Pauline Hanson, Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi all say that they are totally committed to the defence of the Australian Way of life. But, they differ broadly when they endeavour to explain to us what it is they are defending.
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have differing versions of the Australian Way, but both also disagree with some of what Hanson, Abbott and Bernardi have to say.
So, how does the average Aussie punter work out what it is we are all supposed to be promoting and defending?
Embarrassingly for more moderate citizens, there seem to be some broad areas of common bias.
The primary one is a strong belief that Australia must be defended from hordes of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as foreign workers and investors who bring with them sharia law and burkas and terrorists. Added to this is a primitive view that gays, lesbians and aborigines represent a threat to ‘decent’ society.
So, how do we find common ground on what it is in Australian life we should be standing up for as we try to curb the influence of those supposed ‘infidels’ and, much more formidably, how can we achieve it? Sadly, too many seem to believe that the creation of an atmosphere of fear is a good way to begin.
May I suggest that a good starting point is to go back to the time of the Federation of Australian States in 1901.
Currently, I am writing a book about this historic event. I have entitled it “Dinner with the Founding Fathers”. In researching it, I found that two of the eminent Founding Fathers made a huge effort to have a Preamble to the Constitution adopted which set out the values of the Australian people.
Alfred Deakin, who served as Prime Minister three times, was an ardent spiritualist. He teamed up with Bolton Stafford Bird, a Tasmanian MP and Congregational Church Minister, to try to achieve this, but they failed because the delegates to the Constitutional Conventions could not agree on what Australian Values were, mainly because of the hatred that existed between Protestant and Catholic delegates who were miles apart on what was the Christian standpoint.
Further attempts have been made over the past 116 years, including one by John Howard a decade ago, but they got nowhere near gaining unanimity.
So, for the purposes of my book, I decided to reopen the debate by writing my own version of an acceptable Preamble that in my view the Founding Fathers should have adopted.
My most recent draft reads like this,
“Australians are a free people who aspire to a quality of life which is based on equality of opportunity, intelligent and committed effort, mutual support, personal generosity and loyalty to our nation.
We acknowledge the rich heritage of indigenous people who were the first to enjoy life on our continent, as well as the more recent contribution made by settlers who came here from other lands.
It is our tradition to welcome to our shores migrant people of all cultures, whatever their religious and ethnic backgrounds. In doing so, it is our expectation that all New Australians will adopt a way of life that is expected of responsible citizens who want to live in peace to achieve prosperity through a spirit of ‘mateship’ which is inbuilt into our culture.
Importantly, this includes an unqualified acceptance and observance of our laws.
These laws are based on encouraging equality and providing justice for all, but also make a clear acknowledgement that no laws shall ever be passed that are based on religious beliefs ascribed to any faith.
We live in peace with all who inhabit the world, but we will always rise to defend those who are denied freedom or suffer oppression.
We presume that all who gain the privilege of living in Australia will affirm their wholehearted acceptance of our Constitution, especially the words contained in this Preamble.”
It is my sincere hope that many of you who read my words will let me have your thoughts on how these words can be improved. So far, I have laboured over many drafts, this in fact being the eleventh, and I reckon it will take at least twenty before I can get it anywhere near being acceptable to a majority of Australians.
In the final analysis, the purpose of words like these which can begin our Constitution is to create the opportunity for a majority of Australians to personally commit with pride to making a unique contribution to the enhancement of our national life, using their special talents to do something significant that will add to the quality of humanity by which we live.
In my most recent book, The Man on the Twenty Dollar Notes, I record John Flynn’s most famous words which concisely set out the personal challenge.
“One day, each one of us must ask ourselves the question, WHY AM I HERE?”.
Yours at Large
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