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Australian Values and a Human Rights Bill

February 5th, 2007

The Online magazine New Matilda initiated a discussion in mid 2006 on policies and values. At the launch of the discussion, John Medadue pointed out that “Our Common Wealth “is not about policies and programs. It is about the values and principles which should underpin policies and programs. It is a statement of where New Matilda stands. We have spelled out the values driving our own policy development and we are calling on all political parties, both state and federal, to do likewise.

My contribution to this was an article suggesting that values which united us as human were not obvious to all. Many distinguished people have contributed views to this proposition. Some have pointed out that the “Australian” values promoted by the Howard Government are common and universal values. One of those was Geoffrey Robertson QC speaking at the “Cornerstones” Conference on Public Education in September 2006 on “Human Rights and Public Education

My article The Common Wealth – Vision and Values: Are they enough right now? New Matilda 9 January 2006

New Matilda has embarked on a project to articulate a set of values that should underpin policy development in Australia. The Common Wealth is the first articulation of these values.

Vision and values matter. Policies and programs are driven “given expression“ by vision and values. We imagine that if we share the same values we will act the same way. Some people can sign up to values but when put to the test find they don’t agree with them after all. The larger and more diverse the group the more difficult it is to gain commitment to common values. Achieving agreement on values requires commitment, political will.

In a civilised society everyone builds relationships with others and works consciously to reinforce those relationships as part of a community. A community shares common values. Citizens take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and respect other people and their dignity as human beings; these matters are codified in laws along with rules which preserve safety and ensure contractual arrangements are honoured and so on.

It seems obvious but apparently it isn’t!

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