Sept 2006 # 3

(Right Click here to download Audio - MP3)

So, John Howard and Brendan Nelson think they can mandate “Values for Australian Schooling”? They’re in the process of spending about $30 million in an attempt to get our schools to teach what they refer to as “Australian Values” to our kids. Some smarty-pants with a doctorate no doubt received a huge grant to define what our “Australian Values” are. The government says they are the following and they also tell us how they should be interpreted.

Value 1. Care and Compassion: Care for self and others.

Value 2. Doing Your Best: Seek to accomplish something worthy and admirable, try hard, pursue excellence.

Value 3. Fair Go: Pursue and protect the common good where all people are treated fairly for a just society.

Value 4. Freedom: Enjoy all the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship free from unnecessary interference or control, and stand up for the rights of others.

Value 5. Honesty and Trustworthiness: Be honest, sincere and seek the truth.

Value 6. Integrity: Act in accordance with principles of moral and ethical conduct, ensure consistency between words and deeds.

Value 7. Respect: Treat others with consideration and regard, respect another person's point of view.

Value 8. Responsibility: Be accountable for one's own actions, resolve differences in constructive, non-violent and peaceful ways, contribute to society and to civic life, take care of the environment.

Value 9. Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion: Be aware of others and their cultures, accept diversity within a democratic society, being included and including others. 

Let’s have a look at how well Howard, Nelson and the rest of their crew actually put to work the “values” they want the rest of us to live by. 

Value 1. Care and Compassion: Care for self and others

I seem to remember a little boat called “Tampa” that, oh, about five years ago, steamed into infamy after the Norwegian captain, Arne Rinnan, stopped to pick up a bunch of people who were in strife on the high sea. Little did Captain Rinnan know that when he got to Australia, John Howard would tell him to bugger off. John Howard also said of another similar group that ‘we don’t want those sorts of people here’. I wonder who demonstrated the first Australian value? 

Value 2. Doing Your Best: Seek to accomplish something worthy and admirable, try hard, pursue excellence.

Many within our sporting community do just this. So do many business people. However, when it comes to the unknown multitude of people with a disability, the Australian government turns its back on them and their families. In December last year Brendan Nelson said that he was pleased to announce that full time carers would get an increase in their weekly carer’s pension of $1.15 that, on a fortnightly basis, took the basic allowance to $94.70. In less than six months the government announced in its budget that it was going to fund sports to the tune of $250 million for the 06-07 financial year. At the same time corporate welfare has blown out to over $20 billion a year and growing. I guess the message about this value is that if you’re able bodied, sporty, well educated and in business then you fit right in. If you’re not, then you’re just not doing your best in the race. 

Value 3. Fair Go: Pursue and protect the common good where all people are treated fairly for a just society.

I suppose the residents of towns like Wadeye in the Northern Territory are a good example of the way this value is acted out in our society. In this and hundreds of other communities services are withdrawn, support networks de-funded and the residents are left to fend for themselves. Their common good and their need to be treated fairly can be judged by the media frenzy that erupts when allegations are made and the government decides to “take a hard line” whipped up by their jack booted supporters like Alan Jones, Howard Sattler and others. A fair go for all. Not bloody likely. 

Value 4. Freedom: Enjoy all the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship free from unnecessary interference or control, and stand up for the rights of others.

I wonder how David hicks fits into this “Australian Value”? Our Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, a compassionate and value-laden man, has done diddly-squat to assist Hicks’ case and even less to demonstrate that Hicks’ rights and privileges are being defended. As far as our government goes, standing up for or demanding Hick’s rights is tantamount to “appeasement”. 

Value 5. Honesty and Trustworthiness: Be honest, sincere and seek the truth.

What was that about Howard’s Honesty and Trustworthiness? How a man, who has continually lied to the people he rules, can say that schoolchildren should be honest and trustworthy, I guess, demonstrates how much weight he places on this “core” value. 

Value 6. Integrity: Act in accordance with principles of moral and ethical conduct, ensure consistency between words and deeds.

See 1 to 5 above. 

Value 7. Respect: Treat others with consideration and regard, respect another person's point of view.

The Howard government, as we know, has been in the forefront of ensuring that we respect each other … so long as they’re white, protestant, middle-aged males with high incomes and an obedient wife and two children. Anyone who is not white, protestant or married with children is on their own. Respect? Fiddlesticks! See 1 to 6 above. 

Value 8. Responsibility: Be accountable for one's own actions, resolve differences in constructive, non-violent and peaceful ways, contribute to society and to civic life, take care of the environment.

You could choke on your wheaties reading this one. We assist in the violent and imperial adventure called the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, who were no threat to our “way of life” or “values”. We deny the East Timorese justice when it comes to what is in their territory, we blame everyone else for the stuff ups and mistakes and we fail to sign the Kyoto greenhouse protocols. No. Sorry. I don’t get this one. See 1 to 7 above. 

Value 9. Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion: Be aware of others and their cultures, accept diversity within a democratic society, being included and including others.

See 1 to 8 above. 

If I was a schoolteacher and Little Johnny and Little Brendan and their crew submitted a document like the one our kids are going to be exposed to, I would fail them on the spot and ring their parents. 

Values cannot be learnt by rote. They are something intangible and much more powerful than a few careless words splashed around in a glossy poster. Our children suck up information and experiences like dry sponges. They learn not just by reading and writing but also by being exposed to demonstrations of the “values” they will, ultimately, carry into the rest of their lives. It would seem, based on the “values” demonstrated by our political leaders, that they are the ones in need of schooling.