Peter Costello: Values?

Treasurer and Number Two of the current ruling neo-liberal, neo-conservative Liberal party coalition government, Peter Costello, has been implicitly using a very interesting definition of ‘values’. For Costello the form or mode of government and its relation to and nature of the judical system constitutes ‘values’ in the contemporary popularist, nationalist and reactionary sense of the term. I want to add to this post tomorrow, after the transcript from Costello’s interview on the ABC’s Lateline appears online.

A paraphrased line from Costello:
“Australians became targets in Bali, not because of anything that Australia did, but because they were perceived to be Westerners.”

EDIT: 24/08/05

Here is the transcript.

TONY JONES: But isn’t this the sort of thing you hear in pubs, the meaningless populism you hear on talkback radio? Essentially, the argument is if you don’t like it here, you should go back home.

PETER COSTELLO: No. Essentially, the argument is Australia expects its citizens to abide by core beliefs – democracy, the rule of law, the independent judiciary, independent liberty. You see, Tony, when you come to Australia and you go to take out Australian citizenship you either swear on oath or make an affirmation that you respect Australia’s democracy and its values. That’s what we ask of people that come to Australia and if they don’t, then it’s very clear that this is not the country – if they can’t live with them – whose values they can’t share. Well, there might be another country where their values can be shared.

Costello’s attempt to rescue himself is interesting. There were three moments to his argument:

1) Australians have certain ‘values’. ‘Australia’ is based on this ‘values’.

2) Such ‘values’ include democratic government and its relationship to and the nature of the juridical system.

3) Some people who come to Australia don’t like our ‘values’ (ie form of government and legal system). Therefore, they should think about buggering off.

He attempted to tap popularist sentiment with the first moment. Popularists think of footy and meat pies, V8 commodores and ANZAC Day, and the Ashes and lamingtons. What Tony called the ‘pub pickup’ (admittedly, I have picked up worse things in pubs). Oh, no, he actually meant the form of government…

Can someone point me to an anthropology or even a cultural studies text were the author makes the argument that a form of government and legal system constitute ‘values’? Governments, especially those of conservative and/or right-wing politicians, use devisive talk about ‘values’ to manipulate the soft-headed public, but this does not constitute a form of government or legal system; it is a form of affective governance.

More: Kim over a Larvatus Prodeo asks about religious politicians in the current government, such as Tony Abbott.

1 thought on “Peter Costello: Values?”

  1. Your sophistry apparently did not yield much of an echo here. Reminds me of our erstwhile President William Jefferson Clinton who famously resorted to arguing about : “…what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” instead of dealing with unpleasant facts.

    Whatever you call it, values, culture, parameters – whatever – the core issue in Australia’s case and just about everybody else’s is that most people are not thrilled about guests at their house changing the rules, repainting the parlor and moving the furniture about — just for starters.

    Geert @ New York City (a grateful 1967 immigrant from Europe)

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