by Bill Dekmetzian,
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
February 15, 2007
(c. 5,000 words)
[This is the first entry in an Australian area on the Expansionist Party website. It derives from an exchange of emails between Mr. Dekmetzian in Australia and L. Craig Schoonmaker, XP's Chairman, in Newark, NJ. Bracketed comments are the Chairman's. We hope it prompts a dialog.]
As an Australian of very similar background to many Americans, I find it absolutely magic to have discovered your site by accident. Here is something about myself and about Australia.
I am a Baby Boomer (51) and my background is Greek-Australian, having been exported from Athens (together with my folks to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) in 1957. I had no choice as to my destination, but often wished that my folks had picked the USA or Canada.
Not that there is anything wrong with Australia (mirrors the USA in many things and is safe), just the isolation aspect pervades our lives here where we are an English speaking country, predominantly Christian, in the heart of Asia.
I attended Catholic schools right up till University. From my University (Monash University) I graduated with a 4 year Honors Degree in Economics (Majoring in Econometrics) and later pursued a Postgraduate Diploma from my University in Information Technology.
I live in the capital of Tasmania, the island (Australia's smallest state — the size of Ireland) Hobart. We are a city of about 250,000 people and the population of the State is somewhere about 500,000. Originally, I moved across from Melbourne, the capital of Victoria on the mainland. That was 10 years ago. I am currently in Building Development. And, funnily enough, I speak English! Now for something very interesting.
Australia got television in 1956 (I was 5 months old). Australia in 1956 was (according to my mother) not as cultural as it is now (putting it mildly), no doubt due to the remoteness of the place. However, from the great immigration of the 1950's and 1960's till today, Australia has become a magical place except for the isolation, except for being in Asia, except for having Indonesia on our doorstep, a country or 225 million Muslim neighbors, etc.
Now, when I was growing up in the 1960's, my generation got clobbered culturally by American shows from the 1940's, 1950's AND 1960's. This is very interesting as I found I could relate to people 20 years older than me whenever I visited the USA over the last 20 years! However, my generation could NOT avail themselves of the wonder of everything on the tube, and were left to dream, wondering of the day when Australia could get together with the USA.
An example of this is when I was watching the DISNEYLAND show on our Admiral Stereo (rosewood veneer with the gold colored speaker material). I couldn't wait to find out whether it was going to be Fantasy Land, Adventure Land, Tomorrow Land or Frontier Land.
However, especially as far as Tomorrow Land was concerned (the others too) ,all the wonderful things like the Smithsonian Institution, Epcot Center, Disneyland itself, Cape Canaveral, etc., were in the USA and so we could never go.
[We watched everything from] I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners to the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Twilight Zone. (Hmmm. I sometimes feel like that here!) [plus a host of American movies].
Now, one might add that these shows [and films] went all around the World. However in our case they went to another new (in terms of recent history Australia is half the age of the USA's 400 years) ENGLISH speaking world, a country of the same historical, cultural, and religious background (Anglo/European), and an ex-colony of Britain as well.
It was a POTENT MIX!
Kids like myself were totally absorbed and re-programmed. To say that I feel (and have felt for as many years as I can remember) like an American Cultural Refugee stuck here in Australia and unable to get back home, is one big understatement. And there are more than me. There are hundreds and thousands of us who feel like this.
With respect to visiting the USA from Oz[a short-form reference for "Australia" as said with an "Ozzie" (Aussie) accent], we do need a passport, but the visa is stamped when we get to the USA. We can also renew our visa whilst in the USA. But that doesn't change the fact that what we saw, felt, heard on TV as children from Oz, did NOT match our world. The world it matched was the USA! We were exposed to this day in day out, week in week out, for years. Needless to say, even though our bodies and minds live in Australia, our HEARTS are in the USA.
