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ACM Home arrow Resources arrow Articles of Interest arrow A formal citizenship test?

A formal citizenship test? Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Wednesday, 29 November 2006

AUSTRALIANS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY

A FORMAL CITIZENSHIP TEST?

November, 2006

1.  INTRODUCTION

1.1 On 17 September 2006, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Robb, released a discussion paper for public reaction to a proposal to introduce a formal citizenship test.

The discussion paper seeks public comments on four key issues:

·       Should Australia introduce a formal citizenship test?

·       What level of English is required to participate as an Australian citizen?

·       How important is knowledge of Australia for Australian citizenship?

·       How important is a demonstrated commitment to Australia's way of life and values for those intending to settle permanently in Australia or spend a significant period of time in Australia ?

This submission addresses these issues in the paragraphs numbered 2 to 6 below.

1.2           This is a submission by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (“ACM”), at the time of writing  temporarily located at Level 4 ,149 Castlereagh Street Sydney, but from 2 December, 2006, of Level 6 , 104 Bathurst Street Sydney, Box 9841 Sydney 2001, telephone (02) 92512500, fax (02) 92615033, website http//:www.norepublic.com.au, email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

1.3 The mission of ACM is to preserve, to protect and to defend our heritage:  the Australian constitutional system, the role of the Crown in it, and our flag.

1.4 Launched in June, 1992, ACM is the nation’s oldest and largest constitutional monarchist organization. Its  Charter signatories  included Michael Kirby (now a Justice of the High Court), the Rt Hon Sir Harry Gibbs, Justice Lloyd Waddy, Neville Bonner AO, Dame Leonie Kramer, The Hon Barry O'Keefe, Sir John Atwill, Dr Margaret Olley, The Hon Helen Sham-Ho MLC and others. The first National Convenor was Justice Waddy, who was succeeded by Professor David Flint. The first and second national executive directors were Mr. Tony Abbott 1992-1994, and until 1995, Mrs. Kerry Jones. Since inception, Councils and Branches have been formed across the nation. ACM is a major grassroots community organisation in Australia. ACM is non-aligned politically. It was ACM which organized the highly successful 'No Republic - ACM' campaign for delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention.

1.5 In the lead-up to the Republic Referendum in 1999, ACM played an instrumental role in informing the public of the potential dangers inherent in the republican proposal. The organisation also played a leading role in forming a coalition comprising the forces opposed to that proposed republican model, which at the time of the referendum involved over 55,000 active supporters.

1.6 Today, the organisation continues to advocate the retention of constitutional monarchy as the preferred model of governance for our Commonwealth, as well as the Australian Flag. Our activities are wide and diverse. They include producing educational materials, providing speakers for public forums and organising gatherings where fellow Australians can have an opportunity to learn more about the unique system of government that has helped to safeguard our cherished democratic traditions and freedom.

 

2. A FORMAL CITIZENSHIP TEST

2.1 Supporters of ACM will have different views on whether a formal test should be introduced. There is however a broad consensus on two points.

2.2 The first, with which we suspect that most Australians would agree, is this. We believe it would be wrong for an Australian government to place reliance on any citizenship test as the sole or dominant method of ensuring that immigrants to Australia are appropriate, that is, that there first loyalty will always be to Australia and its constitutional system, and that they will make a positive contribution to the nation. In our view, it is a core function of the Australian government that immigrants be carefully selected as having a clear potential to satisfy this criterion. 

2.3 In this context, we note that on 2 November, 2006, writing an opinion piece in The Australian on the controversy surrounding Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly, the Hon Chris Hurford, Federal Labor MP for the seat of Adelaide from 1969 to 1987 and immigration minister in the Hawke Labor government from 1985 to 1987, wrote: .

“There has been a retreat from interviewing toughly and with good judgment those from overseas who apply to come here; but we must choose only those who are assessed as likely to integrate well. Furthermore, we have retreated from sending home more readily those who do not make the grade before being given permanent residence. They and we would be better off if that tougher approach were reinstated.

 

 

“One of the reasons for the damaging retreat from applying the old toughness and good judgment has been the disgraceful outsourcing of so much of the administration to private-sector immigration agents. Since my day, this sadly has been adopted by Labor and Liberals alike. This policy is not only very unfair to poorer applicants, who cannot afford the large fees, but abandons so many of the necessary checks that need to be made to ensure that only people who are suitable come here”.

