The development of an independent Australian voice and policy seemed promising, and several suggested elements leave us with the fond illusion that one exists. However crippling disabilities stand in the way. Independence might be recognised through the shared and clearly defined institutions of citizenship, mutual support and solidarity. Yet Australian independence has been compromised by imperial dependence and imperial emulation. With little clear idea of the rights and citizenship that must underlie sovereignty, Australian society struggles to understand the rights, citizenship and sovereignty of other peoples. A diverse, shared citizenship struggles to emerge from privileged society, assimilation and xenophobia. And egalitarianism has been dealt sustained blows by ‘market’ fetishism and the forces of privatisation. These obstacles together make for an incoherent and insecure national identity, a dangerous recipe in times of global conflict.
This paper reflects on these problems of imperial dependence, the lack of a genuine national voice, and a weak notion of citizenship, before attempting an explanation of Australia’s recent interventions in the Pacific, and the conflict over indigenous land. Attempts to reshape Pacific nations’ constitutions, electoral and land tenure systems can be much better understood, I suggest, through a parallel examination of the problems of Australian national identity and institutions.
In Suvendrini Pereira (Ed) (2006) Our Patch: Australian Sovereignty Post 2001, Australian Public Intellectual Network, Perth