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.

2 Responses to “Tests of “values””
  1. Australian Values, Australian Gold

    I live in a nation of ghosts and spirits, of Anzac martyrs and rural massacres. The damp soil of Gippsland, the haze of her mountain ash – I was born here; but if you think that being Australian is a birthright, you do not understand my country. My country is wattle and blood.

    Melbourne is all around me, the ferns protecting William Ricketts, the river whose Yarra water draws up the clay, the bindi-i in the summer grass, and the two-dollar buskers and cafes edging the wide streets.

    The magic of my land whispers deeper than prawns on barbies and bikinis in utes. I have lost patience with displays of bloody-minded jingoism. Posts are for football, not for displaying the flags of patriotic insecurity.

    Leaving Bendigo in 1916, my great grandfather’s mining lungs could not contend with the poison air of the Somme fields. He died on a hospital ship, never to return. He had marched under the flag and sung the anthem; they were rags and noise compared to the children he left orphaned at home. The entrepreneurs of war lied to him, but his intention was true.

    I am a part of the Australian community. Do not glibly say “one nation”: our country longs to be as one.

    We slag on the vacuous slogans of politians and the questionnaires of immigration bureaucrats. Our parliament mound infested with termites. They rejected our values when they took office shaking the hands of the perentie clans, their business mates. Leadership must be earned. Our Kelly sons went way too far in their war on the authorities, but we felt the injustice that took them to the edge.

    Nor do we fear religion. We have been inside temples and churches, listened to humanists and prayed in mosques. Our feeble attempts to understand the transcendent only gives us affection for our fellow peoples, and a desire to depose the little kings of racism and fear that threaten their peace.

    We celebrate our failures. Peter Lalor’s wounding at Eureka stockade, the betrayal of Nancy Wake in resistance France, Albert Namatjira despondent in prison; these people are our characters. To be ‘true blue’ is not the ashes of success; it is to have integrity.

    We demand a fair go for all humans, for family and friends and especially strangers. We barrack for the underdog (even at times for Collingwood!). We want to hear the stories of the refugee children, to decide for ourselves. And we know that it is never too late to engrave a treaty, to admit our past failures.

    For I am an Australian, my culture the bastard child of indigenous and intruder civilisations. Not until I acknowledge our rainbow heritage can I know who I am. Only when I understand that this ground cannot be bought and sold am I truly at home. The home that I love.

    Coburg, June 2007

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