 

 

2.4 ACM has no way of testing the veracity of Mr. Hurford’s observations, but that they are made by a former minister, and that his criticism is of both sides, enhances his credibility and is therefore a matter of concern. ACM re-iterates that it is a fundamental duty of government to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, that immigrants will make good and loyal Australians. Anything less would be an abdication of responsibility to present and future generations. A citizenship test should not be seen as a substitute for this, and not only because all immigrants do not seek citizenship.

 

 

2.5 The second matter which ACM wishes to make is that the present formal method of becoming a citizen, a sort of test, is grossly inadequate. A Pledge, whatever that is, is a pale shadow of an Oath, or an Affirmation. It is hardly as solemn and has no accepted connection with religion. For example, we know of no consequence of making a false pledge. By way of contrast, when a citizen is called as a witness in court, or becomes a Federal member of parliament or a Minister of the Crown, or enters into matrimony, the seriousness of what is said and what is promised is reinforced by swearing an Oath or making an Affirmation.

 

 

2.6 The requirement to make an Oath or Affirmation has gradually and in our view, regretfully, been weakened. ( See Annexure A) In 1986, on the recommendation of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, the requirement for new citizens to renounce all other allegiance was abolished. In addition, they no longer had to state their names. We find the latter difficult to understand. The requirement to state one’s name when making an Oath emphasizes the personal nature of the commitment. Then in 1993, arguing this would further multiculturalism, the Oath of Allegiance, in which the new citizen also swore to observe the laws of Australia and fulfil his or her duties as an Australian citizen, was abolished.  The Oath was sworn on the Bible, or in a way consistent with the new citizen’s religion. Those without a religion were allowed to make an affirmation. This was replaced by a watered down pledge, read by large groups in unison.

 

 

2.7 In the view of ACM, it is surely time to restore the formal Oath of Allegiance, which should best be sworn separately by each new citizen before a delegate of the Commonwealth, with of course, the option of making an affirmation. After all, an Oath, admittedly sworn in groups, is constitutionally required to be made by Members and Senators at the Opening of each new Federal Parliament, and that can only be abolished if the people agree in a referendum.

 

 

2.8 In the view of ACM, the citizenship test has a necessary ingredient, the formal commitment, and this is best done by the solemn and public administration of an Oath of Allegiance to the Sovereign.  To those republicans who object –and not all do- Australia remains a constitutional monarchy, the people in 1999 overwhelmingly and in all states voting to retain the nation’s oldest institution, the Crown, and thereby rejecting the republicans’ preferred constitutional model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. LEVEL OF ENGLISH

 

 

3.1 It is self evident that a high level of English is needed to participate as an Australian citizen. That said, it is clear that many otherwise worthy immigrants have, or have had a poor standard of English. Given its mission, it would not be appropriate for ACM  to come down strongly in support of a mandatory English test. However given the skills requirement to obtain work today, which is significantly different from the post war era, it is difficult to see how, refugees excepted, persons could today be chosen as immigrants if their standards of English was inadequate. We return again to the core function of government in the selection of immigrants.

 

 

4. KNOWLEDGE OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

4.1 ACM believes that immigrants should be well informed about Australia, and in particular our history, our system of governance, our customs and our values. Given that our language and our institutions have been imported and Australianised, that understanding obviously extends to a broad history of the colonial power, Great Britain.  This is not to give some preference to Britain- a similar approach would be needed in New Zealand and Canada, where this would obviously have to extend to France.

 

 

 

4.2 We have annexed a paper, Annexure B,  on the pillars upon which our nation is founded, an understanding of which is, in our view, vital.  Four of these came with the settlement in 1788: the rule of law, including the common law; the English language; our Judeo-Christian principles (which in no way excludes those who belong to other religions or are of no religion), and our oldest institution, which provides leadership beyond politics, the Crown. This of course does not exclude republicans. But it does put a primary  duty on them to understand the extent and role of that vast institution which is at the very centre of our constitutional system, the Crown . That understood, they would then be in a better position to attempt to devise a model to replace it. Too often republicans advance change without understanding what they propose to change. Their final task is then of course to persuade the Australian people that, in the words of Founders, Robert Garren and Sir John Quick, their proposal is “desirable, irresistible and inevitable”.

