CANBERRA, Australia—Australia’s government broadened a crackdown on immigration with plans to test citizenship applicants on their acceptance of the country’s culture—a change it denies targets Muslims.
The new citizenship test, which the government says is meant to gauge a migrant’s attitude toward “Australian values,” is expected to include questions on issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence. The current 20-question test ranges over subjects such as the Constitution and World War I history.
“Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Thursday.
Turnbull’s government, which has slipped sharply in opinion polls since cliffhanger elections last July in which far-right, antimigrant and populist parties gained strength, earlier this week said it would tighten rules on the entry of skilled foreign workers. This “Australia First” switch is in line with “America First” policy promises made by U.S. President Donald Trump.
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Australia’s postwar immigration is generally seen as a success, with surveys showing broad public acceptance of policies that have created a country in which a quarter of the population was born overseas. A 2015 study found 9 in 10 Australians believe the multiculturalism that began with a wave of Greek and Italian arrivals in the 1950s, joined by Asian migrants in the 1980s, has been good for the country.
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But as the economy has slowed since the end of a record mining boom four years ago, and global worries about terrorism have risen, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam sentiment has grown. In the last election the far-right One Nation Party—which borrowed from the campaign rhetoric of Trump and European far-right parties with a call for Muslim-migration ban—became an influential force.
An expanded version of this story appears on WSJ.com.
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