Evaluating Immigrants: The Values Gap

15 March 2024

2.5 MINS

The revelation that 35 per cent of recent applicants failed the Australian Citizenship Test is of concern.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, data reveals more than 100,000 failed citizenship tests over a 14-month period between June 2022 and August 2023.

The data shows the pass rate under Labor has fallen to 65 per cent compared to about 80 per cent under the Coalition between 2017 and 2021. Since the May 2022 election, 288,603 citizenship tests were administered to August 31 last year, with 187,574 tests passed.

The tests, which include 20 multiple choice questions on freedom of speech, the importance of democracy and rule of law, ­require a person to correctly ­answer five questions on Australian values and achieve a mark of at least 75 per cent to pass.

The citizenship test was last updated by the Morrison government in November 2020 to ­include a dedicated section on Australian values.

Mutual Responsibility

The Citizenship Test was announced in December 2006 and introduced when I was the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in October 2007.

During the term of the Howard government, it became clear that many people immigrating to Australia either didn’t understand or didn’t share our values, most likely the former reason.

There was no simple solution to this issue, especially if the nation maintained a non-discriminatory immigration policy and accepted refugees from all parts of the world, based on the greatest needs.

Many people with little or no connection to our western culture were immigrating to Australia. It was not about blaming them for their background or singling them out as ‘different’, but acknowledging that many of the values underpinning the Australian way of life were completely new to them. Surely, we had a responsibility to explain our values – and new immigrants a responsibility to understand them?

A response adopted by many jurisdictions was to introduce a citizenship test.

Announced in December 2006 and operational from October 2007, relatively minor changes have been made by Labor and Coalition governments. Labor did not oppose the introduction of the test.

Worrying Trend

To pass the citizenship test, an applicant must show: a basic knowledge of the English language; an understanding of what it means to become an Australian citizen; an adequate knowledge of Australia and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship; and an understanding and commitment to Australian values based on freedom, respect and equality.

These values are: Commitment to the rule of law; Parliamentary democracy; Freedom of speech, association and religion; Equality of all people under the law; Equality of opportunity and a ‘fair go’; and Mutual respect and tolerance of others.

None of these values are particularly controversial for the majority of Australians. It would appear, however, that at least some of them are problematic for many seeking to become Australian citizens — and for some who were born here or who have become citizens.

For example, the citizenship booklet includes a range of sample questions, including the following.

“In Australia, you can encourage violence against a person or group of people, if you have been insulted:

(a) Yes, if you do not intend to carry out violence

(b) No, it is against Australian values and the law

(c) Sometimes, if I feel very offended.”

To anyone cognisant of our values, the answer clearly is (b) — it is against Australian values and the law.

Yet, there have been a series of recent comments by some community leaders and others urging violence against people of different religious views.  This intolerance should continue to be called out. It is un-Australian.

The government should respond to the Home Affairs data, as well as to recent events.

It should stress to applicants for citizenship that understanding Australian values is critical to becoming an Australian citizen. If necessary, additional resources should be devoted to educating applicants for citizenship.

It should also take action against the people who breach the law and these values. If the existing laws are insufficient, then they should be strengthened.

A nation without shared values cannot survive.


Originally published in The Epoch Times Australia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Jillian Stirling 15 March 2024 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    It is time to call a halt to immigration till we can catch up and ensure proper checks and balances are made. The east coast is overcrowded.

  2. Trina Watson 15 March 2024 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    I agree absolutely! I also believe that many of us whose families have been here for a few generations, should also be reminded of the values we uphold.

  3. Susan dyer 17 March 2024 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I thank god for these core values & if adhered to BY ALL a happy & harmonious life happens.. people not willing to abide by these basic Australian standards should not be permitted entry.. we should not put the fox in the chickens.!!

  4. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 17 March 2024 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    I am fed up with pro -Palestinian Marches and Hate Speech against Jews. Albanese is flooding Australia with huge numbers of migrants who , in my opnion, have no understanding of our Constitution or Values , or desire to learn about them, or ,to uphold them as these Values conflict with one group’s Religious teachings !
    Albanese’s aim is to flood electorates who will vote Labor and IN THEIR IGNORANCE OF OUR AUSTRALIAN CONSTITUTION AND AUSSIE VALUES will vote for Australia to become a Republic . I was pro -Republic all my life, and, even made a donation not so long ago, but, I have now joined the Monarchist League of Australia as I fear that, we , the Australian People , will not be able to control ,perhaps Radical changes if we ” let the Genie out of the Bottle “by voting to become a republic . History shows us that both the French and the Russian Revolutions had moderate and justified aims of reform , but, Extremists hijacked both Movements and the result in France was ” The Reign of Terror ” , and, in Russia– Communism with its 50 different methods of tortures, the suspicious death of Navalny,and the so-called “Free Elections “with Putin in power forever? Do we dare risk a similar Fate for Australia thanks to the ignorance of Civics of migrants who do not share our values?
    It is time ALL Australians are taught about the benefits of our current Constitution which in the 1960s in SA I was ordered to teach in State Schools to High School students. In 1966 at Adelaide Uni I majored in History which is my love. I continue learning about the history and religions of the countries of the World–eg China, Tibet, the USA, Germany , the Pacific Islands, etc, etc .

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