Part 1 transcript

Phillip Adams:

Well, we’re out at La Trobe University to have a discussion on Australian nationalism.  Australians have been discussing nationalism before we were a fully fledged Australia.  It comes in great waves.  In my lifetime I’ve seen it peak during the turbulent times around say, One Nation, around the refugee crisis, around the desire to have a republic.  But most important of all, at the time when Whitlam commenced his brief and turbulent government.  One of the first things Gough decided to do was to dump the Honours system, the Imperial Honours system and to have one for Australia, for antipodean purposes and I remember writing in an open letter, this is almost forty years ago, saying “this is terrific but we should go one step further and get rid of the use of Sir and Dame”.  You won’t remember this, most of you, but we did in fact have Sirs and Dames under the Order of Australia system.  And I suggested that we introduce new terms and that they be “mate” and “cobber”.  It seemed to me that both of them were free of gender specificity and they had a certain eucalyptic ring to them.  Unfortunately Gough didn’t do that but I am going to do it today because we’ve gathered together on the stage some quite extraordinarily gifted mates and cobbers.  First of all, Mate Marilyn Lake, sitting on my right, awarded a personal chair in history here at La Trobe in 1994.  Since then she’s held visiting professorial fellowships at Stockholm, the University of WA, the ANU and the University of Sydney.  She’s published a dozen books and an infinite number of articles and book chapters in Australian and international anthologies on subjects ranging from labour history to land settlement, on sexuality and citizenship, gender and nationalism. And Marilyn, like the rest of my guests today, will shortly mount the lectern and deliver an opening statement.  Ghassan Hage, Professor and now Cobber, Cobber Hage, is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, and is the University of Melbourne’s Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory.  He joined Melbourne after fifteen years of teaching and research at the University of Sydney and he’s researched and published widely in the comparative anthropology of nationalism, multi-culturalism, racism and migration.  Rai Gaita, Rai, you’re hereby both a Cobber and a Mate.  Currently Foundation Professor of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University and Professor of Moral Philosophy at King’s College, London.  Each year he’s in England from October until the beginning of the academic year at ACU.  It’s to his great credit that he practises what he preaches and he preaches the need for philosophers to address an educated and hard-thinking lay audience as well as their colleagues.  And I’m particularly pleased to have him here because I saw the issue of Australian nationalism through the prism of the film industry we didn’t have, and most recently he was responsible for a really remarkable Australian film, Romulus My Father.  Andrew Markus, Cobber, Cobber Professor Andrew Markus, holds the Pratt Foundation Chair of Jewish Civilisation.  He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and is a past head of Monash University’s School of Historical Studies.  He’s the author of four books and editor or co-editor of more than ten others.  My favourite was Race:  John Howard and the Remaking of Australia, back in 2001.  Ladies and gentlemen I will now ask each of my distinguished guests to make an opening statement and I would like them to limit it to ten to twelve minutes.