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  • Peter Francis Fenwick

What does it mean to be Australian?

New laws are proposed to strip citizenship from those who oppose our principles and our way of life – specifically those who go overseas and fight for ISIS.

This gives us pause for thought. What do we believe in? What are the characteristics that define what it is to be Australian? To what extent might one hold different views but still remain a citizen? If we define clearly what is required of an Australian citizen, might this impact our immigration policy?

Australia’s cultural values and laws are based on the heritage of our Western Civilization. At the heart of this is a belief in democracy – that all people have equal political rights; and the rule of law – that everyone, including the State, is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated.

More generally, there are a host of rights some of which occasionally come under threat from the careless and the ignorant. These include:

The right to one’s religious and political beliefs

The right to free speech

The right not to be detained unlawfully – habeas corpus

The right to form voluntary associations

The right to choose one’s occupation

The right to private property – the right to retain the rewards from one’s work and to dispose of it as one sees fit

The right to enter into legally enforceable contracts

The right to choose one’s friends and associates, and whom one may marry

The right of children to the love and support of their parents

The right to choose where one may live

The right to choose what one may eat or drink or wear

And so on.

These values distinguish us from many other nations of the world. They contribute significantly to our freedom and our prosperity. Public discussion of what it means to be Australian will be valuable. It will help us appreciate how lucky we are. It will inform our security and immigration policies.

We should not take citizenship for granted.

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