Friday, February 24, 2006

Tests of "values"

Peter Costello announced his support of a new citizenship test for Australia based on respect for "Australian values." He did this in the context of criticising multiculturalism and so fueled fears of a lack of tolerance.

When it comes down to it, it is really unclear what testing "Australian values" could possibly mean. For instance, the Prime Minister claimed: "We welcome people from the four corners of the earth. The only thing we ask of them is that when they come here they become Australians before anything else." Taken at its face value this appears to hit Catholics who aligned with the Vatican (an Independent state) or Jewish people who happen to be Zionists. And let us not forget our own Constitution establishing as Head of State a non-Australian! In this respect, to talk of something called "Australian values" in this context makes absolutely no sense.

Perhaps the government means to go down the British route. Last year, the UK government introduced a new test based on a book "Life in the UK." It is hard to know precisely what questions are asked on this test but the BBC extrapolated based on the book (click here to try that out). I particularly love this question:

Life in the UK explains what to do if you spill someone's pint in the pub (we're not making this up). What, according to the book, usually happens next?
A: You would offer to buy the person another pint
B: You would offer to dry their wet shirt with your own
C: You may need to prepare for a fight in the car park

The answer is A. Isn't that nice?

Of course, maybe when the Treasure is talking about values, he means values in Australia: such as what bread costs here? That is, after all, his area of governorship. Indeed, he could take a lesson from another potential UK question:

And finally, what does Life in the UK tell you it is "very important" to do when
engaging a solicitor?
A: Ask if they have a potential conflict of interest
B: Ensure they are qualified in the area of law of concern
C: Find out how much they charge

The UK answer is C! So maybe Costello's values in Australia reflects British roots afterall.

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