Surrendering nationalism

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  • Published 20070605
  • ISBN: 9780733321221
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

TEN YEARS AGO, most Australians quietly cringed when Pauline Hanson wrapped herself in a cape of blue to launch her One Nation Party. Yet today there’s nothing more fashionable or patriotic than draping oneself in the national flag. When, in January this year, Big Day Out organiser Ken West declared that Australian flags would not be welcome at the event in Sydney – for fear that it would instigate racist violence – it prompted a tabloid backlash and earned him condemnations from John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Morris Iemma. At a time when Australian values have become articles of faith, the flag has become a potent symbol.

But, as former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley found out in September 2006, not everyone can invoke the language of national values. Seizing a chance to outflank the Howard Government on the issue of immigration, Beazley announced a plan to require that all migrants and foreign visitors sign a statement of Australian values. The move backfired dramatically.

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