 

 

4.3 The fifth pillar of the nation is responsible self government under the Westminster system, which was granted to most states in the middle of the nineteenth century . The immigrant should understand that, unique among the empires,  this was the gift of the colonial power. Only by knowing this  will the immigrant be able to understand the sixth pillar, federation, including the  unique way the Commonwealth of Australia  was achieved, without war, deaths, bloodshed or any violence , and by a free vote, effectively confirmed by the Imperial Parliament. This could not have occurred had the nation not already had the benefit of the other pillars. That this was the first dominion to be allowed to change its own constitution is also highly pertinent to that understanding, as is our gradual and peaceful evolution towards full independence. That this was the context within which Australia was able to play an unusually significant role in world affairs should not only be understood, but also valued.

 

 

 

5. A COMMITMENT TO AUSTRALIAN VALUES

 

 

5.1 ACM believes that immigrants should, while retaining aspects of the way of life of their former countries, should be committed to the core values of our nation. We believe these flow from the pillars on which this nation was founded, which we described in the last paragraph. Much of this commitment, or of a willingness to go down this path, should of course be established when a person is selected as an immigrant, and not left to the application for citizenship.

 

 

ANNEXURE A:  OATHS OF ALLEGIANCE; PLEDGE

 

 

 

1948:

 

I, A.B., swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Sixth, his heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen .

 

 

 

1966:

 

I, A.B., renouncing all other allegiance,  swear by Almighty God that  I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law.

 

 

 

1973:

 

 I, A. B., renouncing all other allegiance. swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.

 

 

1986:

 

 

 0ath of Allegiance

 

I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.

 

 

1994:

 

 

Pledge of Commitment Form of Pledge No.1

 

From this time forward, under God, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

 

 

 

Form of Pledge No.2

 

From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I restpect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

 

 

 

The Pledge came into effect in January 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANNEXURE B

 

 

 

AustralianValues

 

 

 

David Flint*

 

 

It seems that not only immigrants, but possibly also tourists, may soon have to subscribe to Australian values

 

 

But what are Australian values? Arriving from the Dutch East Indies almost a century ago, my maternal grandparents and their young children were each given dictation tests. Fortunately these were in English, one of the several languages they knew. This was not some immigration requirement to know English; it was a transparent subterfuge adopted by the very first Australian parliament to circumvent imperial distaste for the White Australia Policy. This attitude of the British had earlier led to a virulent campaign for secession from the empire to form a white republic. Its standard bearer was The Bulletin, which in living memory still carried the front page banner “Australia for the White Man.”

 

 

That policy lasted for the first half of the life of the new nation. Was this an Australian value?  No it wasn’t. It was an aberration for the simple reason it was inconsistent with the pillars on which the Australian nation is founded, something our colonial mistress understood. Keith Windschuttle has argued, I think convincingly, that it was economic rather than racist. It was a policy strongly supported by organized labour, and its child, the fledgling Labor Party, more out of a fear of that immigration could be used to undermine the working standards they had achieved.

 

 

What then are the pillars of the Australian nation? Four came in 1788. The first was English, above all, the language of that timeless canon, Shakespeare, the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The second was the rule of law. Although a penal colony, New South Wales was no gulag, as Robert Hughes claims. Philip was not a dictator - he had clear instructions and brought a carefully drafted Charter of Justice to the new land. He brought that most advanced of legal systems, the one most compatible with freedom and constitutional government, the common law.

 

 

The third was embedded in our Judeo- Christian values. This is not -and was not -a rejection of people of other faiths and indeed no faith- a glance at the very first sermon delivered in Australia demonstrates that. This was expressed in powerful terms in the very first sermon delivered in this land. In it, the Reverend Richard Johnson said:

 

 

I do not address you as Churchmen or Dissenters, as Roman Catholics or Protestants, as Jews or Gentiles, but I speak to you as mortals though yet immortals. The Gospel proposes a free and gracious pardon for the guilty, cleansing for the polluted, happiness for the miserable, and even life for the dead.

 

 

This eloquent and poetic theme has resounded through the history of our nation and is deep in the hearts of the people. It is there offering spiritual strength in times of trial and reinforcing our lives today. As Edmond Burke said:

 

 

We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly, and that religion is the basis of civil society.

