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September 14th 2009 print

Culture catcher: 15

“By the end of the twentieth century Australia remained one of the few countries on earth without a bill of rights. Emerging nations such as South Africa, Thailand and Timor L’este all developed bills of rights (in 1996, 1997 and 2002), but not Australia.”


Tim Anderson, “Fond Illusions: Some Reflections on Australian Dependence, Pacific Interventions and Indigenous Land” in Our Patch: Enacting Australian Sovereignty Post-2001, edited by Suvendrini Perara (Perth, 2007):

“With little clear idea of the rights and citizenship that must underlie sovereignty, Australian society struggles to understand the rights, citizenship and sovereignty of other peoples.”

“Asians can do business with Australians, but are less likely to trust them.”

“By the end of the twentieth century Australia remained one of the few countries on earth without a bill of rights. Emerging nations such as South Africa, Thailand and Timor L’este all developed bills of rights (in 1996, 1997 and 2002), but not Australia.”

“However even the right to vote is not guaranteed in the Australian constitution. This institutional failure has cultural implications. A society not firmly based on equal citizenship must revert to a society of privileges, where there are worthy and unworthy, or first and second class, citizens. This, of course, was a prominent feature of Australia’s racialist past.”

“The imperial voice in these arguments [about customary land] is seen most clearly in organisations such as CIS, whose board members are mostly directors of Australian banks and mining companies. The CIS produces some of the most virulent attacks on systems of indigenous land in PNG and Australia. These arguments against the social value of customary land reach out into the academic literature. For example, according to Steven Gosarevski, Helen Hughes and Susan Windybank, ‘Communal ownership of land has not permitted any country to develop … [I]ndividual property rights are necessary for individual savings and as collateral for credit that is essential for the development of banking.’”

“The development of an honest and original Australian voice in regional affairs presupposes significant Australian debate on the issues of independence, citizenship and egalitarianism. However the disabilities of imperial dependence and emulation, privilege and xenophobia, and a neoliberal ‘market fetishism’ stand in the way.”

Tim Anderson “is a [Left] lecturer in political economy at the University of Sydney and a civil rights activist.”