Another week, another big-spending government TV “information campaign”. This one’s for the new Citizenship Test — and gosh, that just happens to be a Coalition-specific policy and it just happens to be running when we’re not in an election campaign, honestly.
And last night immigration minister Kevin Andrews was seen on TV with a bunch of potential citizens — all of whom, by some happy coincidence, had reasonable English and were not particularly unphotogenic. But he was still defending the test.
This TV advert is little more than dog whistle political propaganda. That’s clear for two reasons. First, look closely at the script (below). And second, if you wanted to reach the people most directly affected, mass TV advertising is far from cost-effective.
I’ve written about the pointlessness of a multiple choice Citizenship Test before. But even if the alien implant in your back teeth tells you that a glorified pub trivia questionnaire will produce better-integrated citizens — as opposed to just creating a black market in the test answers — this TV advert is clearly about something other than bringing that test to the attention of the people who might be sitting it any time soon.
Here’s the script:
Australia’s introducing a Citizenship Test.
It’s a way of making sure that people becoming citizens know about Australia, and understand the responsibilities and privileges of committing to our way of life — things many of us take for granted like democracy, mutual respect, and equality of opportunity, and the values we share like free speech and a fair go.
Preparing for the test will also introduce people to our history, traditions and some of our national customs and symbols.
The test questions are based on this book, which also explains a citizen’s responsibilities and privileges.
Understanding our values will help people take part in Australian life, make a contribution, and become part of our diverse community.
You can find out more about the new Australian Citizenship Test at australia.gov.au.
Citizenship — your commitment to Australia.
Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra.
Note how the emphasis is on “responsibilities” and “commitment”. Sure, it mentions “privileges” too, although by implication privileges still have to be earned. Those words are all about conforming to rules, written or unwritten.
Note, too, that it isn’t addressed to potential citizens. It’s talking about them, not to them. Not “Understanding our values will help you take part in Australian life,” but will help people. Some people other than you watching the TV. Them. The scary ones.
And that, of course, is the message the Coalition wants to send.
“We’re protecting you from the scary foreigners. They’ll have to change their evil ways now. They know that Federation started in 1914 and Phar Lap’s heart is in Bennelong. Our Way Of Life is safe.”
Yes, as Senator Lyn Allison point out, hard-working, good-hearted, committed people will be denied the right to vote because they don’t know that the golden wattle is our national floral emblem.
Now the ad spend…
Potential citizens are already Australian Permanent Residents, and have been for years. The Department of Immigration already knows where they live, their nationality and presumably what languages they speak. So if you wanted to tell them about the new test, just send them a letter. It’d be a lot, lot cheaper.