Phillip Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2008
A question about Sir Donald Bradman is expected to be dumped from the citizenship test under an overhaul by the Rudd Government to make the test fairer and more relevant to migrants of all backgrounds.
The question is one of several Labor believes was written by the former prime minister, John Howard. Another, which expects budding citizens to know that 1788 was the first year of white settlement, is also likely to be jettisoned, sources say.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans, will commission a review of the questions today. It will be conducted in April, which will be six months after the test was implemented.
Senator Evans will also release figures today showing that during the first three months of the test, from October to December, 18 per cent of the 9043 people who sat it failed at their first attempt.
People can sit the test as many times as they need to. After subsequent tests, the failure rate fell to 7.1 per cent.
The test was introduced by the Howard government. It involves a sample of multiple choice and true-or-false questions selected from a pool of 200 questions.
Senator Evans said while the test was generally working, “a range of concerns” had been raised about some of the questions and these would be dealt with in the review.
“More work needs to be done to make sure the right questions are asked and there are no unintended barriers for people who wish to become Australian citizens,” he said. “We need to make sure that the test does not disadvantage those people who most need our support.”
The Bradman question asks prospective citizens to name Australia’s greatest cricketer of the 1930s and the answers give them a choice between Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Hubert Opperman and Walter Lindrum.
Given that citizens from 172 countries have sat the test, a senior Labor source said this question was unfair to many.
“It must be fair for people of all different cultures, and asking them about cricket is a bit of an ask, to be honest.”
Most questions, which expect people to acknowledge basic values such as freedom of religion and association, as well as to be aware of Australia’s democratic and judicial institutions, would be retained.
“Then there’s a whole set that John Howard wrote,” the source said.
“They are focused on things that aren’t necessarily critical to become a citizen.”
The figures to be released today show people from Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq struggled the most, with failure rates of 29.6 per cent, 24.9 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.
South Africans, Indians and Filipinos have the lowest failure rates, of 0.9 per cent, 1 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.
Skilled migrants were the most successful, with 97 per cent passing the test. Family migrants have a 90 per cent pass rate, and refugees admitted under the humanitarian program have a pass rate of only 80 per cent.