Questions on Child Marriage, Genital Mutilation, Wife-Beating Included in New Australian Citizenship Test

By Patrick Goodenough | April 21, 2017 | 4:19am EDT
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

( – Future applicants for Australian citizenship will asked a series of questions on “Australian values,” touching on subjects such as wife-beating, child marriage, genital mutilation and girls’ right to an education.

The government denies these questions are targeting Muslims.

“They’re not pointed at anybody in particular,” Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told a morning television show Thursday, when asked if Muslims were in the government’s crosshairs.

“They’re pointed at people who might think domestic violence is okay – well it’s not,” he said. “We should say to people who want to become Australian citizens that it is against the law, and if you have a different view, frankly we don’t want you to become an Australian citizen.”

Later Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a raft of changes to the country’s citizenship policies. In future applicants will have to have lived in the country for four years rather than one, take a more stringent English test, and the citizenship test questions will be broadened to deal with what he called “Australian values.”

“We don’t define ourselves, like many other countries do, by race or religion or ethnicity,” he said in a television interview on Thursday night.

“We’re defined by a commitment to a common set of political values,” Turnbull continued, listing some of these as “freedom, equality of men and women, mutual respect, the rule of law, democracy, ‘fair go.’”

He said while they were shared with many other democracies, “there’s something uniquely Australian about them.”

“We’re proud of them, we’re committed to them, we should celebrate them, and we should put them at the core of becoming an Australian citizen.”

Currently, the test taken by applicants for citizenship comprises 20 questions with multiple choice answers, with a 75 percent pass rate required. Questions typically cover Australian history and general knowledge, and the political and electoral system. (The Australian notion of “fair go,” incidentally, is defined in one test question as relating to “the achievements in life due to skill, experience, and ability of an individual.”)

Samples of possible new questions, provided by the government, include:

--Does Australia’s principle of freedom of religion mean that in some situations it is permissible to force children to marry?

--In Australia’s multicultural society, under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals?

--While it is illegal to use violence in public under what circumstances can you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home?

--Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?

Despite the government’s denials, these issues are most often associated in the modern world with Islamic countries, especially those where hardline interpretations hold sway.

Political analysts suggested that Turnbull has introduced the changes – two days after he announced new rules for holders of temporary skilled work visas – because his government is suffering from poor polling numbers.

While the official opposition Labor Party is polling well, recent months have also seen a surge in support for One Nation, a populist party with an anti-immigration message.

“Does anyone really imagine Malcolm Turnbull's new ‘Australia first’ #AustralianValues approach isn't because of One Nation pressure?” the party’s leader, Pauline Hanson, tweeted after the announcement.

“Looks like Malcolm Turnbull has been reading One Nation 2016 campaign flyers for inspiration,” added Hanson, one of four One Nation senators in the federal parliament.

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