What is the likely effect of the citizenship test on public opinion?

The Australian political class is convinced that Australians are racists and John Howard uses that racism to political advantage. With the citizenship test announced yesterday, Malcolm Fraser pondered:

Why have a new citizenship test for migrants and a flurry of talk about values reared their heads at this point? Is it about creating fear in the minds of many Australians? Is this the politics of race? Is the government using code to say that Moslems are different and that they don???t fit in?

Richard Farmer referred to the ‘transparent nature of Howard’s appeal to prejudice’. Peter van Vliet of the Ethnic Affairs Council warned that:

Now, as the 2007 election approaches we have a new race card, this time focusing on the enemy within.

But perhaps this has things the wrong way around. Howard does know that the Australian community is uneasy about some migrant groups. Already back in the 1980s, Muslims did worst in a social distance survey. The long list of PR disasters since isn’t going to have improved Islam’s image. But Howard is also a strong believer in social cohesion and that most Australians are not racists. As my article in the previous link shows, while many Australians will admit to ‘prejudices’, public opinion research also suggests that most Australians are not closed to any particular group, provided that they try to ‘fit in’. On this logic, greater confidence that people are meeting ‘fitting in’ criteria could increase acceptance of migrant groups, and a citizenship test is one way to demonstrate that migrants have made a reasonable attempt to fit in.
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The hilarious reincarnation of the DLP

The surprise election of two Democratic Labor Party candidates to the Victorian Legislative Council has bloggers appalled. ‘Proportionate my arse’ says Urban Creature. ‘For crying out loud, not again’ laments GrodsCorp. ‘Mr Lefty’ condemns the ‘unbelievable f***ing hypocrites in the ALP’, whose preference deals helped it happen.

But more than any of this, it is just hilarious. I burst out laughing when told the news last night. The Democrats should not give up! Kim Beazley should not give up! If the DLP can come back to political life, anyone can. And the irony of Labor preferences bringing back the people who kept them in Opposition for so long makes it all the more amusing.

People say that proportional representation is more democratic than single member electorates. But what it seems to do in Australia is elect candidates that have negligible primary vote support, but manage to stitch up preference deals with the major parties that the PR system was designed to balance.