Identifying Australia in Postmodern Times:


(c) Jerry Everard 1994

1. Identifying Australia

The title of this book, 'Identifying Australia in Postmodern Times' is somewhat like issuing a writ of Habeas Corpus. It is a challenge, addressed at once to the writers of these papers, and to you, the reader. The writ has been issued and it will not be taken back. The writ asks the recipient to 'produce the body', or justify its detention, presumably in its absence.

 There is in the title, still a hint that Australia is somehow a thing in a time. It is as though the body of Australia is there to be identified, pre-constituted, occupying a spatio-temporal locus. It is a dead body, perhaps, requiring identification, so the police can continue with their business. Or - and this brings us closer to Habeas Corpus - perhaps it is a question of detention. We are summoned to justify before the law (yet paradoxically, invariably after it) why we should detain, or pin down a thing called Australia after all. And this is where two problems arise: firstly, the notion of Australia as a self-present Thing, and secondly, the problem of historicism implied by the second axis of the title of this book - postmodern times. These aporia provide my point of entry into this discussion. They also hint at a way forward into the mess we encounter when confronted by the question of identity. For the problems that arise are practical problems, encountered by policymakers every day. But they are also perennial problems - and that in itself poses a difficulty with the historicist approach, for the problems are neither new, nor especially post modern.

Let me suspend the thing-ness of Australia for a moment. To signal this, I shall speak of Australia as that thing that emerges from those practices that invoke it. I include this deletion for the same reason that Derrida presents1, namely; that the word is written because it is necessary, but crossed out because it is inaccurate. This is a practical, if shorthand way to express the difficulties presented by taking at face value the modernist fictions of the presence of what are essentially discursive objects, such as states.

That the word 'identifying' is in the present tense implies that the process is continuous. The fact of history shows that to be the case. Like the almost proverbial shit, it happens. Like the biological metaphor, it happens as a by-product of a process. Without the process there would be nothing to sustain it, and it would no longer be in production. Australia; you're standing in it.

Let me address this another way. Policymakers articulate Australia ('state' the State) in various but fairly specific ways. The formation known as 'Australia' is, first and foremost a discursive formation. When you look at what policymakers do, it comes down to talking and writing things down. They also engage, on occasion, in other signifying practices, such as ministerial visits to other, similarly constituted states, or they send gunboats to provide a tangible 'signal', in political parlance. All of these are signifying practices, without which Australia as a particular cultural practice would cease to exist. Some states have recently experienced, or are in the process of experiencing this; for example, the successors to the former Yugoslavia, or the former Soviet Union, or the former East Germany. Few people these days speak of Prussia, Bohemia or Transylvania. States are dynamic entities that exist as a product - one could even say as a by-product of their constitutive practices.

 The identities of States, like those of individuals, are articulated across a range of discourses; foreign and defence policy, health, telecommunications, social security, and so on. As Catherine Belsey points out:

... the displacement of subjectivity across a range of discourses implies a range of positions from which the subject grasps itself and its relations with the real, and these positions may be incompatible or contradictory. [t]hese incompatibilities and contradictions within what is taken for granted ... exert a pressure on concrete individuals to seek new, non-contradictory subject positions. 2

Insofar as states represent and are represented by (and in) a range of discourses, state identity cannot be said to be unitary, continuous or cohesive. Provisionally, perhaps, particular articulations of the state can be said to trace a particular position within specific boundaries of operation. It follows then, that the State qua discursive object may be construed only insofar as it enacts a specific regime of boundaries, establishing and maintaining the identity of this state, as opposed to the anarchic3 exterior.

The linguistic and other semiotic means by which we operate a shared social and political world form the currency by which we articulate the values that define our shared sense of community.

the first word in the title - 'invoking', in the present tense (a process) - is a useful way into the problem of Australia's identity. It is also implicit in the way one might discuss the question of Australia as an object. For Australia is, among other things a constituted object. Some would like to see Australia as a (re)constituted object. For this reason, I want to focus on aboriginality and on the Republicanism debate as sites of practice that concern themselves, naturally enough, with the Constitution of Australia and with the way the idea of Australia is constituted. Of course both of these topics are larger than can be indicated within a single chapter, but I cite these issues as illustrative of the myriad processes of statemaking and boundarymaking entailed in stat(e)ing States in general and Australia in particular4. I do not intend to present exhaustive discussion, or even to raise the issues in any but a passing way, as indicators of the kinds of cultural/textual practices by which the identity of Australia is constituted

