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- 07-18-2006, 09:07 PM #1
States attack English test for migrants au
States attack English test for migrants
Jewel Topsfield, Canberra
July 19, 2006
THE states and territories have backed Victoria's concerns over a citizenship test, claiming the Snowy Hydro scheme would never have been built if migrants had been forced to take a compulsory English test.
Victorian Multicultural Affairs Minister John Pandazopoulos has slammed a proposal by Andrew Robb, Parliamentary Secretary to the Immigration Minister, to introduce a compulsory citizenship test that would assess English language skills and knowledge of Australian values.
Mr Pandazopoulos told the Ministerial Council on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in New Zealand last week that a compulsory test would be patronising and insulting.
ACT Multicultural Affairs Minister John Hargreaves believed compulsory English testing was "a policy of exclusion", while his Northern Territory counterpart, Kon Vatskalis, said it "smelled strongly of racism".
Mr Hargreaves said: "If this policy had been in place over 50 years ago, the Snowy hydro-electric scheme would not have been constructed, and the nation is in debt to those non-English speaking migrants."
Mr Vatskalis, who migrated to Australia when he was 27, said knowledge of English did not make someone a good citizen. He said no one at the ministerial meeting had been able to give a concrete answer when asked to define an Australian value.
West Australian Citizenship Minister Tony McRae described a citizenship test as a "backwards step" that would prove a huge barrier to refugees with limited schooling or who came from places with purely oral language traditions.
Stepan Kerkyasharian, a NSW Government delegate at last week's ministerial meeting, said NSW would be keen to make sure any test was not a barrier to people taking out citizenship, given the history of dictation tests in Australia.
The infamous dictation test, which was abolished in 1958, excluded people on racial grounds by asking them to pass a dictation test in a language determined to ensure they would fail.
Queensland Multicultural Affairs Minister Chris Cummins also expressed caution.
"We've had some people come to Australia who haven't been able to speak English but have still made a great contribution to Australia, so let's be very careful with this," he said.
But Mr Robb said the state and territory Labor ministers were simply playing politics on the issue.
"They have never bothered to communicate these views to me, and they would be well advised to wait for the results of my investigation into the merits of the many citizenship tests that are a standard part of government policy in many other countries around the world," he said.
"It is plain common sense to encourage new citizens to get a workable level of English if they are to make the most of the wonderful opportunities available to them in Australia."
http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/ ... 83330.htmlEND OF AN ERA 1/20/2009