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DO VALUES MATTER? May 20, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Humankind/Planet Earth.

John Quiggin and others have effectively repudiated questions in the Australian Citizenship Test that allege for example that “Australian values are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition“:

” . . . despite the clear statement in the Constitution that Australia should have no established religion. This, combined with the implicit requirement to repudiate Catholicism and Islam, violates the spirit and probably the letter of the law.”

The rejection of multiculturalism is, I believe, implicit in the test. I do not know this for certain, but I expect that the section banning an official religion in the Constitution was an acceptance by the founders of a religious pluralism in Australian society. (I will do some background reading on this point).

We are not just Australian citizens, we are as well “global citizens”. Multiculturalism is the only ethic that makes sense in either context, reflecting social realities, or in the context of history. The question then is: What are our shared human social values?

There are other important values, such as ecological and environmental values, which are contested ground, for example, in our local area in the contest between development and conservation.

We are a political and pluralistic society in which values are contested.

The requirements of good citizenship are tested by our participation in the political and social processes of the society. It seems to me reasonable and useful for new citizens to have a general knowledge of the political and legal system, sufficient for them to follow events and to participate. What is my role in the jury system? By way of contrast, for example, if I was an American I should probably know the role of the Solicitor General relates to the Department of Justice, how the practice of law is divided between different types of lawyers, and how the court system works. Because I am not an American, I am sometimes confused relating their system to our system.


It turns out that the questions were not part of an citizenship test, but were questions published in the leading journal of news and affairs, The Australian. The question as to who created them, and why they were published, is open and subject of cynical inquiry. Apparently the Prime Minister and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs has denied their authenticity.

Anyway let me suggest the core values, as distinct from non- core promises. I think they might be: reason, equity and fairness. (The Australian Democrats say their core values are: “Our core values are democracy, freedom, equality and tolerance”.) The reason chose that when I have had to make a submission under several laws, Federal and State, there is often a legal presumption for the grounds – reasonableness, fairness and equitableness.



1. Coll - May 20, 2007

I have a great deal of pride in my Canadian heritage.. but I so like the idea of being a “global citizen”.

2. wmmbb - May 20, 2007

Thanks for the comment Colleen.

As has been suggested elsewhere, we will probably end up with a set of questions similar to the Canadian ones, without the reference to the multicultural composition of our society. So, for the time being, we will have to envy you. Then again you have the good historical fortune to be a bi-lingual society.

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