 What is important to note here is that meanings are never divorced from the practices that produce them, and that discourse represents an active struggle for and against the production of particular types of statements. Moreover, I shall contend that the State, so construed is operable only as long as particular kinds of representation delimit the state in that form. This is evident in the articulation of Australia as seen through the practices of constitutional monarchy embodied in Australia's Constitution. It is also evident in the articulation of the boundaries between self and Other in the same document - for example in its inclusion of certain states, and the exclusion of certain people.
These practices are always material. That is to say, that they go beyond the bare expression of a system of ideas. They also occur within a context. As Tilley notes:

The use, production and meaning of material culture is not a context-free event. Equally, material culture does not simply consist of a set of signs to be read in which inheres a teleology of intentional meaning.5

As a result, the identity of the state as a material and cultural artefact cannot be reduced to a single system of ideas, either at the level of the individual or at the level of social theory. As both product of and producer of practices of representation, the state cannot be reduced to simple utilitarian or social functions. The state is neither a-historical, nor immutable - that is, it cannot be reduced to a single, or simple identity.
Perhaps this is what is meant by the second element of the book's title - Identifying Australia in Postmodern times. This might be the case, both in terms of the widespread recognition of the state as a non-unitary subject, and of the multiplicity implied by the plural times. However, after reading Australia's Constitution, I am struck by a remarkable sense of deja-vu. If a state's self reflexivity over its own non-unitary and contingent status is postmodern, then Australia has occupied a deeply postmodern subject position since its inception as a federation. Moreover, Australia has been articulated as a state in search of its identity from the beginning.

 To speak of identifying Australia both implies and entails a logic of representation that itself refers to a logic of presence. Moreover, to speak thus also entails an absence such that Australia - the thing requiring identification - is not actually present, here, where the identifying needs to be done6. Thus re-present-ations of Australia can be said to differ from and defer access to the presence of Australia. Derrida refers to this process as différance. That presence is sought to fill a perceived absence, indicates that a hierarchy is at work that privileges presence over absence. The hierarchy of presence and absence is, of course, only one of a large number of dichotomies that have characterised Western metaphysics for some centuries. As Ashley points out, however:

... the logic of representation is intrinsically territorialising, both as an orientation and in its effects. The dichotomy of presence versus absence presupposes boundaries, unquestioned and already in place, that mark the difference between the inside domicile of presence and the absence external to it.7

He goes on to argue that without these boundaries, presence would be put in question, in a manner which would 'undo the very source of authority and meaning to which the logic of representation would strategically return'.

 From this it is possible to see that asking what Australia is is to presuppose, first and foremost that Australia is a self-present object. I want to argue in this chapter that to ask what Australia is is to ask an essentially trivial question. It would seem more constructive to ask what kind of Australia is being invoked during any instance of speaking about Australia. Australia, I shall argue,is not a thing, but rather a symptom of the practices that invoke it. This paper, therefore, is not intended to settle the question of Australia's identity, merely to pose it. The examples I have chosen are designed merely to identify some areas of fertile ground upon which a much larger project can be developed. I seek here merely to gesture. For this reason I shall examine just a couple of examples of the process of stat(e)ing Australia - there being many formations and versions of Australia. Indeed, the constitutional Australia was, until 1967, completely outside Aboriginal Australia - and in many respects remains so. But others in this volume have explored this avenue, so I shall examine this only briefly, in terms of Australia's Constitutional identity. This paper concerns the identity of Australia as articulated by and through the Constitution, taking examples from elements of aboriginality as différend, elements of the republicanism debate, and concluding with the issue of the Proper Name as a means of exploring the issue of identifying Australia in postmodern times. And here I shall focus on two sets of documents: the Commonwealth of Australia Constitutional Act, being an Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia 1901 as amended; and the Report of the Republican Commission, 1993.

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia

Considering that a conquering nation might well feel confidence in its strength and identity - especially after the first hundred years - Australia after European conquest yielded a remarkably tentative Constitution. As a founding document Australia's Constitution is far from a confident 'we hold these truths to be self-evident' - type of document.

 Historically, such founding documents have represented the difinitive statement of inclusion and exclusion for the State. Such documents articulate the boundary between 'self' and 'other' in terms of common sets of beliefs, attitudes, and values held to mark out a 'people'.

 In this light, it is worth comparing, for a moment, the opening preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America,

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 with that for Australia:
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established ....
oh, and in case some were feeling left out:

... And whereas it is expedient to provide for the admission into the Commonwealth of other Australasian colonies and possessions of the Queen:
Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

There follow the introductory articles that name the Act; and a little further on:

...and also, if Her Majesty is satisfied that the people of Western Australia have agreed thereto, .... shall be united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia.

