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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

playing the values game « Previous | |Next »
September 19, 2006

The values debate in an insular Australia is a curious one isn't it.Though it looks to be a superfical debate, it is central to political conflict these days, even more so than the economy. As inflation spreads through the economy the battle over values becomes ever more important and crucial.

Australianvalues .jpg
Geoff Pryor

It was not so long ago that the ALP had a stranglehold on Australian values, which they defined as mateship, egalitarianism and nationalism. As David McKnight observes in the Sydney Morning Herald, These were once Labor's core identity and when large numbers of blue-collar workers voted Labor, they voted their identity as well as their economic interest.

Since 1996 it is John Howard who speaks the language of class, values and populism. He has made values the new battleground in Australian politics, and he has succeeded in getting mainstream Australians to embrace his version of Australian values. That version is family values with its subtexts of the authoritarian or paternalistic father who protects and punishes the nation-family, social cohesion, and the need for cultural diversity to give way to an emphasis on Australian values in the name of integration. Australia has a serious social cohesion problem because of Islam. We need political authority to ensure security against terrorism and a cohesive community. The nation is the patriarchal family write large. Fortress Australia rules.

The ALP has been marginalised in the values debate. It is struggling to get back in, and it is finding it difficult to articulate our desires and identity differently in a post 9/11 world. It is still haunted by the Coalition's 2001 election slogan: "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."

One strategy adopted by the Beazley ALP to wrap themselves tightly in the flag is to link immigration and identity issues to industrial relations, under the banner of values---protecting Aussie jobs from foreign workers. This goes beyond loyalty to Australia and its people, respect for rights and liberties, upholding and obeying laws, sharing democratic beliefs, and freedom of religion and speech. In a globalised world this value strategy plays the politics of inclusion and exclusion, and speaks to the hostility in the elctorate to migrants and "foreigners"-- the ones who "do not fit in" and "do not share our values".

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:13 AM | | Comments (0)