Australia is also experiencing a clash of cultures between long-term citizens and new immigrants that don't want to assimilate.
MAYBE, just maybe, the long, slow surrender is over. Instead of raising the white flag through silence, more political leaders are realising that not enough is being done to defend Western values. Last week, it was Andrew Robb's turn.
At the Sydney Institute, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs suggested that immigrants to Australia should pass a new citizenship test. From the reaction in some quarters, you'd think he wanted immigrants to recite verbatim, in a plum Tory accent, Robert Menzies' speech on Freedom in a Modern Society. Or recount word-perfect the first three chapters of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.
No, Robb had something less exacting on his mind. He flagged the need for immigrants to have a more functional level of English and an understanding of Australian values.
Immediately, Robb's proposal was subjected to the standard leftist values guessing game. Speaking for the Sikh community, Bawa Singh Jagdev told the ABC's AM program: "I don't understand very much what do they mean by Australian values." Federation of Islamic Councils president and long-time Australian citizen Ameer Ali said he had no problem with universal values, "but when you say Australian values, no one knows what those values are".
It was a predictable response and neatly proved Robb's point: that Australian values are not proclaimed enough to new immigrants. Robb defined Australian values as including core Western values such as "our respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, our commitment to the rule of law, our commitment to the equality of men and women", then added some particularly Australian attributes such as "the spirit of the fair go, of tolerance and compassion to those in need".
It's basic stuff but enough to flummox those who twitch at any mention of values. With some in the media immediately referring to "so-called" Australian values, perhaps Robb should expand the program to these media doyens as a form of forced revision on what it means to live in a liberal democratic country.
But then, if there is uncertainty as to what Australian values are, maybe we have only ourselves to blame for that deficit. As former Liberal politician Peter Coleman said at a recent SBS forum on multiculturalism: "You cannot blame immigrants for not knowing more about it [our heritage]. The fault lies with us." Coleman suggested that we often neglect and ignore our complex heritage, a heritage that "is the free society. It includes parliament, the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton. It is Magna Carta, the rule of law, equal rights for women, freedom of thought and association, freedom of worship and the right to apostasy. It is Federation, the Constitution and Anzac Day."
And as Coleman said, proclaiming that heritage would "do more to overcome the totalitarian jihadists than all the advisory councils and all the crimes acts". In other words, it's time for the West to get into the marketplace of ideas and sell its wares with more conviction.
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Not knowing or being able to identify cultural values is a ploy. I suspect that everyone knows exactly what constitute Australian values just as everyone in the United States knows what constitute our values. Immigrants claiming that they can't are really saying they refuse to assimilate for the host country's values clash with those they refuse to jettison or even modify to belong as immigrants.