Thursday, 17 September 2020

Interview with Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft, 3AW Breakfast

Subjects: Changes to the Australian Citizenship Test

ROSS STEVENSON: Aspiring Australians will have to study up on our values of mutual respect, equality and democracy before sitting a revamped citizenship test from November 15. Alan Tudge is the Acting Immigration Minister. Minister, good morning to you.

ALAN TUDGE: Good morning, Ross.

ROSS STEVENSON: So, what's the current test?

ALAN TUDGE: Well the current test has less emphasis on values and more emphasis on facts and understanding our system. And so what we're announcing today is a revamped test which will place much greater emphasis on who we are, what are our fundamental values which make Australia unique and that is; our parliamentary system, equality between men and women, freedom of speech and association, freedom of religion, and those sorts of things. These are, in essence, the core values which bind us together and of course which make us so attractive for millions of people to want to come here.

ROSS STEVENSON: So is this, is this really an education scheme, where you're hoping to educate people? Or are they more or less signing up, making a contract to sign up to those values?

ALAN TUDGE: Well two things, one being that we are revamping the values statement - so when a person immigrates for the first time into Australia they will sign a values statement which commits to those values. Second, when they're actually applying for citizenship - which is obviously the ultimate step and formal pledge of allegiance to Australia - before they do that they will have to pass a citizenship test upon which a significant component of that test will be about the Australian values. And unless you get those questions right, you don't become a citizen.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT: How many how many people sign up for citizenship each year, Minister?

ALAN TUDGE: Well last year was a record number. Last financial year we actually had 200,000 people. In an ordinary year, it might be 100,000 to 150,000 people.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT: And do we try and help - do we help people pass? Or are we sitting back and, you know - are we taking this exam seriously? Or are we helping them get a pass mark?

ALAN TUDGE: No, we want people to take it seriously. There is a guide which goes through the Australian democratic system, our values and the like, and it's been updated today and then we ask able to study up. And most people do actually really spend a few weeks reading through this book, and understanding it, studying it before they go in and sit the test. Of course, ultimately, we want people to deeply understand the Australian democratic system and our core values before they make that ultimate pledge of allegiance to our great nation.

ROSS STEVENSON: Minister, one of the questions is, in Australia do religious laws override Australian law. Do they not only have to understand that, but sort of sign up to it? Like, you know, take a scout's honour: “and I also promise that I will never let religious laws override Australian law"?

ALAN TUDGE: Yeah. It's a good question. I mean, we do ask people when they come into the country to make that commitment to signing up to that, and then in the citizenship test itself it's more about understanding those principles themselves. And of course, with today's migrant intake we've got people who are coming to Australia from around the world, and in many cases from countries whose value systems are quite different to Australia's value system.

For example, in relation to that particular question which you put, in some countries there might be religious laws, or in essence the country will be governed by religious laws rather than by a parliamentary system. And so we really want people to deeply understand that here we are governed by parliamentary laws, and if any religious edict conflicts with the parliamentary law, the parliamentary law of course is paramount.

ROSS STEVENSON: Minister, can I ask you a question then? I know every answer you've given is honest, but could you make sure this one's particularly honest?

ALAN TUDGE: [laughs] I'm waiting with bated breath now.

ROSS STEVENSON: Was the last thing you said to your minder before you took our call, “hey, remind me quickly what's Don Bradman's batting average"?

ALAN TUDGE: [laughs] Ninety-nine point nine four.


ALAN TUDGE: Yeah. No, I know that one.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT: Well done, Minister.

ALAN TUDGE: That is not on the citizenship test.

ROSS STEVENSON: Good on ya. Alan Tudge, Acting Immigration Minister.