The passport exam

As JFK said in Berlin in 1963

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was ‘civis romanus sum’. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’

To be a Roman citizen implied a number of rights, including the right of being tried in Rome before a Roman magistrate.

The ancient Roman traveller used various forms of identification to prove his citizenship, including decrees and signet rings.

Today we use passports which provide evidence of citizenship and (some) proof of identity. With an Australian passport, the bearer has considerable freedom to travel in the world.

This is a bit like a driver’s licence. It should be viewed as both a right and a privilege. Bad drivers cause harm – there are significant negative externalities from poor drivers occupying our roads.

So too there are significant negative externalities when poor travellers use an Australian passport.

Thus we should have an Australia passport exam. Just like a Driver Knowledge Test, we need an International Traveller Knowledge Test. This would be a detailed oral and written exam (fully user funded) which would aim to ensure that citizens issued with a passport have reasonable common sense, can conduct themselves appropriately when overseas, know their responsibilities, understand the risks of overseas travel and know the extent of Australian Government assistance provided when travelling.

The International Traveller Knowledge Test (ITKT) would be a natural complement to the English Language Consular Service System. It could include questions such as:

What is the capital of Indonesia?: (a) Bali, (b) Jakarta or (c) Java

What should you do if robbed while overseas?: (a) Panic, (b) Visit the local Police, (c) go to the ELCSS

What is the currency in the Eurozone?: (a) Yen, (b) Euro, (c) Pound

What is that which in the morning goes upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?

What is the main language spoken in Bangkok? (a) Bankokese, (b) English, (c) Thai

What is the estimated flight time from Sydney to Singapore?

What type of drugs can you take to Indonesia?

What does an Ambassador do? (a) Represent lost Australians; (b) represent the Government; (c) sacrifice his/her liver for his/her country.

Is it ok to lend your passport or sell your passport to a friendly local?

What is a visa? (a) a type of credit card (b) a document issued by a foreign country allowing the bearer to enter (or apply to enter) the country (c) a car.

Which Australian passport would you like to buy? (a) the blue passport; (b) the green official passport; (c) the red diplomatic passport.

Any other good questions for the exam?

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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68 Responses to The passport exam

  1. Mayan

    When overseas, Thailand, for example, it is perfectly acceptable to behave like a man-slut: true or false.

  2. Mayan

    FYI, I’m in Thailand at the moment. I first visited here quite some years ago to take advantage of a particular Thai surgical skill. It’s lovely place, but the behaviour of other westerners makes me cringe.

  3. Ronaldo

    The best translation of JFK’s statement ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ is?
    (a) I am a man from Berlin
    (b) I am a jam filled donut
    (c ) I would like to have a holiday in Berlin.

    The correct answer is (b).

  4. Mayan

    Most definitely, Ronaldo. Every South Australian would know that.

  5. Grumbles

    Would have to look up average flight Singapore to Sydney so that’s a little silly. I don’t know if knowing the answer to a famous riddle proves anything. Lastly, if I was robbed overseas it would depend on the circumstances, there’s times an embassy visit would be better (never been in any such situation, just saying)

    I get the idea, the questions need some work. How about, “What is Australia’s capital City?”

  6. incoherent rambler

    I would add -

    Name the Prime Minister of Australia.
    Name the Governer-General of Australia.
    Who is is Australia’s head of state?
    How many states in Australia are there?
    What is the capital of Australia?
    Name the previous Prime Minister being investigated by police?

    and randomize (a selection from 2000) the questions asked.

    If you can’t answer the questions you do not get a passport to go fight in the middle east.

  7. Gab

    Hah! I passed the test, Samuel. What happens to those who fail? Is their passport cancelled or just their trip?

    Here’s another question:

    How many alcoholic beverages can you publicly consume in Iran?

  8. James

    Catallaxy has finally jumped the shark and emerged as a neo-fascist website.

  9. Splatacrobat

    FYI, I’m in Thailand at the moment. I first visited here quite some years ago to take advantage of a particular Thai surgical skill. It’s lovely place, but the behaviour of other westerners makes me cringe.

    Wouldn’t happen to be a female asian surgeon as recomended by a certain mousse salesman Mayan?

    I did’t think prostate checks in Australia were that expensive?

