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The perils of a colonial heritage

By Everald Compton - posted Monday, 6 August 2012


Most of us leave home at some stage of our lives to find our feet in a brave new world, but Australia is unable to stop hanging on to the apron strings of dear old England.

At age 224, its time that we did, particularly as the majority of Australians are not of British descent, and our continued fascination with Britain makes them feel as though they are house guests, not family.

Yet, for some totally illogical reason, a majority of Australians feel a need for Britain to have a continuing legal link with us that will provide a safety net in uncertain times. We give little thought to the reality that, if China invaded us tomorrow, the British would not help us.

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Indeed, why should they when they do not have either the military or financial capability of doing so. The inescapable fact is that we have to defend our way of life on our own forever more. After all, it was the Americans, not Britain, who helped us to turn back the attempted Japanese Invasion during the Second World War.

Then again, we survived when Britain joined the European Common Market and ceased to import our primary products.

Perhaps we feel that it is disloyal even to think about severing the ties that bind us to the old Empire — or is it that we are frightened to stand-alone in a world dominated by Asia.

Nevertheless, when we play England for the Ashes, we demand that our cricketers should trample them into the ground with cold-blooded totality. More concerning is that our national suicide rate would have risen dramatically if Black Cavair had not won at Royal Ascot.

The reality is that the only cure for all of the above is to create a new life for Australia in a changing world. This is emphasised by the negotiations that Qantas is undertaking to replace its alliance with British Airways to one with Emirates. It shows what happens to old friendships with the passing of time.

We know that our destiny lies in Asia and the Pacific and, if we want formal allies, the Indians and the Indonesians are the guys to team up with, as I have doubts about any American resolve to stick with us through thick and thin. It is time to grow up, have confidence in ourselves and carve our own destiny while fostering goodwill with all around us.

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Which brings us once again to reconsider the long-debated issue of Australia becoming a Republic. It is currently a favourite topic at dinner parties, mainly because our royalist friends love to tell us that a republic is a lost cause amidst the euphoria of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and our hopes that London will be able to stage a great Olympic Games which will overshadow the efforts of the Chinese at Beijing.

This is a strange state of mind and a very weak defence against the inevitability of change.

My personal passion for a republic has nothing whatsoever to do with my attitude towards the Queen. I admire her as a person, and I like the way she carries out her duties. She personifies stability, but it is demeaning to our national pride for us to assume that we cannot find an Australian Head of State who has those attributes.

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About the Author

Everald Compton is Chairman of The Longevity Forum, a not for profit entity which is implementing The Blueprint for an Ageing Australia. He was a Founding Director of National Seniors Australia and served as its Chairman for 25 years. Subsequently , he was Chairman for three years of the Federal Government's Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing.

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