The lack of political commitment to an inclusive democracy has been brought into the limelight once again.
Stimulated by the fear that the One Nation Party will garner votes in the forthcoming Queensland state election, the dog-whistle has been brought out. Instead of demolishing racism and religious bigotry, the Turnbull government, following the previous example of John Howard, has opted for compromise on basic principles.
As the ABC summed it up “The new measures would see migrants face a tougher citizenship test which will assess their commitment to Australia and their attitudes to religious freedom and gender equality.”
Michelle Grattan, now Professorial Fellow at the University of Canberra, nailed the bigotry on the head. The samples given of what could perhaps be incorporated into the new citizenship tests were stark:
- Does Australia’s principle of freedom of religion mean that in some situations it is permissible to force children to marry?
- In Australia’s multicultural society, under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals?
- While it is illegal to use violence in public under what circumstances can you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home?
- Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?
Such questions model faithfully the stereotype of Islam promulgated by the One Nation Party and the various anti-halal and bigot groups fighting their delusion of “shariah law.”
As Grattan comments; “If anyone thinks these questions are not directed to pick up on anti-Muslim feeling, consider this. What would Finance Minister Mathias Cormann have thought if confronted with such questions when he became an Australian citizen? It’s a fair bet he’d have been amazed. But then they are not about former Belgians like Mr Cormann. They are about Muslims.”
During the very month in which the much vaunted values of ANZAC are commemorated, we have a repeat performance of the politics of exclusion. The website of the Australian War Memorial, in describing what are seen as the values of ANZAC, states of the outcome of Gallipoli; “Although there was no military victory, the Australians displayed great courage, endurance, initiative, discipline, and mateship. Such qualities came to be seen as the Anzac spirit. Many saw the Anzac spirit as having been born of egalitarianism and mutual support .”
Turnbull, with Dutton at his side, did not mention these values, which they will extol on the anniversary of Gallipoli. There was no courage displayed by their style of leadership, no mateship, no egalitarianism or mutual support.
Instead they opted for stereotyping, dog-whistling and kow-towing to the bigots of the extreme right. Stan Grant, an indigenous Australian, put the matter bluntly, “Making people feel excluded: that’s not an Australian value.”
The nine values which are regarded as the basis of our schooling system, the values which we seek to encourage in our school students, offer a much superior approach to that of our apparently intimidated government.
“The National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools … was agreed to and endorsed by all the state and territory Ministers of Education and then distributed to all Australian schools in February 2005.” [https://goo.gl/VtMSd9]
They are values which recognize that there is diversity within our society but that there is also an underlying foundation of civilized attitudes.
Such an approach from our political leaders would have strengthened our inclusive democracy and served to protect the people from the rage of the ignorant bigots.
They include such values as ‘care and compassion,’ ‘respect’, understanding, tolerance and inclusion,’ ‘freedom’, a ‘fair go’ and ‘integrity.’
Just looking at them we see the gap between those basic values for Australian schooling and those who purport to lead us.