Australia is a team worth being on

Australia is a team worth being on
ELLEN WHINNETT HERALD SUN SEPTEMBER 04, 2014 10:43PM SHARE

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Team Australia isn’t a bad side to be on.
Team Australia isn’t a bad side to be on.
LAST month, Prime Minster Tony Abbott declared that migrants needed to sign up to “Team Australia”.

“My position is everyone has got to be on Team Australia — everyone has got to put this country, its interests, its values and its people first,” he said.

His critics pounced and his comments were derided as jingoistic or, worse, interpreted as a threat. You’re with us, or against us. Our way, or the highway.

And yes, the words “Team Australia’’ conjure up unfortunate images of Team America, the animated comedy from a few years back by the evil geniuses behind South Park.

It’s quite easy to picture Tony Abbott as some sort of Roger Ramjet or Captain America type in star-spangled Speedos.

But the Prime Minister’s on to something here, an idea that everyone in Australia might, ultimately, be striving for the same thing. A safe and economically comfortable life. Freedom to go to school, to work, to vote for whoever we choose. An acceptance that Australia has a lifestyle envied across the globe. That we’re a country so attractive, we have lured migrants from across the seas for several centuries, to a land already inhabited by indigenous peoples, the original Australians.

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It seems to me that the idea of Team Australia is more than a group. It’s a place, a set of values and a way of life.

So, in no particular order, let’s have a crack at picking our dream Team Australia.

Let’s sign up the relaxed, easygoing Aussies. The ones who don’t get too worried about what god a person worships, what colour their skin is, who they want to marry, and where they came from before they arrived here.

Next, hand out the Team Australia tracksuit to the Aussies who don’t stand by when someone’s in trouble. Whose default reaction to strife is not to whip out a camera phone and start filming it for YouTube, but to step in, and lend a hand.

Also joining Team Australia should be those who recognise that little girls are as precious as little boys; that those little girls will grow into women who deserve the same pay as men for the same job, and who have the right to be safe at home and safe on the street. The same rights to education and to stand for public office. The same rights to be heard.

Everyone is welcome to sign up for Team Australia, regardless of what team you previously played for. Difference is celebrated — in colour, race and religion. Old cultures are to be preserved and shared. But grudges and ancient hatreds from other lands must be left at the door.

Those who want to join Team Australia understand innately the value of a fair go. Taking people as you find them. Not judging them by their last name, their postcode, their sexuality, whether they’re wearing a yarmulke or a hijab, a sari, a Bonds singlet, a turban.

Team Australia players expect to put in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. To abide by the umpire’s rules. To celebrate victories and be gracious in defeat.

SIGN up those who have fought for our country and our allies in wars overseas. Those are people who obeyed the directions of our democratically elected government and put their lives on the line for the lifestyles and freedoms we all enjoy.

Team Australia plays by secular rules. We have a handful of religious laws that we probably never think of but are based on the Christian faith — the holy days of Christmas Day and Easter gazetted as family days. No parking meters on Sunday mornings. No further religious laws are required.

Sharia law? Forget it. The tiny minority pushing for it to be recognised in Australia should get off the Team Australia bus and head straight to the airport.

Team Australia members don’t invade school-buses full of Jewish schoolchildren and shout Nazi slogans while threatening to cut their throats. They don’t rush down to Cronulla Beach to “take back the beaches”. They don’t take part in violent protests in the streets and carry signs warning of beheadings if someone insults their prophet. (Co-incidentally, it says something about marvellous Melbourne that none of these three incidents, above, happened here.)

Team Australia looks for the things that unite us, not divide us. They go to the footy on a Saturday afternoon, cheer their lungs out, then join rival club members for the train trip home. No fences to separate supporters, no riot police, no horses.

So to misquote the words used by those boofheads who punched on at Cronulla a decade ago, whether you grew here or flew here, Team Australia expects that you will love this country above all others, put the welfare of its people above everything else.

What colours would Team Australia wear? The red, white and blue of our Southern Cross and Commonwealth star, with the British Union Jack in the corner? Or the red, black and yellow of the Aboriginal flag, the colours of this great land. Both, surely.

And, above all, Team Australia represents the kind of place where, if we want to, we can change the captain — not with a gun and a militia army, but with a pen and the ballot box.

That’s my Team Australia. Who’s in?

Ellen Whinnett is national politics editor. Twitter: @ellenwhinnett

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