20 May 2007

Howard's Values? You Been Punk'd!

Ozblogistan's weekend revolved around some leaked "sample questions" from the government's new Citizenship Test. But today Howard himself says the questions are "not ours". So what's going on?

It seems the questions were first published by News Ltd on Thursday, then quickly reported on ABC and other sites. This Herald Sun story, which seems to be the originating point, cited an official government source:
Office of the Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, Canadian, British and US citizenship tests
I posted about it on Thursday afternoon and many other blogs (including Tim "Inside The Tent" Dunlop) followed suit.

Club Troppo has more details of the scam. The Larva gang suggest someone was flying a kite to see which way the wind blows, but has now gone home for a re-think.

So was this a desperate government making up policy on the run? I think this Reuters story by James Grubel holds the key:
Andrews on Friday said the government had not yet decided the questions to go into the citizenship test...
So James Grubel actually bothered to ring the source and verify the facts for himself! A lesson there for all of us, I think.

Grubel's article appears to have been filed at 2:14 am on Friday morning, Canberra time: it's unlikely (but not impossible) that the government would have pulled the questions so quickly.

Andrew Bartlett suggests this was more of a dog whistle than a kite-flying-episode:
The big dog whistle question is number 15. No doubt the government is hoping there will be some outrage expressed about it so the resulting controversy can push the desired political buttons amongst their target constituency.
I think that is probably closer to the truth, and more in keeping with the Howard government's latest Karl-Rove-style election tactics. Machiavelli would be proud.

The good news from all this? Hopefully Australian media sites will not be so quick to jump on future News Ltd stories without some independent verification. Don't trust Murdoch journos!!!

UPDATE: It's also interesting how this little episode exposes our trust (or not) in media. In the Murdoch era of journamilism, citizens do well to adopt a cautious attitude to what they read. But what about the stuff you don't even get to read? Via Antony Loewenstein, here are the Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007
1. Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media

2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran

3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger

4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US

5. High-Tech Genocide in Congo

6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy

7 US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq

8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act

9. The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall

10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians

11. Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed

12. Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines

13. New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup

14. Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US

15. Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner

16. Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court

17. Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda

18. Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story

19. Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever

20. Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem

21. Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers

22. $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed

23. US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe

24. Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year

25. US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region