Friday, 24 February 2006

Costello blows the Values™ whistle

Federal Treasurer (and likely Howard successor) Peter Costello gave a speech last night wherein he opined that Australian dual citizens should be stripped -- stripped! -- of their Aussie citizenship if they don't observe Australian Values™.

In his strongest comments on the issue yet, he said anyone refusing to acknowledge the rule of law "stabs at the heart of the Australian compact".

"Those who are outside this compact threaten the rights and liberties of others," Mr Costello said. "They should be refused citizenship if they apply for it. Where they have it they should be stripped of it if they are dual citizens and have some other country that recognises them as citizens."

Mr Costello said the citizenship pledge should be "a big flashing warning sign" to Muslims wanting to live under sharia law.

"Before entering a mosque visitors are asked to take off their shoes," Mr Costello said. "This is a sign of respect. If you have a strong objection to walking in your socks don't enter the mosque. Before becoming an Australian you will be asked to subscribe to certain values. If you have strong objection to those values don't come to Australia."

So as an Australian dual citizen, I have been duly warned (or is that dually warned?). I wonder if the full list of Australian Values™ can be found on the net somewhere. Wouldn't want to run afoul of the Howard government. And was I told about them when I got citizenship? Trust me to forget.

Of course, with the Danish cartoon flap and the Cronulla riots, I can see why people would be a bit edgy over residents whose allegiance to Aussie Aussie Aussie could be any less than full-throated. You don't want people (especially those people) to start rioting or killing.

But those things are already against the law. Why do we need to appeal to values at all? Why not just say "Those who break the law will be punished"? It's not enough to obey the laws, I have to sign on to certain values as well?

Notice how (in a cute touch) Costello's brother conflates the two.

World Vision chief executive Tim Costello praised his brother for raising the debate about multiculturalism. "I think there should be a debate because it's complex," he said. "Should people from countries who practise female genital mutilation or bigamy and say it's part of their cultural or religious beliefs [to] be allowed to do so here? I would say no, they have consented to our laws by coming here. I think Peter is right in that fact."

Right; nobody's arguing that laws shouldn't be obeyed. But laws are not values. Why appeal to them?

Ah, but 'values' is one of those 'dog whistle' words, and has been ever since about June 1992, when Bush the Elder started using it to satisfy the Folks Back Home. Then as now, it means "There are people not like us, and they're the Bad People." What else can we call them, if they don't share Our Values? It means you have No Values, and that makes you bad. And you can't question the Values because nobody can articulate what they are. Values are a poorly-defined extra layer that sits on top of law, which Those People are nonetheless expected to observe. It's a wedge word.

While I'm on the topic of words, 'Australian compact' is a stupid phrase. Makes me think of makeup. Note to Costello: suggest 'Australian deal'. Resonates with the punters. Or go back to 'Australian Way of Life'.

Values™ are going to come up a lot in the discourse for quite a while. When you hear these code words, ask yourself: Why isn't law enough? What primal urge are they appealing to? Who is being split from whom? Whose dog is being whistled?

1 comment:

  1. There is an interesting article analysing Bush, perhaps the author could be asked to analyse John Howard?


Thanks for commenting! If this comment is on a post older than 60 days, your comment will go straight to moderation, and I'll approve it if it's not spammy.