Don facing dismissal in the citizenship test

Sydney Morning Herald
29 April, 2008
By Phillip Coorey
Chief Political Correspondent

DESPITE an earlier assurance by Kevin Rudd, the batting feats of Sir Donald Bradman are not guaranteed to survive an overhaul of the Australian citizenship test.

And nor is anything else that comprises the current test for aspiring new Australians.

Announcing a thorough review of the test yesterday, the Citizenship Minister, Chris Evans, said the only certainties after the review were that there would still be a test and it would be conducted only in English.

Senator Evans also released figures yesterday showing success rates for the test had improved over the past three months, with 95 per cent of people passing at their first or subsequent attempt.

This compares with 93 per cent for the first three months.

Regardless of the pass rate, Senator Evans said there was still a need for the review.

"Is the material they are covering helpful, is it allowing them to be better citizens, is it allowing them to understand what they need to understand? There are broader questions than just whether people pass or fail," he said.

Senator Evans's announcement of an independent, seven-member review panel headed by the former diplomat Richard Woolcott, was consistent with the Government's promise to review the Howard government's citizenship test after six months in operation.

It will review the book entitled Becoming An Australian Citizen, which is given to new arrivals and from which the test questions are drawn.

Everything from the book's content to the level of English it uses will be looked at.

Neither Mr Woolcott nor Senator Evans would guarantee whether the content about Bradman would remain.

"Sport obviously is an important part of Australian life, sport will obviously be part of any book that seeks to explain and understand Australian life," Senator Evans said.

"Equally, citizenship is about understanding your rights and responsibilities as a citizen, things like equality before the law, democratic systems, equal rights for men and women, the very fundamental issues about how you operate, about how you're allowed to behave in a democratic society."

The test was drawn from a pool of 100 questions. Plans to expand the pool to 200 questions were put on hold pending the review.

In January Senator Evans questioned whether the sporting trivia was critical knowledge for citizenship. He created a small storm when he said a sample question about Bradman was an example of the political interference by John Howard when drafting the test and suggested it be dropped.

Mr Rudd overruled him, saying "the Don is safe".

Mr Woolcott said he did not want to prejudge the outcome.

"I do think there's been certain amount of good-humoured trivialisation of the test over Sir Donald Bradman," he said.

The Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou, who criticised the test as requiring an unfair level of English for those with another first language, welcomed the review.

He said it was important the committee be able to recommend more resources be allocated for language training.

Other members of the review panel are the former Olympic hockey player Rechelle Hawkes; the director of SBS radio, Paula Masselos; the Ghanaian migrant Juliana Nkrumah; the director of the National Australia Day Council, Warren Pearson; the former navy chief Vice-Admiral Chris Ritchie, and the academic Professor Kim Rubenstein.

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