It would appear that there was considerable doubt as to whether or not Western Australia was going to enter the Commonwealth of Australia at all. Interestingly, under Article 6 of the Act, which defines the key terms, one finds that

'The States' shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth ....

 The fact that New Zealand did not go on to become part of the Commonwealth of Australia, although Western Australia did, suggests that there was indeed overt recognition that states were and are historically contingent, even essentially contested concepts. There is a marked difference between the emphasis on unity posed in the Constitution of the United States of America, and the open acknowledgment of the positive disunity expressed in the Australian Constitution. Of course America's notional unity was more honoured in the breach, expressing a desire more than an established fact. But then, in both cases we are discussing formations of discourse - fictions.

Indeed, in legal practice, states are defined as legal fictions, or persona ficta in Hobbesian terms. A legal person is, like a Lacanian or Foucauldian subject, a subject of discourse. As Frow argues, the relation between such subjects and things, is that of 'a relation between subjects'8. As with all discursive relations it comes down to a relation of power. In Foucauldian terms, this is articulated as the power of the negative9 - it is the power to exclude the Other from the use and disposition of the object. This raises an interesting question, because if the subject is constituted by the power to exclude, then the subject is constituted by its boundarymaking processes. This operates at the level of the state as well as at the level of the individual. This is what is meant by stat(e)ing states.

 Frow notes that from this it follows that subjects per se are not things, but rather relational structures. If this is the case, then it also follows that:

what is owned is not a material entity but an aggregate set of rights defined within a legal system. I own, not a piece of land, but a set of rights of use an exclusion over the land; and my status as a legal subject is constituted in this instance by the rights to which I am entitled and the obligations I incur.10

2. The Différend
Now here, the Act constituting Australia in 1901 systematically excluded one particular set of people from the set of rights it enacted as part of its defining boundarymaking practices. Article 51 of the Constitution states that:

The Parliament shall, subject of this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to, inter alia the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, and inter alia The people of any race other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws....

and further, in Article 127:

In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.

Although repealed only sixty-six years later, the fact remains that the identity of Australia enacted by the Constitution systematically excluded those vanquished by European conquest. It is therefore, arguably, not only for possession, that aboriginal people call for land rights, but for recognition within a Euro-centric legal system of subjectivity - the right to exist as legally constituted persons.

 This constitutional oversight led to the continuing enactment of aboriginal people as a people living, quite literally sous rature - under erasure. Indeed, even today, when we examine the Constitution as amended, we can see, in almost Derridean terms, the relevant phrases written thus:
...other than the aboriginal race in any State
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.

Somehow the irony has been lost, when the aboriginal people of Australia are systematically excluded because they are there, yet crossed out because the statement is in error. This is a classic case of what Lyotard referred to as différend. We do not need to look to the Jewish Holocaust for our différend. Lyotard puts it this way:

I would like to call différend the case wherein the plaintiff is divested of the means to argue and becomes on that account a victim. .... A case of différend between two parties takes place when the 'regulation' of the conflict which opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the injustice suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom.11

Despite the moves since 1967, to address the legal issues of racism as embodied in the law, there remain the broader historical and cultural forces that led to the Constitution being written in a particular way. Sadly, despite legislation to the contrary, the continued re-statement of those cultural forces is set to continue unabated for some time. First the writing, then the practice. The Constitution, conversely, represented the writing down of a particular set of cultural practices. Changing the Constitution to write-in aboriginal people reflects a cultural change among an elite sub-culture. Nevertheless, the cultural practices of Australian identity, as reflected, for example in popular television and advertising still tend to place aboriginality under erasure.

 The original Constitution systematically erased aboriginal people by a phrase (or two). Lyotard notes that:

... a phrase presents what it is about, the case, ta pragmata, which is its referent; what is signified about the case, the sense; that to which, or addressed to which this is signified about the case, the addressee; that 'through' or in the name of which this is signified about the case, the addressor. The disposition of a phrase universe consists in the situating of these instances in relation to each other.12

Where the phrase systematically erases, or silences a people, we can note that:

Silence does not indicate which instance is denied, it signals the denial of one or more of the instances. The survivors remain silent, and it can be understood (1), that the situation in question (the case) is not the addressee's business (he or she lacks the competence, or he or she is not worthy of being spoken to about it, etc.); or (2) that it never took place; or (3) that there is nothing to say about it (the situation is senseless, inexpressible); or (4) that it is not the survivors' business to be talking about it (they are not worthy, etc.). Or, several of these negations together.13