I mentioned earlier [Australia's] being an English-speaking country in Asia. The worst here is the fact that we could not hope to defend ourselves for any length of time from any invasion (if these things happen like this anymore) even if every man, woman and child were drafted into the services. Thank goodness we have the protection of the USA under the ANZUS treaty. I would sooner prefer that we were in one big English UNION. It is time our lot got together, saw the wonderful things that all our forefathers and ourselves have achieved AND became PROUD of our backgrounds.
Animated map courtesy of XP member Bill Lansing, Lewiston, New York
Communications and transportation systems today wipe out "The Tyranny of Distance", so there should be no great issues as far as Government and Public Service Administration are concerned. It is not the distance that we should see as an issue nowadays.
It is huge, nearly 3,000,000 square miles. It is as big as the [conterminous] USA [the Lower 48] but with 20,000,000 people.
Vast distances, huge deserts and canyons. Magnificent rainforests up in Queensland as well as a Great Dividing Range down South (the High Country).
Five hour commutes on a plane to get from one side of the country to the other. The distances between major cities are vast.
The drive from Melbourne to Sydney ([that is, from the] 2nd largest city to the largest city, [both] on the East Coast) is 12 hours by automobile on the interstates.
Melbourne to Darwin (capital of the Northern Territory) 2.5 Weeks!, which is up North!
So, Australians, like their US cousins, are used to large distances to cross the country, and love their cars too! They love their cars BIG and with V8 power (better on distances). The Ford Fairlane (yep, the name lives on here) is now the largest production V8 Ford Sedan in the world.
The good thing about Australia is that once one is here, it is very difficult to leave. One cannot walk across the border to another country; one cannot drive out or swim out either. The Brits got it right when they picked it as a penal colony. However, what this has done is the following:
As the drives to the other major cities are so vast and the interior of the country is largely uninhabited, one ends up living in one's own city most of the time and not checking out as many cities as one would like due to the fact that they are not there. To fly from one city to the other is the option most people choose.
We still get a vast selection of shows from the USA for prime-time television (if not the majority still being from the USA). However, it would be nice to be able and go see all the places and enjoy all the things we saw (of the USA) and continue to see without having to worry about visas, breaching immigration guidelines, etc. We are virtually the same people here, and your friends to the end. So how about we end these artificial things called borders between the USA and Australia and just say that we all have two homes, one in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern Hemisphere. What a wonderful world that would be. Canada can come with us too.
* * *
The difficult (but not impossible) task of bringing Australia into a Union, with respect to the political and cultural issues involved, is a little more complex. Let's talk a little about this.
In Australia, political and cultural issues seem to cross-pollinate all the time, and many times it is very difficult to isolate just exactly which is which. Australia, unlike the USA, is a much politicized society.
As it is mandatory by law to vote, everyone has a chance to think about the whole political process and how it is going to affect them. Voting is mandatory at both the Federal and State levels and subject to fines if one does not vote.
Although the term for a Government to rule is set at 4 years, in Australia this is a maximum rather than any mandatory set period. In Australia it is common for early elections to be called after as early as 2˝ years (or even less). This throws a huge spanner [wrench] into all the workings. Just imagine what this would do if it was in force in the USA. However, it does seem to work here as it keeps everyone on their toes, although there is pressure at the moment to have a 4-year set term, for obvious reasons of financial and economic stability. It is always an unknown how the international money markets will react to an early election.
In Australia the role of the Federal Government is very prominent as distinct from the USA where the states are the power entities. [That may be the perception outside the U.S., and in terms of what affects people's day-to-day lives, yes, the states are very powerful. But when Americans speak of "the Government", they mean the Federal Government.] The states in Australia gave up their personal income-taxing powers during the Second World War as a temporary measure to help the nation survive. They never got them back. The states in Australia have other revenue-raising abilities (rather limited) and rely on the "Premiers Conference" with the Federal Government for fund allocations for administrative/health/educational, etc., services. Since the introduction of the GST (Goods and Services Tax), which replaced the previously messy tax regime on goods and services, the states have benefited, as they receive the amounts from this tax.
