Me Speak the England Pretty

Parlimentary secretary, Andrew Robb is currectly exploring the possibility of a compulsory exam in order to become Australian.


THE Federal Government is seriously considering making fluency in English a requirement for becoming an Australian. Parliamentary secretary Andrew Robb last night said he was examining prospects for a compulsory citizenship test for migrants. And Mr Robb wants Islamic religious leaders to give their sermons in English and train home-grown imams. Mr Robb, a fast-rising MP with junior responsibilities in immigration and multiculturalism, said studies had shown knowledge of English was the strongest determinant in getting a good job. “People have raised that because a functional level of English is fundamental to quick and effective integration, it should be a formal requirement for citizenship,” he told the Sydney Institute. Another requirement could be a “general understanding” of Australian values, customs, systems, laws and history. Mr Robb said smoother integration would be in both a migrant’s and the community’s interests. “For this reason, I am prepared to have a serious look, over the next couple of months, at the merits of introducing a compulsory citizenship test,” he said. “As a nation we have a proud history of moulding a dynamic, stable and strong community from a diversity of cultures and long-standing Australian values. The Daily Telegraph, April 28, 2006

As a future Australian permanent resident and citizen, I feel very strongly about this. Everyone goes on about Australian’s identity being based on multiculturalism (a contradiction in terms anyway!) and how it is so important for everyone to recognise the differences in the way people behave, worship and go about their daily lives. This is all fine with me, but I totally disagree with these little cultural enclaves in every city where the different nationalities keep to themselves and intentionally (or unintentionally) boycott proper integration into the Australian community. These communities ensure that foreigners living in Australia (because, in my opinion, that is exactly what they are if they make no effort to mix) can operate perfectly well, speaking their own language and living in their own world. Let them loose in the city or a place that they are not familiar with and they would have a big problem. They are 100% reliant on their relatives and locational support structures in order to function.

This problem appears to be a result of refugees moving over as well as from family-sponsored migrations. We hear about these cases everyday. They go something like this:

Mr M.I. Grant comes from China. His first language is Chinese, but he can “speak little bit English good”. He studies English in China or Australia (on a student visa) and passes the internationally-accredited English proficiency exam (the fact that he could have a photographic memory and manages to pass without actually being able to “SPEAK” the language is besides the point).
Mr M.I. Grant then studies a required skill or trade in Australia (still on his student visa) and secures himself a employment soon thereafter. Australia is short on unskilled labour and, because he can speak English and his profession is in demand, a year or two onshore and Mr. M.I. Grant is a Permanent Resident. Let me just clarify, I have no problem with this. Learning English takes time, and he clearly has the basic language framework in place and will improve the more he speaks to locals / colleagues / friends etc. So 10 out of 10 for him making something of his life, working hard, making a living, securing his childrens future and taking the initiative to relocate to the land of milk and honey.

The problem starts when Mr. M.I. Grant is at the pub after a hard day on site. He is having a beer or ten with his mates and he meets some bird from China who is on holiday. Her and her mates can’t speak any English, but this doesn’t deter Mr. Grant because he is fluent in Chinese. So they have a good chat and one thing leads to another and they decide to get married and to go forth and multiply. By this stage he has been I the country for 5 years and he is allowed to sponsor his future spouse so that she can be with him in Australia. In order to qualify as an Australian citizen’s spouse, you don’t need to do anything! You don’t need to be skilled, you don’t need to pass your medical and (you guessed it!), you don’t have to be able to speak English! Basically, you are allowed to live in Australia just because a local digs you and wants to have you around!

So the Grants are very happy together and they live in China Town in Sydney because that is where Mrs Grant feels most comfortable because the shopkeepers speak her language, the shops sell the food she is used to and she can make friends with people whom she can communicate with. All is good and so the Grants decide to have some babies. Now, without parents being around to help, having babies can prove quite challenging. It would also be “nice for baby Grant to have his grandparents around” etc. So they start sponsoring their family members to come over on a family visa to a) help with the kids or b) move here permanently.

This is where things get stupid. Before we know it, both sets of parents come over (as well as brothers, sisters and the rest of the Grant brigade. They move into China town for exactly the same reasons as Mrs. Grant and fail to find work or leave the confines of China town simply because they cannot speak “Strine”.

Now I would have no problem with the above scenario is it didn’t render most of the migrants economically inactive. It is hard enough getting a job if you are English here, let alone if you can’t even answer basic interview questions. Whilst it would only be a “baby step”, I think that making an English test compulsory when applying for any Permanent Resident visa would definitely help the situation. It will make people think twice about moving their entire family here, the fees to take the test would make for good funding and people will no longer have to isolate themselves in the little Chinas, Turkeys and Indias of Australia.