Taking these in sequence, one can read back into the Constitution the social emergence of the phrases in question. It is an indictment on European conquest that one can suspect the denial of all these instances in the two phrases referring to aboriginality in the original Constitution. Firstly, that the situation in question (in this case White law) is not the business of aboriginal people (treated as wildlife, therefore treated as lacking the competence to partake fully in (white) Australian society, and for whom special legislation would suffice. Secondly, that it never took place (the Terra Nullius concept) - if there were no people, then there was no need to count them in legislation, or in counting the numbers of people in the Commonwealth, or State. Thirdly, that there is nothing to say about it (the situation is senseless, inexpressible) - if Terra Nullius, then there is nothing to legislate for. And fourthly, that it is not the survivors' business to be talking about it. This is the argument that says, okay, the great grandparents of the present survivors were dispossessed, so what business is it of the present survivors to make a fuss?
These negations are changing slowly. At least legally. One aspect of this change is to recognise that a treaty alone is not sufficient, for that would only replace a process with an object and aboriginality would remain différend.

Lyotard speaks of this with respect to the case of the waged worker. In this example, for the worker to exist within a contract or agreement, presupposes that the work can be spoken of as the temporary surrender of a commodity which can be exchanged for other commodities. What this elides is that the 'service' performed by the worker represents time from the worker's life. This is not an exchangeable commodity. But without recourse to this idiom, the worker does not exist within its referential field.14

 It is heartening to see acknowledgment that what is needed at minimum in terms of recognising aboriginality, as an aspect of Australian identity, is an ongoing process of 'reconciliation'. But let us not forget that for as long as it is necessary to treat aboriginality as difference, as Other, then Australian identity will remain Other than aboriginal.

 This serves to illustrate two aspects of the constitution of Australia's identity, as set out in the Constitution. Firstly, that the constitution of Australia's identity is mutable, historically contingent - if trac(e)able by the visible deletions in the text of the Constitution. Secondly, that changes in the cultural practices of Australian identity lead to changes in the identity itself, as reflected in the Constitution. Another example that illustrates this process is before us today, in the form of the debate concerning Australian republicanism, and its constitutional implications.

3. Re: Public. An 'Ism'?
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (1901), enacted Australia as a constitutional monarchy. In the opening preamble to the Act (and we note that it is an act, ie. a verb, not a noun - a constative speech act), the Act states that the people of the founding States (already historically construed as monarchic colonies in their own right) agree to unite 'under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established'.15 Under the Act, Australia was enacted as, to some extent, a sovereign nation. Interestingly though, it was not until the passing of the Australia Act (1986) that Australia gained true sovereignty in respect of the exclusive right to legislate.

 The subtitle of this Act is: 'An Act to bring constitutional arrangements affecting the Commonwealth and the States into conformity with the status of the Commonwealth of Australia as a sovereign, independent and federal nation'.16 This Act terminated the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for Australia. The Act finally removed the effectiveness of the British 'Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865' . Under the 'Colonial Laws Act' the United Kingdom reserved the right to render void or inoperative any Act passed by the Commonwealth of Australia or the States on the ground that it was 'repugnant to the law of England'. It might well have been an Act to Render the Queen as a Postmodern Subject Position.

 Under the Australia Act 1986, the Queen is potentially open to charges of 'conflict of interest', or at least She would be, if She were a modernist, unitary subject of discourse. But, as Queen, She does not occupy the subject position of 'natural person'. She is, in Her capacity as Queen, a 'legal person', and herein lies the difference. For example, having dealt with teh question of the compatability of Australian with British law through the Australia Act 1986, there remains an incompatability in the other direction. As I have noted, the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 allowed the UK to render void or inoperative Australian laws that were deemed to be repugnant to the law of England. There is no commensurate Act that would enable Australia to provide for the Monarch the same employment equity granted to other holders of public office in Australia, in terms of discrimination on the grounds of gender or creed. As Attorney General, Michael Lavarch has noted; under Section 116 of the Constitution, 'no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth'. Yet our head of State is required under English law to be of the Anglican faith. Moreover, as Lavarch has stated,

'the rules for succession to the position of head of state do discriminate on the grounds of religion and sex .... However acceptable the rules may have been in teh past, they can hardly be regarded as an accurate reflection of the modern outlook against discrimination. ....If these rules are unacceptable for any office under the Constitution, they should not be acceptable as the basis for determining who should be our head of state.17

In essence then, Australia has a discursive Queen, who is not a natural person, and who lives some 25,000 kilometres away from her equally discursive Australia. Moreover, the natural person who occupies the subject position of Queen does so as a divided subject of discourse, insofar as the natural person of the Queen occupies the 'Queen' subject position for the United Kingdom, Ireland and for Australia. In Australia, She is (re)presented in the form of the Governor General, who is also a legal fiction. This too, then, is a case of différance . To seek the identity of Australia then is:

