Th-th-th-that’s democracy, folks

Johnyth Burton

That Malcolm Turnbull could stand up and state, with a straight face, that migrants coming into the country had to accept unique Australian values, is a tribute to his political skills.

Australian values — well, we are a democracy. Everyone has to vote — well, strictly they don’t have to vote, just get their name crossed off to let the authorities know they are capable of voting.

They can write anything they like on the ballot paper, even swear words — see, that’s democracy.

Of course, the politicians they vote for, who have mainly got there by dubious means, haven’t got the voting public’s interest in mind: they are there more to feather their nests — buy their second and third rental properties, perhaps, or to further their business interests — but at least they have been chosen.

And we show our democratic values by letting any ratbag party with a small minority come into the senate and help with the important job of governing the country.

Of course, we value gender equality — we won’t mention the ratio of female CEOs to male CEOs but at least there’s some.

Women easily surpass men, however, in the statistics of murder victims in domestic violence: women’s score is one a week. Women can do anything in Australia, even be prime minister — but we don’t really like women in high political posts: there are the hormones, you see.

We value educating our young. Every child has to go to school. We give money to state schools so that our young children can be crammed into hot and cold portables, sharing one textbook between three students while up the road we pour money into private schools so that they can decide whether to put in a second swimming pool or sports oval. We deride our teachers — a national sport.

We value our students growing up to be responsible citizens. Let’s not mention all the child sexual abuse cases uncovered by the royal commission, from all areas of society; child sexual abuse seems to be another national sport.

Talking about sport, well, even a broken toe in a game of footy (“love my footy, mate”) is a catastrophe for us. Except don’t get too hurt in footy — break your back or have too many injuries and have to retire, because then you’ll find you’re not covered by workers compensation like the rest of us — well, it wasn’t really a job or a profession, you just enjoyed doing it. So hobble off and get on with the rest of your life. What was your name again?

We value a strong police force. Well, now and then we might have a few corrupt cops.

And you don’t want to have a mental problem, say, schizophrenia, and have an episode because the cops will shoot you, preferably on the beach where the sand absorbs the blood and the tide then cleans all the mess up. We don’t think we have the mafia in Australia and we do have gun control.

We value conservation — don’t mention the Great Barrier Reef (the tourists will still come) or the endangered species we have or the ones we have wiped out.

Or the rivers and creeks which, like a scene from the Bible, suddenly burst into flames. Or the endangered old-growth forests, and on and on.

But we do love our animals: we tried to stop greyhound racing recently but there’s all that money to be made there, you see.

We value multiculturalism. We pride ourselves on being the most multicultural country in the world. But don’t come here unless we invite you — you could end up sewing your lips together or committing suicide or being raped. We like to keep people in a state of anxiety so that they don’t know if we will accept them or send them back to be killed. That’s democracy, you see.

We value freedom of religion. We foster this by allowing the churches to not pay any taxes and so encourage them to buy properties and become landlords but it is really preferable if they become charity institutions. Anyone can build a place of worship in Australia — well, not quite anyone. We do prefer Christian ones — we are a Christian country, you see.

We value a healthy nation — where is it again we rate in the obesity stakes? Have we nudged past America yet? We value trying to limit advertising that shows fast food outlets and products in prime time when children are watching. We really do worry about people’s diets.

We allow monopolies to come in and give nonsense prices to farmers for their products so that everyone can buy them.

We are proud of Medicare — that’s if you don’t mind waiting 12 months for a hip operation or having doctors who are not really doctors operate on you, or putting up with the lack of facilities in hospitals or staff cuts. Not to mention the high cost of the elite private health care system.

We are proud of our position in the science world. All the scientific things we have discovered or invented! Pity about all the cuts to research and the sacking or redundancies of scientists.

Still, we are only a small nation: we can’t punch above our weight, not to worry.

Freedom of the press — yes, we do have that. The media are free to say and print anything they like, especially around election times. A bit of a problem that they are owned by monopolies.

And the sensational does sell papers. Sue them? You can’t afford the legal fees.

Freedom of speech — yes, here it is. Our parliament spends a lot of time on ensuring you can say what you like to whomever you like, whenever you like. Taking offence is your choice.

You can voice your opinions, like I am, without expecting the secret police to knock on your door at 2am, take you out and shoot you, then recycle your organs to the highest bidder. Well, not yet anyway. And I suppose that does count for a lot.

Johnyth Burton is a member of the Retired Teachers Association