Dutton keen to overhaul citizenship test

The Immigration Minister is pushing for changes to the citizenship test to better assess whether migrants are willing to embrace Australian values.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has called for changes to the Australian citizenship test, which would affect tens of thousands of people every year.

“We would like to see people adopt, adhere to and abide by Australian values. We want people to abide by our laws, we want people to work hard, we want people to be able to educate their children and to take up English language lessons,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Brisbane.

The minister said 21st century security challenges have placed new demands on the citizenship test and migrants involved in criminal activity need to be put under greater scrutiny.

“For the minority that might seek to do the wrong thing, I think we need to have a closer look at those people to determine whether or not they would value the prize of Australian citizenship or indeed whether or not they deserve Australian citizenship,” he said.

He said there would be a silver lining for those migrants who can demonstrate they have integrated into Australian life with the potential to fast track their citizenship progress.

However, Labor has claimed any changes to the test would be politically motivated by the coalition's increasing need to stem the flow of Australian voters drifting to One Nation.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbulltakes a selfie with newly sworn Australian citizens in Canberra, Jan. 26, 2016. (AAP)

One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson told SBS she would like to see the wait to sit the Australian citizenship test to be increased from four years to seven.

“I think people need to prove themselves as being good citizens and I just think we are too ready to hand out citizenship,” she said.

“If we want to actually get people's loyalty, people must be able to assimilate and to be able to assimilate into a society they must be able to communicate. So the government has to get rid of the interpreters. If we keep providing them with interpreters, they are not going to learn the English language,” she said.

Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm has backed calls for change, saying Australia should look at Switzerland as a potential model where there is a sponsorship program and fellow citizens have to vouch for applicants.

He said the citizenship test should cover people's links to the community, work history and fundamental liberal democratic values such as free speech, equality before the law, rights of women and respect for diversity.

The citizenship test includes 20 questions drawn at random and was first rolled out by the Howard government in 2007.

The Rudd government tweaked the test two years later to cover civic duty and responsibilities.

Deputy Director of the Migration Law Program at the Australian National University, Linda Kirk, says the failure rate for the test is very low at less than 2 per cent.

“The questions are questions about their understanding about Australia, its systems of government, its institutions, its history and the like,” she told reporters in Canberra.

The pass grade for the test was increased from 60 per cent to 75 per cent in 2009, so at least 15 of the 20 questions need to be answered correctly.

Other countries which have citizenship tests include: France, the Netherlands, Germany, the US, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Denmark and Switzerland.

Assyrian Iraqi migrant, Raghda Aziz, 27, passed the citizenship test with full marks in August 2015.

She told SBS it wasn't easy and she spent more than a month studying.

“I was so nervous at that time because I studied very hard for that test,” she said.

Toma Yousif, 64, migrated to Australia with his family in 2013 after fleeing Iraq.

He has been hoping to become an Australian citizen but said his poor English has already held him back from finding solid work in Australia over the past few years

He has been taking English and computer lessons to help him pass the test.

“I see this country as my country, but what they should do is make the questions easier. Particularly for the older people, who may not understand English as much as they hope," he said.

“They need to help me. Help me make our situation a little bit easier so that we can see this country as our country. As soon as we arrived we felt this was our country.”

-With AAP