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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Howard calls for immigrant tests
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

John Howard (archive image)
Mr Howard said there was nothing racist about his policy
Australian Prime Minister John Howard says new immigrants should pass an English language test before becoming citizens.

They will also have to sign up to as yet undefined Australian values, and might be asked to sit a test on their knowledge of Australian history.

Mr Howard denied there were any racist overtones in the policy.

With almost a quarter of its 20m people born overseas, Australia is a nation of immigrants.

But the Howard government has long been worried about the social pressures and threat to national identity caused by the arrival of so many new people from such diverse backgrounds.

Mr Howard is determined that foreigners seeking citizenship should quickly embrace a quintessentially Australian way of life, and leave behind their previous national, religious and ethnic allegiances.

In his view, immigrants should be able to pass an English language test and sign up to some kind of oath of allegiance before being granted citizenship.

But the prime minister said the proposals would not mark a return to the so-called White Australia policy, used until the 1950s to exclude mainly Asian immigrants.

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