 

 

That theme that Richard Johnson enunciated is seen again at the time of the achievement of that last great pillar of our nation, our federation. In the meticulous drafting and approval of our constitution, the Australian people were more involved than had ever occurred in the formation of any other nation.

 

 

It is appropriate to recall that the theme that caught the greatest interest and strongest expression of public support was that the constitution should be adopted with a reference that what man does is done under God. This does not mean that Australians must belong to any particular religion, or indeed, any religion. But those values are at the basis of our legal social and ethical system. The obligations we have to one another come essentially from these values - honesty, compassion, charity and the acceptance of personal responsibility. They must be preserved

 

 

These were those Judeo Christian principles which, when mixed with the essentially Christian common law, guided Lord Mansfield in the celebrated case concerning the runaway slave, Somerset. Mansfield declared, probably apocryphally: “The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe; let the black go free.”

 

 

These principles, seen through the religious revival that swept through Britain, gave birth to the great movement which led to the abolition of slavery, an institution which, alone among all of the continents, never tainted this land.

 

 

The fourth pillar is our oldest institution, which remains today beyond party politics, and is at the very heart of our constitutional system. I write of course of the Crown. A leviathan, it is the elephant in the room which some politicians would pretend is almost not there. Both a natural person and an office, the Crown is part of all legislatures, it is the executive, the fount of justice, (the judges are Her Majesty’s and not the Coalition’s or Labor’s), the fount of honour, the Commander in Chief, the employer of the public service, the   constitutional guardian, and, with the High Court, the only institution which is both state and federal. Indeed it was the Crown, in the person of The Queen of Australia, which allowed for the final patriation of our constitutional system from Westminster in 1986. Until then, no state would trust Canberra to recommend on the appointment of its governor- each preferred the colonial anomaly of the British government conveying the state’s choice to The Queen. No one could see a way out-until the Palace let it be known that Her Majesty was comfortable with what the advisors deemed impossible-each premier giving her advice on the appointment and removal of the governor. By their actions in 1999, I assume that most of the premiers were unaware of this.  Australians are of course perfectly entitled to create a republic if they wish, but apart from producing an acceptable republican model, the first step for republicans is understand the role and function of the Crown and to explain how these will be undertaken in a republic.

 

 

The fifth pillar was not the result of the skirmish at Eureka; it was the gift of the British, a gift which no other imperial power duplicated. This was responsible government, which led to the sixth pillar. Unlike the others, this was all our own work, and which flowed from the other five. This was of course federation, and ours was unique. It was achieved without war, without bloodshed even without violence. It was actually approved by the people.

 

 

This event, and the way it was achieved, was testimony to the remarkable sophistication of the Australian people, which they developed because of the  principled freedom and stability the five other pillars had ensured. That great founding father, Sir John Quick, who played a crucial role in achieving federation, wrote (with lawyer Robert Garran) that:

 

 

Never before have a group of self-governing, practically independent communities, without external pressure or foreign complications of any kind, deliberately chosen of their own free will to put aside their provincial jealousies and come together as one people, from a simple intellectual and sentimental conviction of the folly of disunion and the advantages of nationhood.

 

 

The States of America, of Switzerland, of Germany, were drawn together under the shadows of war. Even the Canadian provinces were forced to unite by the neighbourhood of a great foreign power. But the Australian Commonwealth, the fifth great Federation of the world, came into voluntary being through a deep conviction of national unity.

 

 

We may well be proud of the statesmen who constructed a Constitution which whatever may be its faults and its shortcomings has proved acceptable to a large majority of the people of five great communities scattered over a continent; and proud of a people who, without the compulsion of war or the fear of conquest, have succeeded in agreeing upon the terms of a binding and indissoluble Social Compact.

 

 

The preamble to the Constitution Act the British Parliament passed to give effect to our constitution - with some minor changes - expresses the nature of that compact. It recites that the people of the several states,

 

 

… humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown … and under the Constitution hereby established.

 

 

Those words set out the essence of our federation, which was truly the success story of the 20th century. This is the context of our nation. Just as the United States was formed and still lives under its constitution, so the Australian nation lives under and still operates under the pillars of our nation which include our constitutional system.

 

 

The values which flow from the six pillars of our nation remain relevant today. They are the creeds which Australians have long held and should continue to hold today.

