• Pete Jonson

Things we don't tell our children

Regular readers will know Henry is a frequent reader of the Quadrant magazine. Here is a summary of a nice article from October 2016. (One of the benefits of the Covid-19 crisis is saving travel times, leaving time to catch up on reading.)

In October 2016 Professor David Flint in Quadrant published an article on The Six Pillars of Australia. The sub-title commented that these matters are typically not shared with children, possibly because parents find these points to be scary, or not the sort of thing Aussie parents consider. My article today will present a summary of Professor Flint's points, but interested readers should contact Quadrant to obtain the relevant issue.


'Why has Australia been so successful, David Flint asks. 'Are Australian's racially superior? Is it our weather? Is it geographical? Or is it that we are endowed with such rich natural resources that we could never fail? Several UK and USA professors say none of these factors determine the success or failure of a country. 'The truth of their thesis can be illustrated', says David Flint, ' by recalling that at the time of our federation, Australia and Argentina were the world's richest countries. Argentina did not then engage in the two world wars and did not suffer the enormous losses, both in terms of human potential and wealth, that Australia did. So Argentina should have been more successful than Australia. But the twentieth-century history of Argentina was one of instability, periods of brutal dictatorship, and economic decline.'


'In 1788, captain Arthur Phillip not only brought people and provisions - he brought four institutions - he brought which we have adapted, institutions which are still with us today and which, with two others, have made this nation.'


In October 2016 Professor David Flint in Quadrant published an article on The Six Pillars of Australia. The sub-title commented that these matters are typically not shared with children, possibly because parents find these points to be scary, or not the sort of thing Aussie parents consider. My article today will present a summary of Professor Flint's points, but interested readers should contact Quadrant to obtain the relevant issue.


The first was the English language. Taken up by America as well as Australia.


The second was the rule of law. Phillip brought a 'Charter of Justice', which was actually applied. The very first case was brought by two convicts against the master of a ship in the first fleet. The case was heard by the Judge Advocate who found for the convicts and made them a substantial award in their favour.


Furthermore, Phillip was determined that slavery, legal in the USA, would not be used in Australia. Before leaving England, Phillip wrote: '... there can be no slavery in a free land and consequently no slaves'.


The third institution Phillip brought was constitutional government. This meant that the king was subject to the laws, and laws could only be changed by Parliament. People were permitted to do anything not prohibited by law. Governments were not absolute rulers but were limited by in particular defending the realm and maintaining the King's peace - that is, Law and Order.


The forth institution brought by Phillip was 'civil society'. This includes all institutions separate from government, involving especially Judeo-Christian values, including 'truth, courage and love, and loving your neighbour as yourself'. Despite the decline of religion, 'our laws, our language and our fundamental institutions', people are allowed any religion or none.


The first sermon preached in Australia, on Sunday February 3, 1788, was by the Reverend Richard Johnson. He started as follows:

"I do not address you as Churchman or Dissenters, Roman Catholics or Protestants, as Jews or Gentiles ... - But I speak to you as mortals and yet immortal ... The gospel ... proposes a free and gracious pardon to the guilty, cleansing to the polluted, healing the the sick, happiness to the miserable and even life for the dead".


One hundred years later, the Constitution Act stated that the people of the of each of the states, "humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth and the Crown ... and under the Constitution hereby established".


The fifth pillar of the nation was self-government under the Westminster government. Other leading nations failed to grants self government, as the British did for Australia, in a 'surprisingly short period'. (In my view this was largely due to England's poor result with its American colonies.)


British legislation that empowered the various colonies to draft their own constitutions, allowed the drafts had to be approved by the Colonial Office in London and then given the Queen's assent. The bills were approved in London well before the rebellion at the Eureka Stockade.


The sixth great pillar of our nation was Federation. When the British first suggested a Federation the local politicians were outraged, says David Flint. (Paul Keating's assertion that Federation was imposed is just wrong.)


Great Founding Fathers Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran described Australia's great achievement as follows:

" Never before have a group of self-governing , practically independent communities, without external pressure or foreign complications of any kind, deliberately chosen of their own free will to put aside their own free will to put aside their provincial jeolousies and come together as one people, from a simple intellectual and sentimental conviction of the folly of disunion and the advantages of nationhood".

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The final part of Professor Flint's fascinating paper discusses some weaknesses of how Australia's constitution has developed. He states, wisely in my view, that we need our children to understand these weaknesses and do something about them. I will point out these issues briefly, but I urge readers to find the full article, read it and discuss with your member of parliament and other influential people.


Now Australia is rated very highly when the results of national achievements are compared. 'According to the international Human Development Index, our standards of health, wealth and education results in our being ranked the second nation in the world, very close to the first nation, Norway. But with declining educational standards, not telling our young and the newly arrived about our heritage, and an inability to control increasing government debt, we are relying on the achievements of earlier times. 'How long', David Flint asks 'will we stay near the top?'


His concerns are because issues that should be left to the States, especially education, are being taken over the Commonwealth. 'The more the Commonwealth becomes involved in education, the more standards seem to decline'. Amen to that, Professor Flint.

The other example David Flint raises is concerned about is defence of the realm. This is not, of course, because defence is a major issue, perhaps the major issue, for a national government. 'The acquisition of the Collins Class submarine fleet and now its replacement represents one of the most appalling and continuing failures in government administration in our history'. Amen to that, Professor Flint. Please see 'Henry's' latest comments on this matter.


In conclusion: 'It is time for a convention to be held to consider the reform of government in this country and to make recommendations to the people'. Amen to that Professor Flint, but how will this ever be achieved? Would you seek a research grant to tackle the issue and find a sympathetic group to write a white paper to send to members of the Federal Cabinet?

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