The Health System Issue. A definite political problem (also enmeshed in the culture of the country).
Australia has a National Health System that runs in tandem with a Private Health System. In the pursuit of Liberty, Life and Freedom (LL&F) in Oz, one doesn't have to worry about not being able to pursue said LL&F after having a major heart attack requiring multiple bypasses. A quadruple bypass will set one back a couple of hundred bucks at worst (including all follow up and medication). No illness in Oz can stop one from pursuing LL&F as one is not financially bankrupted after something like a serious illness. Chronic illnesses are treated the same. In Australia we do not live in fear of losing our health.
We all have our Medicare Cards and we get carted off by ambulance when the need arises. That's it. [That's what XP wants for the U.S. generally. Places like Australia can help us achieve that, by providing not just a model but, crucially, votes in Congress to enact such a program.]
We get better and go home (unless knocked off by Golden Staph infection or other unforeseen complication).
As we have an aging population in Australia, the Health System issue takes on gargantuan proportions (especially as Baby Boomers have now started to age). Bear in mind that in Australia, many companies do not pay one's Health Fund costs. [Hm. Who does?] Our Medicare Cards are also acceptable in some European countries, where we receive reciprocal healthcare (Italy, Greece, Sweden and the UK are some examples).
Hmmmm, where do I start so I don't scare you folks? ALL workers in Australia get between 4 and 6 weeks' annual leave per year (excluding other holidays), depending on industry. That's about it. The same thing happens in the European Union so we don't feel too guilty about it. [Most Americans would probably think, 'What a lazy bunch of bastards they are!']
The 'Challenged' Issue (whether it is race, age, height, weight, looks, sex, religious belief or any other department).
This is one of the ugly bits of life here. If you don't hear from me again it will probably be because I will have been exiled to some Pacific Island. You guys don't get to hear about this much, but I have lived through it. So have many others. Now, before I say anything else, it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against anyone because of the above.
However, if one is over 35 and tries to get work it usually is a case of replying to your prospective employer "excuse me for living" (from my humble observations over the last 20 years). I could be mistaken.
Corporate Fit is highly desirable — read White, Male, 20 -30, over 6ft tall, blonde, blue eyed, loves football ["Football" here probably means what Americans would call "rugby" or "soccer", not American/Canadian-style football.], the surf, and comes from the correct school and is preferably WASP (more humble observations). I could be mistaken.
In Australia we have minorities underrepresented at all senior government-sector levels as well as in senior positions in the private sector. Women are included in this underrepresentation as well. The Government sector employs nearly half of the country's workforce.
As I don't want to be sent to the Port Arthur Penal Colony in Tasmania, I am unable to comment on the Multicultural Issue in Australia. This website, "Multicultural Differences: Canada, USA, Australia" describes the situation in more detail than I ever could hope to cover and also compares Canada and the USA for good measure.
Now, this is one to get stuck into, or to get stuck on!
Many have a problem in Australia with what it means to be Australian. I guess it is because the country is still young and coming to grips with the notion of "Identity". Be that as it may, there are many people, from European and other foreign backgrounds, who can call themselves Australian Citizens, but cannot call themselves Australian. I am one of those people. For too many years (the 1960's, 70's, 80's, and even the 90's) there seems to have been a situation where these people were not represented adequately in the mainstream media.
If one watches Australian soap operas or other types of series (hospital emergency shows, etc), he could be forgiven for thinking that no one else lives in this country except WASPs. There is token representation every now and then but not enough to allow for "cultural inclusion" to take place in these people's minds.
Because of this, these people were excluded from being shown that they too were normal inhabitants, and thus a "culture of exclusion" was born. If one didn't play football, cricket and tennis, if one didn't compete in swimming, if one didn't drink beer, if one didn't go surfing, etc., one just didn't belong to the Australian Club. All one did was live here. And that's about it.