 

 

Without having to fight for these institutions and values, and thus risking the destruction of the good with the bad, they did marvelous things - free and fair elections under the Australian ballot, the emancipation of women, industrial conditions the envy of the world,   a willingness to fight over and above their weight for the freedom of others, and a rare tolerance of newcomers from other civilizations. Australia soon became - and with all its blemishes she remains - one of the world’s most advanced nations because of the   pillars on which it was built. It is understandable that these should be questioned from time to time in the academy; it is wrong when their place is not adequately acknowledged in the teaching of our children and the informing of new settlers.

 

 

The values of our nation are those resulting from and consistent with our foundation. Both those born here and those who choose this land as their own, have a moral obligation not only to learn about these, but also, to appreciate their place in the  formation of this nation.

 

 

*Emeritus Professor David Flint is President of the Australian National Federation of the English Speaking Union and National  Convener of Australians for  Constitutional Monarchy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANNEXURE B

 

 

 

AustralianValues

 

 

 

David Flint*

 

 

It seems that not only immigrants, but possibly also tourists, may soon have to subscribe to Australian values

 

 

But what are Australian values? Arriving from the Dutch East Indies almost a century ago, my maternal grandparents and their young children were each given dictation tests. Fortunately these were in English, one of the several languages they knew. This was not some immigration requirement to know English; it was a transparent subterfuge adopted by the very first Australian parliament to circumvent imperial distaste for the White Australia Policy. This attitude of the British had earlier led to a virulent campaign for secession from the empire to form a white republic. Its standard bearer was The Bulletin, which in living memory still carried the front page banner “Australia for the White Man.”

 

 

That policy lasted for the first half of the life of the new nation. Was this an Australian value?  No it wasn’t. It was an aberration for the simple reason it was inconsistent with the pillars on which the Australian nation is founded, something our colonial mistress understood. Keith Windschuttle has argued, I think convincingly, that it was economic rather than racist. It was a policy strongly supported by organized labour, and its child, the fledgling Labor Party, more out of a fear of that immigration could be used to undermine the working standards they had achieved.

 

 

What then are the pillars of the Australian nation? Four came in 1788. The first was English, above all, the language of that timeless canon, Shakespeare, the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The second was the rule of law. Although a penal colony, New South Wales was no gulag, as Robert Hughes claims. Philip was not a dictator - he had clear instructions and brought a carefully drafted Charter of Justice to the new land. He brought that most advanced of legal systems, the one most compatible with freedom and constitutional government, the common law.

 

 

The third was embedded in our Judeo- Christian values. This is not -and was not -a rejection of people of other faiths and indeed no faith- a glance at the very first sermon delivered in Australia demonstrates that. This was expressed in powerful terms in the very first sermon delivered in this land. In it, the Reverend Richard Johnson said:

 

 

I do not address you as Churchmen or Dissenters, as Roman Catholics or Protestants, as Jews or Gentiles, but I speak to you as mortals though yet immortals. The Gospel proposes a free and gracious pardon for the guilty, cleansing for the polluted, happiness for the miserable, and even life for the dead.

 

 

This eloquent and poetic theme has resounded through the history of our nation and is deep in the hearts of the people. It is there offering spiritual strength in times of trial and reinforcing our lives today. As Edmond Burke said:

 

 

We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly, and that religion is the basis of civil society.

 

 

That theme that Richard Johnson enunciated is seen again at the time of the achievement of that last great pillar of our nation, our federation. In the meticulous drafting and approval of our constitution, the Australian people were more involved than had ever occurred in the formation of any other nation.

 

 

It is appropriate to recall that the theme that caught the greatest interest and strongest expression of public support was that the constitution should be adopted with a reference that what man does is done under God. This does not mean that Australians must belong to any particular religion, or indeed, any religion. But those values are at the basis of our legal social and ethical system. The obligations we have to one another come essentially from these values - honesty, compassion, charity and the acceptance of personal responsibility. They must be preserved

 

 

These were those Judeo Christian principles which, when mixed with the essentially Christian common law, guided Lord Mansfield in the celebrated case concerning the runaway slave, Somerset. Mansfield declared, probably apocryphally: “The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe; let the black go free.”

 

 

These principles, seen through the religious revival that swept through Britain, gave birth to the great movement which led to the abolition of slavery, an institution which, alone among all of the continents, never tainted this land.