  10. James of the Glen

    When in France attending battlefield commemoration services, it is appropriate to wear,

    a. ugg boots, beanie, Guns and Roses t-shirt and dirty jeans

    b. Aussie Disposals surplus Desert Storm battle dress

    c. Great-Uncle Bert’s 1st AIF medals on your left chest

    d. none of these

    e. b and c

  11. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    If I am arrested overseas, it is the job of the Australian Embassy to get me off any charges whatsoever and send me home – True/False

    Why should a Malaysian immigration officer look disgusted because I hand her my passport with my left hand? What is that funny thing she has on her head, anyway?

  12. Oh come on

    FYI, I’m in Thailand at the moment. I first visited here quite some years ago to take advantage of a particular Thai surgical skill. It’s lovely place, but the behaviour of other westerners makes me cringe.

    There are a number of Thai surgical skills that westerners tend to favour that make me cringe.

    And no, I’m not talking about cheap dental or elective surgery that would entail months on a Medicare waiting list.

  13. Any other good questions for the exam?

    How would a German say he’s from Berlin without sounding as if he’s claiming to be a pastry?
    How do we spell licence, as a noun, properly?
    By what promises of certain retribution, backed by strong action, did Rome ensure that other nations would treat Roman citizens well? Similarly, in what way was Jefferson’s treatment of North Africans who enslaved Europeans, or Roosevelt’s treatment of North Africans who threatened the life of one American*, differ from Obama’s treatment of North Africans who slew an ambassador and three other US citizens?
    Is this a rhetorical question? How many roads must a man† walk down before you can call him a man?

    * Perdicaris, who wasn’t actually a citizen of the US.
    † that does seem to be begging the question.

  14. Ant

    This ia a hoax, right?

    But, I’ll play along: When in a toilet cubicle in Malaysia what’s that funny plastic hose hanging off the wall used for?

  15. incoherent rambler

    And two favourites -

    What country is the Queen of England, queen of?
    Who was found guilty at the sheep dog trials?

  16. James of the Glen

    That’s a trick question, Rambler.

    UK, Australia, Canada, NZ, +

  17. Chistery

    If you rape someone, which embassy(s) will support your escape from the law?

  18. James of the Glen

    If you organise a riot, eg on Australia Day, which country will offer you asylum?

  19. Splatacrobat

    Many years ago I went to the Solomon Islands with a church group to help after a cyclone. One of the more evangelical of the group decided to quote a bible passage on the entry card before landing where they ask the reason for visiting the country.
    He wrote “To set the captives free” part of Luke 4:18. He joined us later after 5 hours explainingg to the police he was not there to organise a prison break out.

  20. lotocoti

    That was a cunning trick question, Deadman.
    (Berlinische aren’t from Germany, they’re from Berlin.)

  21. Andrew

    Quite seriously, you haven’t asked question specific to behaviour in the Middle East. Get off the QANTAS plane in Dubai, and you should NOT:
    a) ask for a ham sandwich
    b) be a Joooooooo
    c) pull out a tinnie and start drinking it at the airport
    d) stick your tongue down your girlfriend’s throat and start feeling her ass
    e) change into a miniskirt because it’s fucking hot
    f) have sex on the beach
    g) seek to buy drugs
    h) proposition the nearest girl for sex, and offer her money
    i) if she resists, grab her waist and pull her in for a kiss
    j) say “I haven’t seen this many towelheads since the last Bulldogs* game”
    k) sing along to the Adhan
    l) openly check into a hotel with your g/f
    m) bring tons of food through the Customs in your bag
    n) make “bomb” jokes because it’s funny coz they’re all Arabs
    o) all of the above

    *NRL not AFL

  22. You could ask in what country Austrian is spoken. If the answer is no country, give the applicant a passport. If he says Austria…make him President of the United States. All 57 of them.

  23. 2dogs

    Not an exam, but mandatory travel insurance. All embassies then work an a user pays basis.

  24. Dan

    Insurance is preferable to this fascist bullshit of having to sit an exam to leave the country.

  25. DaveA

    While overseas the patriotic chant “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!” should be:

    a) Repeated frequently to remind your host nation’s people that Australians are a proud, lyrically talented bunch of swashbucklers.
    b) Ejaculated with inebriated fervour at sporting events to boost the moral of competing Australian athletes.
    c) Left at home with your foreign language phrase book.