  1. Justin Geaney, 1. May 2006, 11:27

    Hey Sam… I understand your point… but having just gone through the immigration process with Ryugo myself, there are some things that need to be pointed out. Spouses do need to have a medical check up (and not just the gay ones). It is also a very strict medical check that excluded an American friend of mine just because she had protein in her urine (it’s not even a problem… they just can’t explain why so they said no).

    Secondly… while there may be no requirements other than a medical check on the actual applicant, there are a lot of requirements on the sponsor. The main responsibility is that he/she can financially support any applicant for 2 years after their arrival.

    They are usually quite flexible for the spouse/children… and the financial requirements aren’t that high. But for a parents etc it gets tough. So unless Mr Wong (Grant??) is a dentist (for example) and is raking in a river of cash from Aussies with peasant teeth (not an example… sadly a fact!) he will have a hard time bringing over anyone not of a downward linear relationship. So I don’t think it is as easy as the media makes it out to be.

    I do however agree with this test idea. At the moment you have to wait 2 years after being granted PR before you qualify to be a citizen (provided you spent the majority of that time on shore, or off shore as long as you are with your Australian partner). I think that PR status should have to be converted to citizenship within a year of qualifying, and that to qualify you should have to pass a test. If not go the f$@k home!

  2. Sam, 1. May 2006, 12:39

    I was just going by what my lawyer said. When I was having issues trying to get CAT scans and a variety of other waste-of-money and useless tests done for my medical (for a supposed “spot on my lung” which was never there in the first place!!), my lawyer said that should there be a problem with my skilled visa application, I just have to wait until Michael and I apply on the strength of our defacto relationship, because then the medical is of very little importance when lodging an application of this kind. She said that on the grounds of being the spouse of an Australian citizen, they have knowingly let people into the country who are HIV positive. Immigration views this as “the right of an Australian citizen to be with their life partner”. So I guess there are a number of theories going around labout this…but I know that they are significantly more strict with medicals when applying for skilled migration as opposed to defacto – the details of which I am not 100% sure. I hope for the sake of the welfare of the country, you are right. I am in absolute support for strict medicals regardless of the nature of the migration application.

  3. Michael, 1. May 2006, 15:03

    I agree with the test on the basis that immigrants should add value to the economy – and I agree that this can only be made more difficult when one doesn’t speak the common tongue.

    However, whilst I agree with the fact that everyone should be able to converse in the national language and that the Grants should be happy with the idea of “chucking another shrimp on the barbie” (with a side of rice, perhaps), the multiculturalist in me is very proud of Australia’s inclusive culture. I admit that it is somewhat of a contradiction, but a large part of my Australian identity consists of welcoming foreign friends – as long as they are indeed “friends”!.

    In my humble opinion, it is inevitable that foreigners band together when on foriegn soil – consider the number of Australia Day parties that occur in London as proof of this. I guess the crux is that “friends” should indeed make it a priority to immerse themselves within their host country… especially if they’ve chosen it as a new home. With this attitude, the socio-political side of the problem would solve itself.

    From our angle the real threat is creating and perpetuating stereotypes – some of the most Australian people I’ve ever met have been Chinese! As I step down from my soapbox, I’ll part with the fact that many of us must carefully draw the line between encouraging “Australianism” and inciting racism.

    (hopefully I’ve managed to make a point!)

    With that, I think I’ll go and give my South African girlfriend (Bokkie!) a hug.

    Mag ek biltong asseblief kry?

  4. Justin Geaney, 2. May 2006, 13:21

    Australia was criticised a few years back for not letting partners (married or otherwise) in if they were HIV+ or had Hepatitis B. Again, their justification was money. If you have enough money to pay for all your drugs then maybe they would let you in… thankfully I don’t know anyone in this situation so I can’t say for sure. But I am sure that if they thought an applicant would cost Australia money, they wouldn’t even think before saying NO!! (and fair enough!!)

    Some countries (won’t say where, but I am going there soon) won’t allow an HIV+ person to enter the country on anything but a tourist visa. And a friend of mine there told me ministers have commented that as soon as it is cost effective and minimally invasive to screen all people entering the country, they would like to exclude HIV+ tourists as well. I think this is a little bit extreme… what do you think?

  5. NORM, 12. May 2006, 23:53

    May I refer you to our South African experts on matters medical, with particular reference to HIV/AIDS — our health minister greengrocer whatever her name is, our pres Mbeki who has simil;ar off the wall ideas and good old JZ — just have a good shower after the event!! No problems thereafter!

  6. Alex Walden, 8. June 2006, 16:10

    Regarding protein in urine: it’s a sign of dehydration or having had too many drinks the day before. I had it too and the doctor told me to drink 2 litres of water in 30 min and then repeat that test … woohoo, I passed. In my case it was a rather large amount of socially enforced alcoholic refreshing beverages the night before … but I never thought one could feel sick of water. The drive from Brisbane to the Gold Coast was the worst in my entire life.


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