I am a strong supporter of English language testing for migrants and of the principle of a citizenship test. An earlier post I made showed 85% of Australians support an English language test while in Germany, Britain and the US at least 80% of citizens support language plus citizenship tests. I am surprised the figures are in fact so low!
All Australians should speak English. Of course migrants may wish to retain and use their mother tongue – there are potential gains to Australia from them doing so - but English is and should be a single unifying national language. The advantages of having a universal means of communication based on our Anglo-Celtic origins are obvious. English is our national language and it is co-incidentally the international language of science and business.
Testing potential citizens can help ensure that migrants who seek citizenship understand that Australia has a history and a culture. It is also a surrogate for a very low-level general intelligence test if, as is the case with current Australian tests, all the answers to the test are pre-supplied in a short booklet.
Some migrants – and regrettably some resident Australians as well as those in the fashionable left - are openly derisive about the issues of Australian identity and culture. For example some migrants are openly dismissive of aboriginal culture. We cannot do much about post-school age residents in this regard but can certainly try to address ignorance among newcomers.
In addition people from dirt poor xenophobic societies, from totalitarian societies, from theocracies with zero tolerance for other religions (or for democracy) and from racist East Asian societies that have no immigration programs of their own, and who openly dismiss people of dark skin colour, need to appreciate that Australia rejects their primitive values. We have a better society than they had and don’t need a primitivist cultural injection. We cannot change the attitudes of migrants but can at least make them aware of some of the virtues Australia has through education.
Similar comments could be made about some migrant attitudes to women, to the natural environment and to recognising the possibility of a plurality of religious commitments. Questions on such issues might plausibly be included in an expanded and strengthened citizenship test.
The implicit assumption of extreme multiculturalists is that Australian culture is an empty slate into which migrants of any background, inject colour and content. This is a misleading paradigm. In terms of standards of living, respect for the environment, adherence to democratic values and tolerance Australia outperforms all our major migrant source countries – even countries like New Zealand and the UK. It certainly outperforms Asia, Eastern Europe or the Middle East.
Migrants coming to Australia here gain access to a range of tangible and intangible community assets – law and order, democracy, pre-paid infrastructure and social security entitlements – that deliver huge unpaid-for benefits to them. This is one of the reasons they come to live here.
There are economic gains to a recipient country from immigration but these gains are dwarfed by the economic and social gains migrants enjoy.
Australia should give away citizenship for nothing only if it sees citizenship as worth nothing. The early Fitzgerald Report into migration noted this and emphasised the case for assigning specific benefits to citizens that went beyond the right to vote.
It is eminently reasonable that Australia adheres to minimum standards for accepting migrants and for accepting the conversion of migrants into citizens. The minimum now is simply that migrants shall speak English and score 60% in a test based on a 46 page booklet on Australia’s history and culture. Australia offers too much in benefits to need to be, in any sense, a dumping ground, for the unintelligent and uninformed. The refugee and humanitarian program is an important possible exception to this view but the core of the migration program must emphasise the acceptance of skilled, intelligent people who understand what Australia is and what it has to offer.
But in fact more than 20% of those attempting the test cannot pass it or demonstrate reasonable English. The response suggested by some this week is to consider abolishing or modifying the test! My suggestion instead would be to review the migration entry guidelines and find out how such dim-witted test failures were ever granted entry. They must have lived in Australia for at least 4 years to be eligible to seek citizenship so it is not unreasonable that they have acquired something more than basic English language skills so that they are at the point where they can answer very simple questions from a 46 page book. These failures indicate a defect in the initial migrant selection process.
The citizenship and English language tests should be retained and, if anything, strengthened. It might for example include questions on environmental protection and the respect Australians have for the natural environment. We should not abolish the test simply because, in the past, we have made wrong immigrant entry decisions that has provided as with a cohort of migrants who are so stupid they cannot pass it. Hopefully too Mr Rudd will honour his pre-election promise to retain the test – this seems to be the case at present.
My concern is that mooting proposals of this sort is the first step by the left-dominated ethnic lobby to promote a return to the Hawke-Keating approach to migration policy. This involved almost all migrants being part of the so-called Family Program – based on the ‘family reunion’ idea*. These policies were used by that silver-haired blubberer and hypocrite Hawke to buy the ethnic vote in our large cities. This involved selling out the interests of Australia for the most modest political gains and was a total scandal. Labor showed, in the Hawke-Keating years, that it could not be trusted with immigration – it undermined confidence in the migration program, produced the Pauline Hansons of this world and generally reduced community acceptance of migrants.
Let us now stick with the far superior migration policies of the Coalition which emphasised skilled migration and which substantially increased the total migration intake. It was one of the better Coalition policy moves. It is essential to retain strong entry requirements for migrants coming to Australia and retain strong citizenship and English language requirements before granting citizenship.
Update: The Ethnic Communities Council has directly asked the Government to abolish the test. Minister Evans has apparently refused to do this. Good.
* The best way migrant families can prevent being disunited is for members to avoid emigration. Of course Australia has no obligation to re-unite those who voluntarily choose to split-up with those who originally did not emigrate.