  26. Pete of Perth

    3 questions:
    What is your name?
    What is your quest?
    What is the air speed of an unladen swallow?

    ..Bridge of Death…

  27. Notafan

    Thailand and Bali Indonesia specifically cater to certain types of tourism, or they wouldn’t be selling cheap booze etc. The government can charge a hefty fee for consular assistance, that is fine with me.

  28. nerblnob

    How many bounces did Ray Gabelich take on his famous goalscoring last quarter run in the 1964 Grand Final?

    Not only should you have to answer this to get a passport, you should be deported to Nauru if you can’t answer it correctly.

  29. Andrew of Randwick

    Bad drivers cause harm – there are significant negative externalities from poor drivers occupying our roads

    – Then why is it, that once you get your drivers licence no other checks (besides eyes) are required every 5 years until you reach the dangerous age of 60 (or it 70 now)?
    – What if Rego & CTP prices were inversely proportional to number of demerit points lost last year?
    .
    As for the rest of article: outsource questioning to private service providers, find operators giving answers before tests, launch taskforce, impose more laws/regulations, establish inspectorate to check service providers annually (then bi-annually, then quarterly, then monthly, then daily), employ more inspectors, liaise with international law enforcement, employ more super-inspectors to check inspectors checking providers….
    Undertake Commission of Audit. Sack all 1,567 public servants. Wait 6 years.
    Start again when an the next Aussie gets into trouble in a foreign land….

  30. Nato

    Wouldn’t it be better to reproduce questions from the citizenship test? What does it matter where you wake up, so long as you can rattle off Aussie factoids to the locals?

    In civilised parts of the world, those locals are even likely to pay for your beer to hear an Aussie yammer out a yarn in our accent.

  31. vlad

    surprised to see the assumption that driver licensing is a given. No licence needed to ride a horse or walk to the shops. Why should we need one for driving?

  32. Alfonso

    Don’t knock the strategic vision, the tourist cognoscenti should congratulate Qantas on its masterstroke of replacing Singers with Dubai. The locals are eager to share the fun of interacting with their State.

  33. JohnA

    How many roads must a man† walk down before you can call him a man?

    Strewth, Deadman, cor luv a duck, that’s a bonzer question – but every hitchiker knows that’s umm…
    .
    .
    .
    .
    oh, yes, 42!

  34. I had thought the answer, JohnA, was “Blowin’ in the wind”.

  35. Shelley

    Having taken a risky holiday in which you decided against taking out travel insurance and whereupon you engage in activities such as jumping off rocky outcrops into wild seas after having one too many bevvies, somewhere along the coast of Croatia, you suddenly find yourself permanently injured and unable to fly back to Australia for treatment due to the cost because you didn’t have travel insurance, do you:

    a) Elicit lots of public sympathy via A Current Affair et al, whilst also asking where your heartless government is and what they are doing about your self inflicted plight;
    b) Have your family and friends organise a big charity event with mass media and social media coverage, whilst asking where your heartless government is and what they are doing about your self inflicted plight;
    c) Get lots and lots of airtime across radio, tv, social media, whilst also asking where your heartless government is and what they are doing about your self inflicted plight.
    d) All of the above.
    e) None of the above, I would have travel insurance and not acted like a complete tosser.

  36. Denise

    Splatacrobat
    #1220959, posted on March 12, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Many years ago I went to the Solomon Islands with a church group to help after a cyclone. One of the more evangelical of the group decided to quote a bible passage on the entry card before landing where they ask the reason for visiting the country.
    He wrote “To set the captives free” part of Luke 4:18. He joined us later after 5 hours explainingg to the police he was not there to organise a prison break out.

    Hahahahah Splat. He should have remembered this verse ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” Matt.10:16. Sheep are notoriously stupid, Jesus was saying don’t act according to nature. There’s a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude about many Christians that is really dangerous, to others if not to themselves. It’s not new, Diet Eman in her ‘Things we couldn’t say’ speaks of a neighbour who was harbouring Jews and omitted to tell them not to flush the toilet umpteen times a day. The hostile neighbours were quick to pick up on that. Lives lost because of naivety.

