About 30 per cent of us were born overseas. A quarter don't only speak English at home. Plenty of us aren’t Christian, or of any faith at all. This is the new Australia, and there are two ways politicians can seek to lead it.
The first is good only for the old Australia, yet it is favoured by our most recent past prime minister, the embittered Tony Abbott, and those of his ilk. It emphasises our Christian tradition, and assumes there is such a thing as a typical Australian. Even if there was, there’s not any more.
The Team Australia approach denies the diversity of modern Australia. It pretends society hasn’t changed, and catastrophises even the most minor of affronts.
The alternative route is to build an inclusive society, one not constrained by its history but which finds strength in diversity and the shared values of equality, respect, and justice. This is the possibility of the new Australia, which embraces the country as it is now and sets it up for the future, no matter how the population changes, while safeguarding the liberal democracy we treasure. The choice between the politics of the old and that of the new is not a choice only faced by Australia. It’s faced by the US, by Britain, by any developed country with a significant migrant population – almost all of them. One country is now providing the lead: Canada, the new Canada, where its prime minister, Justin Trudeau (pictured), is swiftly returning his nation to one which inspires the world, after a decade suffering under the vindictive reactionary Stephen Harper. This is also the new Australia. There is no longer a core Australian identity, no such thing as a typical Australian. But there are core Australian values, much like the Canadian ones Trudeau lists. The politicians who will successfully lead the new Australia are those who can harness those shared values to inspire all rather than hector some, to unite rather than divide.
- Tim Dick is a Sydney lawyer
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