Lionel Murphy (pictured)was hoisted on his own (or someone else's) petard for inaccurately defining his "little mate"; or perhaps for presuming on the relationship of mateship. So it is with some caution that I approach the question of whether or not new citizens should have to sign up to the concept of 'mateship' as a key Australian value.
The truth is we use the word 'mate' to cover a multitude of sins. And like all such blanket uses do, so this begs all sorts of questions.
I had a superior not so very long ago who came from the East (but it is probably not true to say he was a wise man) and used to like to call everyone 'mate'. Being a reverential sort of person I found this uncomfortable, and indeed it became a cause for raucous amusement. Whenever you wanted to feign intimacy or be sarcastic you would simply add the word 'mate' to your sentence and we would all fall about laughing.
I fear that we don't have the faintest clue what the word 'mate' means. We take it to mean what ever we want to promote.
So Murphy was taken to mean 'his little mate' was someone who needed to be sneakily looked after. Howard pretends to understand the psyche of the soldier mate, without ever having been close to having had the commitment that one soldier has to have to another in order to keep alive.
Others, like my former boss, just splash it around like confetti. So its meaning becomes ridiculous.
All this suggests to me that we should be very cautious about asking people to ascribe to something that is so ill, and indeed variously, defined