Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Labor and Coalition pass citizenship test bill through Senate

"The federal Senate has approved the federal government's new Australian citizenship test, requiring applicants to correctly answer questions on the country's history, geography, government and traditions.

On the first day of the last sitting period before the election is called, the upper house yesterday approved the citizenship exams with some minor government amendments."
The National Indigenous Times has the AAP's story online today.

The Democrats and Greens opposed the test, with Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett calling it a throwback to the "cultural cringe". I'm inclined to agree with Bartlett's assessment that "a large waste of money and a bit of light entertainment every now and then for the media to run some of the test questions ... against your so-called average Australian in shopping malls." Or blogs, for that matter.

But I believe the real danger of the citizenship test is how it attempts to codify Australian culture, heritage, values and history and
etch them into stone – to be rote learned, tested and passed like a boy Scout being tested for his knowledge of the Scout Law. This undermines our capacity as people living in this country to treat, contribute to, relate with and even contest how we understand the cultures in this land, and the values we aspire to, and what our history tells us about our past and ourselves.

And, of course, the greater danger of the citizenship test – what it was designed to do – is its capacity to exclude people who've lived in this country from participating in all the rights of citizenship – something Bartlett also warns about. It is apparent though that the ALP just don't get it.

Any yardstick for social, cultural and political inclusion – and thus exclusion – in Australia will always be necessarily fraught with contention and dangerous, and should be opposed. In light of this news, Barista's recent post on the citizenship test is worth revisiting.

[Image of N
ewspaper Rock from www.davejenkins.com via Wikipedia under a GFD License.]

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