Add to the above the insane preoccupation with SPORTS and if you don't make it in SPORTS you can't be any sort of hero and role model for the young, we have a disastrous situation emerging for all other pursuits in this country of ours. We seem to have sports heroes only. Where are our ARTS heroes, our SCIENCE heroes etc. I can't think of any, and I bet if you ask any Australian or Australian Citizen, they wouldn't be able to answer either. [Perhaps Australia suffers an excessive interest in sports because it has so little else to concern itself with. As part of the United States, a major political and cultural power, Australians would be drawn into a panoply of other concerns, and the proportion of media and cultural time taken by sports would decline very substantially.]
To help you understand a little more about our Identity Issue, please see "Australian Nationalism vs. Anglo-Saxonism: The Vital Difference between Native-Australianism and British-Australianism".
The website "The United States vs. Australia: Convict Eyes on the Land of Liberty" will help explain why things are as they are.
[I was amused to note, in coming up with a filename to which to save the Australia-vs.-U.S. item as reformatted in my word processor, that AUS and USA are anagrams of each other. Is that something Australians long ago realized?]
I hope my emails have given you better insight about this land of ours and the issues we all face. However, I believe that all such issues can be overcome by people willing to change for the better, and that this applies to all of us. No country is perfect. Each has both good and not-so-good things/ But if we can come together in peaceful dialogue and work with our differences (remembering that every difference is another arrow in our armory), only positive results will ensue.
With respect to all our English speaking countries, the most important things are our differences and ,equally important, what we have in common. We share historical, cultural and other characteristics arising from the fact that we were all colonies of the United Kingdom. The important things we share are:
1) Free Market Economies
2) Legal Systems Based on Common Law
3) Democratic Political Institutions
4) Economic Prosperity
5) Personal Freedoms and Civil Rights and
6) A History of Close Cooperation with each other.
If we can't make this work, then we have ourselves to blame.
Now I can share with you a major survival technique for living without much of an identity in one's country. I know personally of many who have done this. One just goes back to the country of one's birth (or one's parents' birth) when it all gets to be too much. This generally happens when one hits one's mid-40's to mid-50's.
In this situation, due to the bilingual nature of many of those without identity in Australia (who suffer from the exclusions that arise from this, whether applied consciously or unconsciously by the offending party/parties), it is far easier to live the remainder of life surrounded by people of one's own kind. — people who look like you, speak like you, are seen in magazines, films, ads, pop groups, rock bands, etc., without having to suffer the indignity of the SPORTS SEASON in Australia.
The sports season is a mindless time covering many sports where everyone who is not much interested in sports (and this does not mean that one does not enjoy sports in either participation or viewing) cops a cultural beating. The airwaves (both television and radio) and newspapers, magazines, etc., are filled with a relentless assault on the victim's senses. There is no other GOD but SPORT in this country and you'd better believe. Pity about the rest of life's pursuits. Unless you live here in Australia to experience it, you have no understanding of what it does to cripple ALL other pursuits. Major Problem.
* * *
[What do Australians in general and you in particular feel about New Zealand? I have heard that some people have suggested a Trans-Tasman Union to bring Australia and New Zealand together, but I have insufficient information to know whether we should approach bringing New Zealand into the larger Union directly or as part of a Trans-Tasman Union. Your thoughts?
Australia is much too large geographically to be created into a single state, even with a federal structure within itself. Congress just would not likely go for a single state that is almost as large as the conterminous U.S. But 6 states for a population of only 20 million is too many, given that two present states, California and Texas, already, in themselves, have more people than all of Australia put together.
