The Citizenship Dog-Whistle

Video of Australian Citizenship Test advertisementAnother 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.

Continue reading “The Citizenship Dog-Whistle”

Slagged off nationally: I’ve made it!

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Monday’s piece on the Citizenship Test generated some intriguing comments in Crikey yesterday and here too — but this one takes the biscuit.

Adrian Ridgway writes: Stilgherrian must be an idiot — my eight year son old got thirteen of the sample questions right — without referencing the booklet! My guess Stilgherrian must have gone to Grammar or one of those other special schools where the only skills necessary are football and socialising with the right sort of people — he’s probably a lawyer or stockbroker these days. Or maybe an immigration broker. Latte-set liberals (small l) need to pull their heads in — being invited to become an Australian citizen is a privilege — not a right, just as Stilgherrian probably exercises the right to invite who he chooses to a party in his into his home, we as a society should be allowed to exercise the right to determine who, and under what circumstances, immigrants are allowed to enter Australia. The point of the test is not to put up a barrier to anybody, but to enshrine in law as part of the process Immigrants understand they are joining an established society, not establishing colonies. (Many apologies to Aboriginal Australia — we knew not what we did at the time).

Just how many ways can one paragraph be wrong? And I’m not talking about the typos…

I love it!

Failing the Citizenship Test

Excellent. On the basis of the Draft Citizenship Test Resource Book released yesterday I’d fail Australia’s new Citizenship Test. And if a privately-educated 5th-generation Aussie-Anglo like me can’t do it, I reckon few other Australians would pass either.

But that’s OK, because a multiple-choice “Citizenship Test” is meaningless. Let’s remind ourselves what happened when Apu went for US citizenship in The Simpsons. “Being American” was reduced to a cliché.

And the booklet itself is a gorgeous piece of political propaganda that’ll achieve the following:

  • The bitter old Alan Jones listeners Howard thinks he needs to placate will be relieved to see an emphasis on the UK as the biggest source of migrants and Christianity as the biggest religion. They’ll think this will stop the “wrong” people becoming citizens. Once more, Howard is Big Tough Daddy protecting them from the woggy bogeymen.
  • It’ll cause Howard’s much-hated “elites” — that is, anyone capable of using logic, analysis, multi-syllable words or joined-up thinking generally — to run around in circles for a week or two, losing focus on real election issues.
  • Howard gets another chance to moisten over all those “achievements” he personally considers important but which he could never achieve himself — being a soldier (because of his hearing problem) and playing cricket (because he’s completely bloody hopeless).
  • It’ll create a minor black market in the answers to the test, which will appear approximately a week after the first potential citizens are processed.

What’s remarkable is how backward-looking the booklet is… and how biased to Howard’s personal interests.

The words “science”, “physics”, “medicine”, “genetics”, “aviation”, “satellite”, “solar” and “film” don’t appear at all, despite Australia’s renown contributions in those fields. “Beer”, “ale” and “lager” are completely absent. “Literature” appears just once. “Computer” only once too — in the context of the test being computer-based.

Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia? Who cares? “George Washington,” suggested our Korean cleaner this morning with a laugh — but of course most Australians would indeed know more about the US system than our own. Do we really need to know where Phar Lap’s heart is? Will the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics really be of any relevance in 5 years time?

Are we choosing Australian citizens for the 21st Century, or putting together a geriatric pub trivia team?

One question really makes me laugh, though. Who do members of Parliament represent? This is a trick question, right?