 

 

The fourth pillar is our oldest institution, which remains today beyond party politics, and is at the very heart of our constitutional system. I write of course of the Crown. A leviathan, it is the elephant in the room which some politicians would pretend is almost not there. Both a natural person and an office, the Crown is part of all legislatures, it is the executive, the fount of justice, (the judges are Her Majesty’s and not the Coalition’s or Labor’s), the fount of honour, the Commander in Chief, the employer of the public service, the   constitutional guardian, and, with the High Court, the only institution which is both state and federal. Indeed it was the Crown, in the person of The Queen of Australia, which allowed for the final patriation of our constitutional system from Westminster in 1986. Until then, no state would trust Canberra to recommend on the appointment of its governor- each preferred the colonial anomaly of the British government conveying the state’s choice to The Queen. No one could see a way out-until the Palace let it be known that Her Majesty was comfortable with what the advisors deemed impossible-each premier giving her advice on the appointment and removal of the governor. By their actions in 1999, I assume that most of the premiers were unaware of this.  Australians are of course perfectly entitled to create a republic if they wish, but apart from producing an acceptable republican model, the first step for republicans is understand the role and function of the Crown and to explain how these will be undertaken in a republic.

 

 

The fifth pillar was not the result of the skirmish at Eureka; it was the gift of the British, a gift which no other imperial power duplicated. This was responsible government, which led to the sixth pillar. Unlike the others, this was all our own work, and which flowed from the other five. This was of course federation, and ours was unique. It was achieved without war, without bloodshed even without violence. It was actually approved by the people.

 

 

This event, and the way it was achieved, was testimony to the remarkable sophistication of the Australian people, which they developed because of the  principled freedom and stability the five other pillars had ensured. That great founding father, Sir John Quick, who played a crucial role in achieving federation, wrote (with lawyer Robert Garran) that:

 

 

Never before have a group of self-governing, practically independent communities, without external pressure or foreign complications of any kind, deliberately chosen of their own free will to put aside their provincial jealousies and come together as one people, from a simple intellectual and sentimental conviction of the folly of disunion and the advantages of nationhood.

 

 

The States of America, of Switzerland, of Germany, were drawn together under the shadows of war. Even the Canadian provinces were forced to unite by the neighbourhood of a great foreign power. But the Australian Commonwealth, the fifth great Federation of the world, came into voluntary being through a deep conviction of national unity.

 

 

We may well be proud of the statesmen who constructed a Constitution which whatever may be its faults and its shortcomings has proved acceptable to a large majority of the people of five great communities scattered over a continent; and proud of a people who, without the compulsion of war or the fear of conquest, have succeeded in agreeing upon the terms of a binding and indissoluble Social Compact.

 

 

The preamble to the Constitution Act the British Parliament passed to give effect to our constitution - with some minor changes - expresses the nature of that compact. It recites that the people of the several states,

 

 

… humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown … and under the Constitution hereby established.

 

 

Those words set out the essence of our federation, which was truly the success story of the 20th century. This is the context of our nation. Just as the United States was formed and still lives under its constitution, so the Australian nation lives under and still operates under the pillars of our nation which include our constitutional system.

 

 

The values which flow from the six pillars of our nation remain relevant today. They are the creeds which Australians have long held and should continue to hold today.

 

 

Without having to fight for these institutions and values, and thus risking the destruction of the good with the bad, they did marvelous things - free and fair elections under the Australian ballot, the emancipation of women, industrial conditions the envy of the world,   a willingness to fight over and above their weight for the freedom of others, and a rare tolerance of newcomers from other civilizations. Australia soon became - and with all its blemishes she remains - one of the world’s most advanced nations because of the   pillars on which it was built. It is understandable that these should be questioned from time to time in the academy; it is wrong when their place is not adequately acknowledged in the teaching of our children and the informing of new settlers.

 

 

The values of our nation are those resulting from and consistent with our foundation. Both those born here and those who choose this land as their own, have a moral obligation not only to learn about these, but also, to appreciate their place in the  formation of this nation.

 

 

*Emeritus Professor David Flint is President of the Australian National Federation of the English Speaking Union and National  Convener of Australians for  Constitutional Monarchy

 

 

 

 

 
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