And what about the Northern Territory? Would it simply become a U.S. Territory, and remain perpetually unequal? Would it want statehood to itself? If the U.S. would not accept six or even seven states from Australia, how do we merge areas to create fewer? How many states should there be, at end? One can envision a 3-state split, north (Queensland and N.T.), southern (NSW, Vic., Tas., S.A.), and Western (as-is). Or an eastern (Qnsl., NSW, Vic., Tas.), central (S.A. and N.T.) and Western configuration. It is remotely possible that Congress, being dominated by WASPs itself, could rationalize giving all six present states U.S. statehood, and merging N.T. into Queensland (or S.A. or W.A.) — whatever — on the ground that the population is bound to grow once Australia is brought into the Union, as the population of both Hawaii and Alaska increased after statehood. But I think separate statehood for little Tasmania would be a hard sell, and Congress would want it merged into Victoria. Both Tasmania and Victoria were originally part of NSW, so re-merging at least two of the 3 would be historically defensible.
Illustrations: We like to illustrate our webpages with graphics to liten the text and add visual information. I have a few fotos of Australia offered by a Canadian colleague but would like many more, of as many parts of Australia as possible, such that there would be at least one (free) foto per screen at 800 x 600 resolution. Do you have fotos we could use? Do you have friends in other parts of Australia whose fotos we might use (for free, that is), if you do not yourself have pix of other states?]
* * *
With regard to pictures of Australia, I will start finding out what is available and direct the information to you.
Hmmmm, the 64 million dollar question. Suffice to say that New Zealand can become a state of Australia without a referendum needed. This is because at the time of Federation in 1901, all the separate colonies had a choice as to when they would join. New Zealand was also a separate colony at the time and decided to take the option to join at a later date. So far, it has chosen not to join. However New Zealanders are our closest kith and kin and ties go back more than a century.
The Australian armed forces and the New Zealand armed forces are inextricably entwined, as are our legal systems, commercial systems, etc. The only thing that has stopped New Zealand from joining with Australia is Patriotic Pride. Yep, that dear old sentimental feeling for one's homeland. We can travel to each other's country whenever we wish, we are all covered under the health systems of both countries and we can choose to take residence in each other's country. Australia and New Zealand cannot be separated, yet each retains its individual identity. From my observation, the Australians would quite like the New Zealanders to join the Federation.
Now, just like New Zealand, Australia enjoys super doses of patriotism. This feeling crosses state borders in a BIG way. For example, even though Victoria and Tasmania share extremely close ties, Tasmanians would find it difficult to accept a merger with Victoria. This is because Tasmania (previously called "Van Diemen's Land") was the 2nd colony to be created after New South Wales (the 1st).
Flag of Tasmania
It was migration to the mainland from Tasmania that created Victoria (the 3rd colony). Tasmania is much older (relative to Australia's history of course) than Victoria, and the isolation it enjoys from the mainland has seen a predominantly British flavor emerge. In other words, it is not as multicultural as the mainland.
Queensland is like Florida. It has the "Gold Coast", the "Sunshine Coast" and all the other beautiful coastal towns, resorts and islands. Southerners go up there to escape the cold of the South during winter and many Southerners also retire up there as well. [Ed. note: Remember, Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the north is warmer than the south! Australia's Sunbelt is thus in the north, not south.] The capital, Brisbane [pronounced bríz.ban, where A is a schwa, as in about, not a full short-A], is like one big huge country town of about 1.8 million people.
Flag of Queensland
New South Wales (NSW) is the "premier state" with Sydney, about 4.2 million population, being THE city, and it lets all the other states know about it. Sydney is the Financial Capital.
Flag of New South Wales
Victoria is the smallest mainland state, but has a population (c. 5 million) not so much less NSW (6.8 million). Melbourne [pronounced mél.burn], the capital, has a population of about 3.7 million and is the Commercial & Manufacturing Capital. Nearly 80%, I believe, of all manufactures come from Melbourne.
Flag of Victoria
South Australia (SA) is also vast. Adelaide, the capital, has a population of about 1.1 million and suffers middle-child syndrome (always there, but mostly not in peoples' minds).
