On Monday, I wrote a letter to The Australian in response to the publication of a Newspoll that indicated that 55 per cent of Australian support the implementation of a citizenship test for prospective Australian citizens. Such an initiative would test the competency of prospective citizens in the areas of English, Australian history and the Australian way of life. The Australian, in its wisdom, failed to publish the letter. Consequently, I have reproduced it below for public consumption.
Recent debate over the introduction of a 'citizenship test' consistently overlooks the inadequacy of Australian-born citizens in the areas of English language, Australian history and Australian values. Among the group of people that completed secondary school alongside me, there were several individuals that could barely read or write. Surveys conducted recently suggest that many Australians would be hard pressed to name our first Prime Minister. These examples are indicative of a general lack of competency among the Australian population, not just recent immigrants.
It would be interesting to test the competency of the 55 per cent of Australians (see Newspoll 26/09/06) who are strong supporters of the 'citizenship test' on the subject of Australian history. I would hypothesise that many would find it difficult to identify features of Australian history that have led to the tolerant liberal democracy that exists here today.
Before we start seriously considering the introduction of a test for new citizens, let us ensure that Australia's current citizens are equipped with appropriate knowledge of key aspects of Australian life and history.