Australia Wants New Citizens To Pass A ‘Values’ Test

"Australian values" are at the heart of the country's proposed immigration policy, even if no one can define what those are.

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — REUTERS
Apr 20, 2017 at 11:38 AM ET

Australia wants to make it harder to become a citizen.

The island nation may soon require that prospective citizens prove they know and accept “Australian values,” a phrase repeated several times in the press release announcing the proposed changes released on Thursday.

Should the measures pass — which, NBC News says, they are likely to, given the current right-wing majority in Parliament — applicants for citizenship will be required to spend at least four years as a permanent resident in the country (up from just one), demonstrate a “competent” knowledge of English (rather than just a “basic” one), have integrated into Australian society (being employed and enrolling children in school are cited as examples of this), and correctly answer questions about Australian values. And applicants will no longer get unlimited attempts at the test; three strikes and they are out (to use an American values idiom).

Australia currently has an Australian values statement that applicants must sign, which includes not breaking the law, equality for all genders, races, and ethnicities, and acknowledging that English, the national language, is an “important unifying element” of its society. But the changes are supposed to make “Australian values” the “heart of the citizenship process,” the statement said.

The proposed changes come two days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the current visa system was being replaced with one that reduced the number of occupations eligible for visas and required background checks and an English language test.

When President Trump isn’t hanging up on Turnbull, he is praising the country’s “merit-based” immigration policies, saying he hopes similar policies will be adopted in America, which has traditionally taken the approach of accepting your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Turnbull was criticized (and mocked) for not being able to clearly define what “Australian values” are when asked (“Our values of mutual respect, democracy, freedom, rule of law, those values, a fair go — these they are fundamental Australian values,” was part of his meandering response, the BBC reported), and even the press release seemed to define “Australian values” by what they aren’t (“violence against women and children”) rather than what they are. Accordingly, the term is now being mocked on social media with a hashtag.

Australia accepted 136,572 new citizens from 210 countries between June 2014 and June 2015; most were from India, followed closely by the United Kingdom.