Monday, 27 August 2007

Loyal Citizenry

I was interested to catch a story on the ABC's Landline yesterday (coming here soon)about helping Zimbabwean farmers to come to Australia. It was a good story about positive immigration, and did not pretend to be easy.
At the conclusion of the story one of the English, (I think) commentators made the observation about receiving Australian citizenship that "An Australian born here will never understand how wonderful it is to have a piece of paper that says "Australian Citizenship". I know this feeling well, and have sometimes voiced similar sentiments to all the members of my family who (unlike me) happen to have had the good fortune to have been born here. Mrs C being a fourth generation Australian, and the little Cs therefore being fifth.
We take so much for granted. Our recent jaunt overseas, as enjoyable and wonderful as it was , did not diminish our delight at coming back to Australia. And I have no doubt that I am an Australian, and I am pleased to be able to say it is not just an accident of my birth.
It was interesting to read a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by Richard Ackland (here) about the Haniff affair. Interesting because, in a way, everything has quieted down.
But he notes (amongst other things) how protagonists of tighter immigration laws, indeed the present Minister, wear the paraphernalia of citizenship...lapel badges and the like, almost in inverse proportion to their proclivity to breach values like the rule of law, freedom, and the right to a fair go. He has a point. Even if it is a little far-fetched to blame the lowly lapel badge for so much.
But at a time when we are talking about what sort of statements new citizens will have to sign up to...we should perhaps be prepared to seriously address the issues of what words and expressions like "the rule of law", "fair go", and "mateship" mean.
Personally if I was a Digger of the First War I would laugh every time the PM declares mateship to be one key value. While one can see how the filth of the trenches and the camraderie of war may indeed breed something so powerful called "mateship" that it can almost not be defined, but what suffering have Howard and Andrews endured that is anything like that supreme bonding experience.
From the comfort of the Parliament, and the bastion of power it is easy to call everyone your mate; and bear none of the consequences.
My piece of paper is worth more to me than that!

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