by Patrick Liddy*
My old man was an immigrant from Ireland. His official name was ‘James Liddy’, but he was called ‘Seamus’. In Northern Ireland when he was born it was illegal to christen your child with a Gaelic first name. Can you imagine? I named my son, my first born, after him. He’s officially Seamus Liddy. Thank you, Australia.
So, going back, on my late father’s passport he was known as ‘James’. He moved to Australia in the 1950s. He was a Catholic and ‘Green’. When I was young another Irishman and his family moved to our street. Robbie Robertson. He and his family were Protestants and ‘Orange’. (This was in the 1970s when sectarian violence was at its peak in the UK.) My parents became the godparents to Robbie and Hazel’s children, something that would not have happened in Ireland. Jimmy and Helen Mallee lived on our street. They had four children, they christened one a Catholic, one a Protestant, one a Jew, the other a Muslim. Jimmy once told me “They’ll be no bigotry in my family”. Jimmy was hard working, hard drinking and a character to boot. As far as I’m aware there has been no sectarian violence in Jimmy and Hazel’s family to date. Our next-door neighbour, Norm, was always of the opinion that given three generations we all become pretty much homogenous. Now, if anyone had a reason for turning back the boats, I figure it was Norm. He was aboriginal, an indigenous Australian.
Growing up I loved Australia because I reckoned it didn’t matter about race, religion or sex. I never once enquired or wanted to know someone’s race or religion. And having visited some of the birth places of religious hate, seeing the “Red Hand” the “Black Hand” murals in Northern Ireland or gone to a Celtic versus Rangers crowd segregated soccer match in Scotland you really appreciate what we have. We should not give up the tolerance we have in this country for anything, it is better to cultivate tolerance and variety.
I recently read a special report entitled “Islam in the West.” (The Economist, February 19, 2019). The article strongly supported my old neighbour Norm. It centred around how Muslins have had a significant presence in the West for three generations, and in particular how they have blended in and benefited these communities. It explained how much they had added to the economy and to the wellbeing of each country, including the US. This is true in Australia as well, they are a continuation of the stream of people and faiths that have made this country an excellent place to live and have a family. Just in the gourmet stakes only we have won out handsomely.
The United States had George Washington and the American War of Independence, we had Edmond Barton and the White Australia Policy. One of these events is a subject that gets taught in most curriculums around the world the other not much so. Many people know who the first President of the US was. Less people in Australia know that Edmond was our first PM. The once King of England George III said of George Washington “he will be the greatest man in the world!”. No such accolades for Edmond. But on the plus our transfers of power and national unity have been done peacefully. We have never favored revolution and violence; we have mostly found solutions through the ballet box. What’s more we have moved far from “White Australia” policy to wide political agreement that immigration is good for this country, this should remain so. And good for the country it is. Economically, many studies have shown for every $1 spend on immigrants $1.5 is generated. They are not a drain; immigration is a bonus. They have added to the pleasant current of humanity; variety is the spice of life.
Only in Australia could my parents have become godparents like they did, only in Australia could I have never wondered as a child about a friend’s race and religion, in Australia we can we go to the footy without segregation. But for this to continue to succeed we should be more vocal about the benefits that immigrant people make, we should be vocal against the journalist that promote misinformation. We should be vocal because as Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
*Patrick Liddy is the principal of consulting firm MSI Group and occasional contributor to Investor Strategy News.