  37. steve

    (b) I am a jam filled donut

    I always thought a Berliner was a sausage like a Frankfurter, must have my urban legends mixed up

  38. steve

    What is that which in the morning goes upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?

    How does the riddle of the sphinx get a guernsey in this set of rather Asian questions?

  39. feelthebern

    I always thought a Berliner was a sausage like a Frankfurter, must have my urban legends mixed up

    My recollection is that a Berliner refers to a meal not just the sausage.
    It’s typically served like this:
    chopped up sausage;
    chat style roast potatoes (sometimes fries);
    covered in a curry sauce like goop.

    I had one & then was on a train for 2 hours.
    Very unpleasant for me & the rest of the passengers in the carriage.

  40. Jessie

    Andrew of Randwick,
    out of interest, how many of vehicles registered and insured under the names of parents are primarily driven by 18-24 year olds?

    What does an Ambassador do? (a) Represent lost Australians; (b) represent the Government; (c) sacrifice his/her liver for his/her country
    Tricky. Are you referring to the Ambassadorial lifestyle* or the quality of some overseas alcoholic beverages Samuel J?

    * As in those Australians who identify other than as an Australian? Eg the race-identifying types, and/or ideologically; those going overseas (Syria etc) in a non-ADF or activist NGO role, Michael Mansell, KRudd, self-authorised types see 3+4 below etc etc Splatacrobat’s colleague.
    1. A diplomatic official of the highest rank appointed and accredited as representative in residence by one government or sovereign to another, usually for a specific length of time.
    2. A diplomatic official heading his or her country’s permanent mission to certain international organizations, such as the United Nations.
    3. An authorized messenger or representative.
    4. An unofficial representative: ambassadors of goodwill.

  41. feelthebern

    Question: Do you earn frequent flyer points when a Qantas plane flies you home free from a shit hole that you were warned about visiting due to the civil war going on ?

    a) Yes, & they should give you the points sharpish;
    b) No, the free flight home (free to you, but the government was billed for it) was enough;
    c) No, but feel free to bitch & moan about the poor communication from the government & what’s Tony Abbott doing about my connecting flight & can you speak up, I’m listening to John Butler trio on my ipod.

  42. Motelier

    These are not the question that need to be asked when you apply for a passport.

    Everyone has the right to an Australian Passport whether it be blue, green or red.

    However an examination should be carried out on all re-entries to Australia. That way, those that cause problems overseas or who do not deserve to be here in Australia are gently removed from society.

    Let the sheep roam free, those that are valuable will be able to return.

  43. Fess

    (b) I am a jam filled donut

    Correct, but most Germans are too polite to point it out. There’s a tiny awkward moment after he said it and then the crowd goes wild because they know what he meant and loved it. He should have said:
    Ich bin Berliner.
    I think they liked him even better for it, and yes, I’ve found the Germans do have a sense of humour, although maybe not some Prussians:)

  44. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Oh hell. Just lost my passport rights. Failed that test. No good at riddles.

    Thank goodness a vast false passport market in Australia has suddenly arisen since its introduction. All is takes is money. So that’s OK then.

    Vile regulation always breeds a vile response.

  45. tgs

    Sounds like an overly bureaucratic waste of time and money.

  46. Question: There have been eight kings of England called Henry. What was the name of the seventh?

    1. How do you spell Henry?
    2. Henry, but I don’t want a passport.
    3. Is a king the same as a queen in drag?

  47. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    I’ve found the Germans do have a sense of humour

    Heard Adolf Hitler described – in Germany as “the little Austrian corporal with the funny mustache…..”

  48. Combine_Dave

    How many bounces did Ray Gabelich take on his famous goalscoring last quarter run in the 1964 Grand Final?

    This is a trick question, in that if you answer correctly, not only should you not get a passport, you will be deported straight back to Melbourne. And if you are wearing sandals with songs (in prep of drinking VB in the heat of Bali) these will be confiscated from you.

    FIFY

  49. Vasily

    @ Denise

    Actually, Middle Eastern sheep are quite intelligent. They respond when their shepherd calls them by name and follow him wherever he leads because the trust him with their lives. They are the qualities Jesus seeks in his disciples.

  50. james

    Whenever I’m in Thailand and some fellow aussies cause me to cringe I console myself that at least they ain’t Russian.