Flag of South Australia
Western Australia (WA) is HUGE — almost 4 times the size of Texas. Perth, the capital, has about 1.5 million people [3/4 of the entire state's population], and is the most isolated of all the Australian mainland cities. They regard the Eastern States as a threat that wants to take over their resources. Secession has been talked of in the past.
Flag of Western Australia
The Australian Capital Territory ([Australia's equivalent of the District of Columbia, a federal district separate from all states but] surrounded by NSW) is where the Capital of Australia, Canberra, is. Population is around 325,000 people [in 910 square miles; contrast this with DC, which has 582,000 people in an area of 62 square miles]. It has the best roads, the best schools, the highest per capita income, etc. It is isolated from the reality of the other cities by being the Federal Capital. Canberra is actually 5 cities all joined together by vast highways through the mountain ranges of the area.
Flag of the Australian Capital Territory
The Northern Territory, capital Darwin, is also vast. Not much is known of this strange place by the rest of Australia except that there are vast desert areas, it gets hot and very humid on the coastal strips and has vast geographical delights for overseas tourists. [It also has lots of crocodiles, including huge seagoing beasts. The Northern Territory was from 1863 to 1911 part of South Australia, so uniting it with SA again to form a Central Australia would be historically defensible. The NT has the largest proportion of aborigines in all of Australia, some 29% of the Territory's population. They own 49% of the land.]
Flag of the Northern Territory
Australia became a Federation in 1901 and one of the requirements for any major change with respect to the states, as embedded in the Australian Constitution, demands that ALL the states have to vote in accepting ANY merger and they ALL have to agree for it to pass (the same applies for secession). That is not dependent on majority vote. It is all or nothing. Not sure how to get around this one except of course for Oz to be in a full Economic Union with all the states intact (just like the EU). This would be preferable, given the demands of the Constitution, to the various states being merged into other larger entities. It could/would possibly satisfy the Congress of the USA. [Union with the United States would be governed not by the constitution of Australia but by the Constitution of the United States, which permits states to merge "with[ ] the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress", as expressed in a simple majority vote. If states of Australia could not merge before Union, Congress and the legislatures of new states could accomplish that after Union, and this could be set out by treaty prior to consummation of the Union, those treaty provisions to survive Union. Not a problem.]
Australians know far more about the USA than American know about Australia. Now this may not necessarily be a good thing. Everything that goes wrong in the USA gets transmitted to Australia and is absorbed and commented upon (no doubt due to our close relationship with the USA over the last 60 years).
Everything is open to scrutiny because the population here IS interested in what goes on in the U.S. Sometimes the bad overshadows the good, but as there has been overwhelmingly more good than bad, we Australians tend to think that if you had a chance to talk to us, you might be surprised about the solutions that we may offer. After all, bad things happen everywhere.
We might be able to assist you to develop a National Health System in which both the private AND public good are accommodated and where Americans too can pursue Life, Liberty and Freedom WITHOUT having to go down the road of financial ruin. We must remember that happy, healthy citizens make for a happy, healthy land. [In the U.S., we say "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". That phrase comes from the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.]
[If Australia has universal healthcare coverage with a dual-payer system that allows a role for private insurers, I'm sure Republicans would be very happy to talk to Australians about how they do that!]
We might be able to assist you to develop certain interpersonal relationship skills, where friends are there for both good and bad times and talking to a friend about one's trials in life should not be treated as "dumping". The impression we Aussies get is that you guys are there for each other only in the good times. The other impression we get is that you guys deliberately withhold information (mainly personal) from each other due to the extremely competitive nature of your society. [May be false impressions, tho (heterosexual) men at least in the U.S. do tend to be very private about emotional matters.]
There are many things with which we might be able to assist you, as you have and (still do) assist us with many things in which we need your guidance.
I hope the above makes things a little clearer about how we think here in Australia.
[Flags courtesy of FOTW Flags Of The World website at http://flagspot.net/flags/]
[Return to XP home page.]