Australia puts migrants to the 'mateship' test

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Migrants hoping to become Australian citizens will soon have to take a test examining their knowledge of the country's history and institutions, and endorse national values including "mateship".

While Australia prides itself on its multicultural heritage, the government wants newcomers to "integrate" more fully. From later this year, prospective citizens will have to demonstrate an understanding of the English language. They will also be obliged to answer 20 questions, from a potential bank of 200. Anyone who gives fewer than 12 correct responses will not receive a passport.

Migrants will also have to embrace what John Howard's government considers to be 10 essentially Australian values, including "mateship" and giving people "a fair go". Other core Australian values are said to include tolerance, compassion, gender equality and freedom of speech.

Born and bred Australians might have a problem with some of the proposed questions, such as what year European settlement began (1788), who the country's first prime minister was (Edmund Barton), and when the various colonies federated into a commonwealth (1901).

The new citizenship application procedures are detailed in a 40-page pamphlet released yesterday. The Immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, said they aimed to achieve a balance between ethnic diversity and social cohesion, "particularly as we now draw people from so many different countries and so many different cultures".

"It emphasises that those becoming a citizen in Australia have an overriding commitment to Australia, to our laws, to our values and to our community."

Critics have attacked the English language requirement, pointing out that many migrants who have gone on to become eminent in various fields could not speak English when they arrived. But Mr Andrews said: "We are trying to encourage people to learn English, because we think that is the way they will achieve their aspirations."

The pamphlet, which will be handed to all would-be citizens, also provides information about the country's history and political institutions, as well as its economic, cultural and indigenous background.

It describes Australia as "a nation at ease with the world and itself" but says that newcomers are expected to respect its core values. "Australian citizenship provides for an overriding commitment to Australia," it says. "Modern citizenship also rests on sentiments of nationhood and enduring attachment to what Australians hold in common." The booklet sums up "mateship" as voluntarily helping and receiving help from others, especially in difficult times. "A mate can be a spouse, partner, brother, sister, daughter, son or friend," it explains. "A mate can be a stranger."

The measures are part of a government push to promote "Australian values" after riots between Muslim and non-Muslim youths at a Sydney beach in 2005.

Australia is overwhelmingly a nation of immigrants, with one in four of Australia's 21 million population born overseas.

Sample questions for migrants

* Who is the head of the Australian government?

* What is the floral emblem of Australia?

* What are the colours on the Australian flag?

* What is the first line of Australia's national anthem?

* What is the population of Australia?

* Which day of the year is Australia Day held?

* Who is the Queen's representative in Australia?

* In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?

* How are members of parliament chosen for

their posts?

* Who do members of parliament represent?


1 The Prime Minister

2 Wattle

3 Red, white and blue

4 Australians, let us all rejoice

5 About 21 million

6 January 26

7 The Governor-General

8 Canberra

9 By election

10 Their electorates