March 25th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Decentralisation: an undeveloped country

CANBERRA OBSERVED Millennials feel they've been left out in the cold

EDITORIAL Gas, power crises are due to renewables obsession by Peter Westmore

WESTERN AUSTRALIA Barnett election wipe-out delivers WA to Labor

MULTICULTURALISM First among equals or an also-ran culture?

WEST AUSTRALIAN LAW Domestic-violence laws disregard basic rights

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS Fair Work Commission's disastrous penalty-rates decision

OPINION Trump-Russia allegations are smoke and mirrors

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Don't laugh: this is serious. Revival of Maoist play is a propaganda coup in Victoria

RURAL AFFAIRS Without new dams in the Basin, we're up the creek

CULTURAL HISTORY Pascal without pressure

OPINION Scope for regeneration as Me Generation shuffles off

MUSIC Dying for exposure

CINEMA Kong: Skull Island: Ape-ocalypse Now

BOOK REVIEW How maritime England lost America

ENERGY Hazelwood is vital to Australia's power supply

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First among equals or an also-ran culture?

by Dr Kevin Donnelly

News Weekly, March 25, 2017

The Victorian Government’s recently launched a multicultural campaign entitled Victorian. And Proud of it. It is designed to make Victoria “a stronger, safer and more harmonious community”. But it is inherently flawed and counter productive.

On one hand Premier Daniel Andrews argues that “everyone should have the freedom to be themselves” and that we should “celebrate the things that make us different”. On the other hand he also argues “there is one law for all” and we should “never tolerate the things that divide us”.

The inherent contradiction is that it is impossible to celebrate diversity and difference while at the same time asking all to commit to a common set of beliefs and values.

Some cultural practices are unacceptable and should never be tolerated. Extreme examples include child brides, female circumcision and treating women as second-rate citizens, issues which persist in many old-world cultures yet to evolve into the modern world.

As argued by ALP federal politician Chris Bowen when Immigration Minister, “multiculturalism is underpinned by respect for traditional Australian values” and if there is any conflict between imported values and our way of life then “traditional Australian values win out”.

While some argue it is impossible to identify Australian values or that they are flawed, the reality is that we are a Western liberal democracy and our beliefs and institutions are a unique product of Western civilisation and the Anglosphere.

Historical events like the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution underpin our culture and distinguish us from religions that have never experienced such epochal events.

While we are a secular society, where there is a division between church and state, it is also true that Christianity, especially the New Testament, has had and continues to have a profound and beneficial effect on our way of life.

It’s no accident that the Preamble to the Constitution includes the words “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God” and that our parliaments begin with the Lord’s Prayer.

Such is the influence of Christianity that Perth-based academic Augusto Zimmermann writes: “It is evident that the foundations of the Australian nation, and its laws, have discernable Christian-philosophical roots.”

Zimmermann concludes that when the First Fleet landed in 1788, “the laws of England were transplanted into Australia” and “as a result, the legal socio-political institutions of Australia found their primary roots in the legal and socio-political traditions of England”.

As detailed in Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism by Larry Siedentop, concepts like equal before the law, the inherent dignity of the human person and what the American Declaration of Independencedescribes as “unalienable rights” are inspired by Christianity.

While the Premier lauds multiculturalism as the “best system there is”, the reality, both here and overseas, is that it is a failed social experiment. One only needs to witness that violence and social upheaval in Britain and Europe to appreciate how unsuccessful it has been.

In 2015 then British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted as much and argued that all must commit to “those values that underpin tolerance and equal rights”. In a 2015 speech Cameron also argued: “Yes, we are a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none, but we are still a Christian country.”

Much earlier, in 2010 German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted “multiculturalism has failed, utterly failed” and that migrants wishing to live in Germany must integrate.

While it is true that Western civilisation is far from perfect, as argued by Arthur M. Schlesinger, jnr, “the crimes committed by the West have produced their own antidotes. They have produced great movements to end slavery, to raise the status of women, to abolish torture, to combat racism” and “to advance personal liberty and human rights”.

This explains why thousands of refugees are fleeing from oppressive and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and Africa seeking refuge in Europe and Britain. It also explains why so many want to make Australia home.

Proven by the far right’s emergence as a potent political force in France, Britain and the Netherlands, the reality is that adopting multiculturalism is counterproductive.

Those living in Western, liberal democracies like Australia are sick and tired of being told their way of life must be compromised on the mistaken basis that all cultures are equal and that it is wrong to favour one over another.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of The Culture of Freedom.

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