Page 1178 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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I was then asked could I think of any instances of cultural cringe. I do believe in being honest and I am not afraid to speak my mind. I believe one of the great problems besetting politics in Australia—perhaps an issue that politicians need to dwell on—is their disinclination to say exactly what it is that they feel or think. I think at times it might be described as a want of courage, of moral fibre. It is not something I suffer from. I am prepared to say always what I think.

If I am asked can I think of any instances of cultural cringe still besetting the nation, I do not stop to think, as Mr Mulcahy would now, “Is it politic of me to say this? Is it diplomatic? Will I get into trouble? Will somebody criticise me if I actually say to the people of Canberra, if I say to my constituents, ‘Actually, yes, I can think of a couple of examples of what I regard as a cringe.’” I gave two examples—one, much dwelt on; and the other, ignored.

The first example was that I do believe and do see in the blind, mindless following by John Howard of George Bush—

Opposition members interjecting—

MR STANHOPE: I gave two examples. And isn’t it interesting that one has been reported, and the other ignored. I do see—and I said this; the ABC ran it; I think others have ignored it—in the blind, mindless following by John Howard of George Bush into Iraq, a cringe. It is a cringe. It is a lack of confidence in ourselves that we have to be ordered into war by others. And I said that I do see, in some of the lavish praise laid at the feet of Princess Mary, a cringe. And I do. That is my view.

MR MULCAHY: In the context of the Chief Minister’s much-vaunted commitment to multiculturalism, why did he risk harming the ACT’s capacity to build ties with the Danish and Scandinavian communities by making those remarks, which he has not retracted?

MR STANHOPE: It is elevating me and my thoughts to a status that they do not deserve to think that I, in any capacity, could affect tourism from Denmark to Australia by the proffering of an honest view that Australians still do, from time to time, succumb to something of a cultural cringe. We do so from time to time, in some of our need to continue, through some of our activities, our national activities, to be always compared with the best in the world. We are—and I confidently assert it—the best at so many things. We are creative; we are energetic; we are the hardest working people; we do create so much; we have invented so much; we lead the world.

But we do not need, it seems to me, to constantly compare ourselves, to constantly aspire to some little thing that we see being basically held up as an ideal, simply because it is something we don’t have—as if, now that we have our own princess, we have to have the best princess in the world. It is just not good enough that we have a princess, a real princess of our own; all of a sudden she has to be the best of the best princesses in the world. I think it doesn’t hurt us to sit back and have a little bit of a think about that and just ponder what it is that we are reflecting through this particular attitude.

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