POLITICS

The Lying Game: Turnbull Government Concedes Citizenship Test Can Be Coached And Fudged

If Australia is the most successful multicultural nation in the world, then why this?

20/04/2017 10:43 AM AEST | Updated 20/04/2017 3:01 PM AEST

CANBERRA -- The Turnbull Government has conceded that lying and coaching already befuddles the Australian citizenship test that it wants to strengthen and there are currently laws to deal with them, but it is insisting it must toughen migration rules and make "Australian values" front and centre.

And despite repeatedly stating Australian is already the most successful multicultural nation in the world, Prime Minister insisting on Thursday that there is no room for complacency and reforms are needed.

"What we're doing is strengthening the multicultural society and strengthening the commitment to Australian values," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

"Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It is a privilege.

"And when people apply to be Australian citizens they honour us, of course, because they're offering to join our Australian family, but equally it's important that they understand that they are making a commitment to our Australian values."

The Deputy Prime Minister later said it in a more succinct way.

"You have to accept there are certain things that might be culturally acceptable in other nations that are not acceptable here," Barnaby Joyce said.

"If people believe in genital mutilation for girls, we don't abide by that. If you believe in that, you can't become a citizen of Australia.

"We don't believe there is a polite way to beat up your wife. If you want to beat up your wife, you can't become a citizen of this nation."

Straight up on Thursday, the government announced sweeping changes to the nation's citizenship rules, with new arrivals expected to learn English, prize "Australian values" and demonstrate commitment to the nation by joining clubs and attending school.

Checks of criminal backgrounds will be enhanced with the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton saying on Thursday the current checks are "clearly insufficient".

Part of the new package has to pass parliament - and considering the praise from conservative members of the crossbench like One Nation, it is looking good for the government - but most of the announced changes will apply to all new applications.

Migrants, who have been permanent residents for four years rather than the current one, will be able to take a revamped citizenship test with possible new and "more meaningful" Australian values questions which focus on the treatment of women and children, such as "is female genital mutilation ok?", "is it OK to assault your partner behind closed doors?" and "is it acceptable to keep girls from school?"

So what happens if an applicant has those views?

Are they really expected to admit it?

And what would happen to that person?

The Immigration Minister admitted the obvious.

"People will lie," he stated.

"I mean they lie now in relation to citizenship tests and in relationship to laws that exist now."

So this is already covered by current law.

"That is not an argument for us to do nothing in this space," Dutton insisted.

"Domestic violence is a significant issue in this country. And we shouldn't tolerate one instance of it.

"And the fact that somebody might fudge an answer on a test or an application is no argument against us asking people if you want to become an Australian citizen, abide by our laws and our norms. "

But in taking the pledge of citizenship, people are asked to state they will abide by Australian law.

And domestic violence is already against the law.

So why the need?

"Because it's important to reinforce our values," Turnbull said.

"You should stand up for those values and that's what we're doing.

"You see if we believe that respect for women and respect for women and children and saying no to violence against women and children, if we believe that that is an Australian value and it is and every one of you does believe that, then why should that not be made a key part, a fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen?

"Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions, all very important, about the parliament and how many senators there are from each state. "

But back to lying and coaching, which the Minister admits happens. Criminal activity seems to be the best area where liars could be caught.

"Where there's been criminal activity, that is something that the - or reports of that or evidence of that - that is something that the department will have regard to," Turnbull said.

"If somebody has committed a crime, if there's been an AVO (apprehended violence order) out against them, for example, if there's been evidence of domestic violence, then they can't deny that evidence exists."

But, as the reporter then asked, "If they don't tell the police, why are they going to tell you?"

"What I am saying to you is if there's been evidence of criminal activity, an AVO or a prosecution, that is something the Government will be aware of," Turnbull put forward.

Which brings us back to "people will lie."

Such politically loaded questions would have to pass a public consultation process, but they are the sort of propositions that Dutton denies is targeted at the Muslim community.

"If we were wanting to target particular people we would do that. We are not," the Minister told Triple M radio in Melbourne.

"We are saying, the vast majority of people from any community, I don't care whether it is from the Muslim community, the Jewish community, Christian community, whatever it is. 99 per cent of those people are law abiding, do the right thing."

Citing the largely South Sudanese and Somali Apex gang in Melbourne, Dutton said, "I find it pretty hard to argue that those kids or those parents or people who are committing crime, frankly whether it is domestic violence or crimes against people, breaking into their houses, stealing keys to cars."

"I don't think they should become Australian citizens."

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