For refugees fleeing conflict-torn Sudan or Afghanistan, the identity of Australia's greatest cricketer is probably not uppermost in their minds. Yet unless they know the name of Donald Bradman they may be disqualified from becoming Australian citizens.
The Labor government announced yesterday that a controversial – some say ludicrous – citizenship test introduced by its conservative predecessor is to bereviewed, following revelations that significant numbers of migrants, particularly refugees, are failing it.
But suggestions by the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, that the Bradman question might be scrapped were quickly squashed by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Fearful, perhaps, of alienating Middle Australia, which voted him into power two months ago, Mr Rudd insisted: "The Don is safe. I'm unaware of any plans on our part to give The Don the axe."
The written text, comprising 20 multiple choice questions from a bank of 200, was introduced by John Howard's government last October. It is supposed to tax would-be citizens' knowledge of Australian history, culture and values. Anyone with fewer than 12 correct responses fails the test and has to resit it.
Mr Evans said he was ordering the review in an effort to make the test more relevant to migrants from all backgrounds. He suggested that there had been "political interference" in the questions, which were weighted towards Mr Howard's obsession with sporting heroes of his youth.
Mr Howard, a self-confessed cricket fanatic, is said to have personally written a question asking prospective citizens to name Australia's greatest cricketer of the 1930s, offering a choice of Bradman, Hubert Opperman (a cyclist) or Walter Lindrum (a billiards player).
Mr Evans said the government had no plans to abandon the test itself. "Labor is committed to the test, we think it's a positive thing, it will remain part of the path to citizenship," he said. "It's a question about whether people ought to be failing the test on the basis of sports trivia answers."
It was important for migrants to know about Australia's democratic values and legal system, he said. "Whether or not they need to understand the history of Walter Lindrum's contribution to billiards in the 1930s and 40s, I'm not so sure," he added.
Questions demanding historical dates, such as when the Australian flag was first flown, were also of dubious value, Mr Evans suggested.
Figures released by the government yesterday show that while 93 per cent of applicants passed the test in its first three months, up to one in four people from Afghanistan and Sudan failed.
Mr Evans said he was concerned that the test might be deterring people from applying for citizenship. Numbers have declined since it was introduced. But after Mr Rudd declared on national television that he was "not lining up in that camp" [of those wishing to dump Bradman], Mr Evans dutifully paid homage to the late cricketer. "We all love The Don," he said. "I have no problem with The Don, and I won't be rewriting the test."Reuse content