know, and…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well there’s a section of what we call a ‘Story of Australia’ which is a thematic approach to the history of Australia. So it deals with the early exploration, the arrival of the convicts and the settlers, the reality of the harsh country, some section about what we call ‘Diggers’ which is about our war time experience, the Anzacs etcetera and part of that includes a couple of pages in which we’ve referred to Australia being regarded as a sports crazy nation from the very earliest times, and there is a paragraph about cricket in that.

QUESTION:

You don’t think there’d be some horrible stereotyping going on?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well no, if we were only talking about cricket you might say that but in terms of sport there’s mention of racing and the Melbourne Cup and Phar Lap. There’s cricket and Don Bradman. There’s, you know, tennis in the 1950’s with people like Sedgman and Hoad and Rosewall and then later in the 60’s Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong. The various codes of Australian Rules Football, you know, the fact that we had the Olympic Games in Australia, in Melbourne in ’56 and then in Sydney in 2000. So it’s a bit of an overview if you like to putting sport, which is important to Australia, to putting in the context of saying ‘sports important because many Australian’s participate in sport and, you know, many more watch it.’

QUESTION:

Kevin Andrews thank you for talking to us.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

My pleasure.

[Ends]

Media Contact: Kate Walshe 0421 588 794