The economic and political crisis that struck Australia last year, and the continued debate on whether it has a cultural conservatism that can be cured, will have a long-lasting effect on how the country approaches the world.
A number of prominent conservative thinkers have called for the country to move away from its cultural conservatism and embrace more liberal values, and even suggested that Australia should rebrand itself as a cultural melting pot.
But it’s not just conservative thinkers who have argued for a cultural overhaul, there are also several left-leaning commentators and academics who are advocating a return to more liberal ideals.
Australia’s cultural conservatism The cultural conservatism argument is based on the idea that Australians are culturally conservative because they are fundamentally tolerant and open-minded.
This is an ideology that is supported by an overwhelming majority of Australians.
According to the 2010 Census, 61.7 per cent of Australians surveyed said they would like to see their children raised in a more liberal culture, while only 12.5 per cent said they wanted to see Australia become more culturally conservative.
Liberal values are not popular amongst Australians, and a 2014 Ipsos poll found that 76 per cent favoured a national referendum on cultural change.
While the Australian left has made great strides towards greater cultural liberalism, the right-wing opposition Labor Party still holds a strong hold on the majority of Australian voters.
As the country grapples with the economic and social crisis, a number of commentators are calling for a return of the cultural conservatism advocated by the left.
The Australian Cultural Movement is an organisation that seeks to promote liberal values among Australians.
Its members include academics, politicians and business leaders.
The group believes that cultural conservatism is not a problem in Australia and that there are many benefits to embracing a more accepting and tolerant culture.
“The most successful cultural change is when people accept the change as it is, rather than trying to change the existing system to accommodate it,” said Clare Short, a lecturer at the Australian National University.
In a 2013 report, the Australian Cultural Foundation (ACF) estimated that if Australia were to adopt the more liberal views advocated by some left-wing commentators, Australia would lose about $200 billion per year in economic output, and $2.8 trillion in value added.
This economic blow to the economy would be compounded by the increased cost of living and the cost of housing, and it would make the economic pain felt by many Australians feel more acute, according to ACF’s Dr John Gough.
Dr Gough said that there was a risk that the cultural revolution would lead to the cultural decline of the country.
He said there would be a shift away from a culture that valued personal freedom and individualism, towards a culture where individualism and freedom of choice were more valued.
Australian culture is a diverse mix of cultures and religions.
When people are able to come together and share values, the country becomes more tolerant and diverse.
And that’s the kind of culture that we should be embracing, he said.
Many of Australia’s most popular cultural icons are on the ACF advisory board, and many Australians have supported the group’s advocacy of cultural change through their donations.
And Dr Gough is not alone.
Many left-winger academics, including Mark Latham, have suggested that the Liberal Party needs to be more culturally inclusive.
For example, Dr Grough said that the recent coronavirus pandemic showed the value of having a diverse and tolerant society, and that a greater number of Australian students should consider taking a course in cultural diversity.
There are also concerns that a return into the liberal tradition of the 1960s and 70s would be detrimental to Australia’s image and the economic health of the Australian economy.
A lot of Australians believe that Australian values have been lost, and they don’t want to be associated with a culture based on a different view of the world, said Professor Gough, adding that it would be much more socially beneficial to adopt a more inclusive and tolerant view of our values.
If the Liberal Government does decide to rein in its cultural liberalism in the future, Professor Grough is hopeful that the government will focus on creating a strong cultural community within the country that can help Australia to re-emerge as a multicultural nation.
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