    Cannot seem to go anywhere in the land of smiles these days without hearing some cheap, overweight Russian bugger with an beautiful yet bored looking slavic dreamgirl on his arm screaming at an embarrassed and incredulous Thai shopkeeper in loud, slow Russian.

    Aussies don’t make pleasant tourists, but by god we are better than some.

  51. Shelley

    Tricky. Are you referring to the Ambassadorial lifestyle* or the quality of some overseas alcoholic beverages Samuel J?

    Jessie, pretty sure he is referring to the American Ambassador in Libya, left to the savages by his own President and government, who then went on to lie about the attack on the Embassy.

  52. .

    I sincerely hope someone is taking the piss out of Australian tourists and not actually proposing such a totalitarian idea.

  53. Max

    How many bounces did Ray Gabelich take on his famous goalscoring last quarter run in the 1964 Grand Final?

    ~ 50 metre Run
    4 bounces

  54. Woolfe

    You seem to know a lot about sheep Vasily? What about Muhammed Vasily?

  55. Sinclair Davidson

    Samuel – when you’ve finished mocking the travel expectations of bogans, there are a couple of humourless libertarians who deserve your attention.

  56. Sinclair Davidson

    I don’t understand why these people should be denied passports. After all the more they travel the less we have to tolerate them. When they do get into trouble it provides media content and diverts government resources away from the broader welfare state. Now I realise this is just the breaking windows fallacy, but breaking windows can be fun it its own right.

  57. Gab

    Here;s another question to add to the list:

    A boogie board is used for:

    a) frolicking in the surf
    b) transporting drugs to another country
    c) fun and I never leave home without one

  58. Combine_Dave

    I sincerely hope someone is taking the piss out of Australian tourists and not actually proposing such a totalitarian idea.

    That’s how I took it. However I wouldn’t mind an exam to prevent Australian passport holders from returning if they have engaged in Islamic terrorism in Syria or kiddie fiddling in Thailand (An impractical and unworkable suggestion I do).

  59. Combine_Dave

    How many bounces did Ray Gabelich take on his famous goalscoring last quarter run in the 1964 Grand Final?

    ~ 50 metre Run
    4 bounces

    Please click below to accept your prize.

    http://asignobservatoryii.webs.com/BarryArmsteadUppercut.jpg

  60. Denise

    Vasily
    #1221320, posted on March 12, 2014 at 10:27 am

    @ Denise

    Actually, Middle Eastern sheep are quite intelligent. They respond when their shepherd calls them by name and follow him wherever he leads because the trust him with their lives. They are the qualities Jesus seeks in his disciples.

    Very true Vasily. Therefore we should listen to our shepherd and not be gullible or naive towards the wolves, as he recommends. It really burns me up when I see how many Christians are taken in by snake oil salesmen like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland, if we have truth on our side, shouldn’t we be able to see through these shysters? Non-believers certainly can.

  61. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Humorless librrtarians? Ulp… would that be me?

    A joke. Quick.
    Nope. I am tired and done in and Shaun Micaleff isn’t helping.

    I know. How many Tassie Tigers can you fit in a phone box?
    None. You have to catch them first.

    Nah? Well at least Da Hairy Ape has just extincted Shaun from our teev.
    That has to improve things.

  62. vlad

    Question: There have been eight kings of England called Henry. What was the name of the seventh?

    That’s actually a good question, David – as perhaps you know already and intended – because Henry VIII’s dad is invariably referred to (or was when I studied history) “Henry Tudor” full stop.

  63. Samuel J

    Humourless libertarians? A contradiction in terms. Anyone who is humourless cannot be a libertarian.

  64. Sinclair Davidson

    That’s my view too – but Mrs D gets annoyed when I refer to people as fuckwits.

  65. Gab

    I don’t understand why these people should be denied passports.

    Actually I’m thinking the whole point is to flag those who fail the test, give them a passport, let them go overseas but stop them from coming back into the country. Samuel is a genius, really.

  66. Everyone has the right to an Australian Passport whether it be blue, green or red.

    T’wasn’t always so.

    For example: One may leave Australia these days without first obtaining a “tax clearance”.

  67. incoherent rambler

    How many bounces did Ray Gabelich take on his famous goalscoring last quarter run in the 1964 Grand Final?

    It does not matter. They lost. beaten (as usual) by a better side.

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