Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Trivia and hypocrisy

If a country said outright that they were going to make immigration dependent on being able to answer a test on national trvia, they'd be a lauhing stock. But the Australian government is planning to do just that. And while the sample questions released today focus on politics and government, from the draft guide on Becoming An Australian Citizen [PDF], other questions may involve having to name battles Australian sporting heroes, or the football codes popular in each state, or battles Australians died in on behalf of their colonial masters. Meanwhile, as Talk It Out points out, its doubtful whether many Australians would know the answers to these questions; most New Zealanders certainly wouldn't have a clue about the kiwi equivalents (seriously. What year did we become a Dominion? Who was our first Prime Minister? If you can answer those off the top of your head I'd be surprised, unless you've been following Lewis Holden's nice little series about the former).

So, the whole thing smells like a bad and rather unfunny joke. But the worst bit is the list of "Australian values" this trivia is supposed to promote. The Australian government wants new Australians to believe in things like freedom of speech, the rule of law, peacefulness, and equality under the law. Which is a bit rich coming from an Australian government which attempts to discourage protests, overrules its courts by executive fiat, invades Iraq (and claims the right to unilaterally conduct military strikes in neighbouring countries), and has legislated against gay marriage while deferring indefinitely steps to improve equality. If John Howard wants immigrants to subscribe to those values, maybe he should start by setting a good example himself?