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Abbott's war on Australia

By Marko Beljac - posted Monday, 19 May 2014

"Our border creates the space for us to be who we are and to become everything we can be as a nation," so said the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, upon announcing the new Australian Border Force.

There is a sense in which this is true. If tomorrow we were to be invaded by a genuine threat, unlike say a handful of the world's hapless seekers of refuge, we would defend Australia not only to save life and limb but, at heart, to defend the Australian way of life.

But what is the Australian way of life? In short, to follow Morrison, who are we?


The very question has been grist for the mill for much navel gazing, especially over recent times given what is oft dubbed "the culture wars." The literature is vast, both the shelves and the servers groan, so perhaps we might consider the government's own account as a useful frame of reference.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade a, if not the, key Australian value can be found in "a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, mutual respect, and compassion for those in need."

Furthermore, we are told "Australia is an egalitarian society" so much so that "there are no formal or entrenched class distinctions in Australian society, as there are in some countries."

Putting aside the myth of the classless Australia there is surely an undeniable streak of egalitarianism that underpins much of Australian culture. We see it in so many wonderful ways even in the daily conduct of our affairs. From our love of the laconic larrikin to our devotion to mateship and the fair go this spirit of egalitarianism envelops the Australian ethos.

If this is who we are, if this is what Australia is all about, or perhaps better still, is meant to be all about, then it follows that Australia is now under attack.

Not from seekers of asylum; no no Australia is being attacked by its own government.


The Abbott Government is like an invading force that seeks to destroy the social fabric that binds us as a nation. The Abbott Government, through its Commission of Audit, had foreshadowed an attack on "the spirit of egalitarianism that embraces tolerance, mutual respect, and compassion for those in need."

The Abbott Government's first budget is but the opening offensive to bring to realisation the stark and austere vision that pervades the Commission of Audit report.

The detailed policy prescriptions of the Commission of Audit, and much of the government's rhetoric regarding ending "the age of entitlement," are designed not just to ravage the welfare state, just about an Australian invention, but in essence to dismantle the very ethos, the spirit of Australia if you will, that underlies it.

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About the Author

Mark Beljac teaches at Swinburne University of Technology, is a board member of the New International Bookshop, and is involved with the Industrial Workers of the World, National Tertiary Education Union, National Union of Workers (community) and Friends of the Earth.

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