... an exercise, ... in which the absence rather than the presence of somebody, some institutions or thing, distinguishes the mark of the exercise of power and authority under the sign of the state, for it emerges that it is through the traces left by state inscriptions (state statements) that state-mediated power and the presence of the state (stat[e]ing states) is manifested. Paradoxically, therefore, the state is more conspicuous by its absence, for it is never 'there', except in the traces left by those, paradoxically empowered by these very signs, that sign for it. As ever in the enactment of performance, it is the ensemble of presence/absence that is responsible for the production of the overall effect of the 'presence' of the state'.18

A further inconsistency arises in the provisions for holders of public office. Section 44(i) of the Constitution states:

Any person who is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power, inter alia, shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives


 That Australia's head of state holds dual citizenship would also seem inconsistent with the constitutional arrangements for other holders of public office.

 However, if Australia is indeed a 'virtual' space governed by a 'virtual' Queen, re-presented by the Governor General, then why should Australia become a republic, as though in some strange sense this act would render Australia more self-present? This sentiment has been echoed by at least the pro status quo-ists, if not the pro-monarchists themselves. The arguments, or at least assertions run as follows:19

 * there is no a-priori reason why Aboriginal people will fare better under a republican Australia;
* there is no evidence that changing our symbols will in any way improve our trading relations with other nations;
* a republican Australia will not necessarily eliminate class antagonisms;
* there is no necessary connection between a strong sense of national pride and a strong economy, there is no correlation between strong economies and republics;
* becoming a republic will not, by itself, have solved anything of genuine political significance to Australia.

 This much is not in dispute by the Republic Advisory Committee. As their report notes:

Experience throughout the world demonstrates that there is no necessary relation between a country's political stability or economic success and the nature of its head of state .... Moreover, British Commonwealth experience has demonstrated that the change from a constitutional monarchy to a republic does not necessarily affect a nation's political stability.20

Thus, although the monarchists and the status quo-ists can see no tangible benefit to Australia becoming a republic, the Republic Advisory Committee has found that at worst, in terms of economic and political stability, becoming a republic offers no detriment either. In fact it finds that becoming a republic is neutral on this issue.

The difficulty facing pro republicans is that they have to argue a case for activity over passivity. For Australia to remain a monarchy, the population just needs to do nothing. We have seen, however, that states are somewhat evanescent entities. Without active maintenance, they would just fade away. Without their borders, literal and symbolic being policed and maintained through the myriad practices of the minutæ of statemaking, the state would cease to exist.

 From the moment the words 'be it therefore enacted...' are uttered within the rituals of a particular kind of speech act, a process is set in motion, a by-product of which is a State. States, as we have seen are not 'natural persons'. In fact even 'natural persons' require nourishment and maintenance practices, both actual and symbolic in order to remain subjects by and of discourse. So in fact, the 'act' of doing nothing is still an act of discourse. On this basis, the pro-monarchists, including the pro-status quo-ists must equally justify why Australia should continue to be enacted as a monarchy in the face of an increasing set of republican practices designed to render to Australia the sovereignty it operates by virtue of Statehood.

 Prime Minister Keating has stated repeatedly that Australia would benefit from becoming a republic in terms of national identity and national unity. These are symbolic, and may not have a tangible effect on political stability or economic stability. But to suppose that symbolic reasons are less important than economic or political reasons, is to fall into the fallacy of assuming that the economic and political realms are not themselves founded upon a discursive and historically contingent edifice. That is to say that the political and economic realms are equally 'symbolic'.

Some have argued that were Australia to become a republic it would only be rendering in law essentially what is currently fact in practice. The argument runs this way: a republic is defined as a 'state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them'. Since the Commonwealth Constitution can be amended only by the people, by referendum, then ultimate sovereignty in Australia rests with the Australian people. As the Republic Advisory Committee note:

Australia is, therefore, a state in which sovereignty resides in its people, and in which all public offices, except at the very apex of the system, are filled by persons deriving authority directly or indirectly from the people. It may be appropriate to regard Australia as a 'crowned republic' .... It follows that all that is required to make Australia completely republican is to remove the monarch; no other constitutional change is required. 21

Other supporting arguments for this position include our checks and balances to the power of government through the separation of powers, and a strong regard for the rule of law and the protection of civil liberties, at least in law. In effect, this argument holds that Australia is already a 'virtual' republic.

 If this is indeed the case - that Australia is already being articulated as a republic, then it follows that the time is fast approaching when this fact shall be articulated in the juridical discourse of the Constitution. When that time arrives, the republican identity of Australia will have a stronger discursive base with which to articulate the future.

 It will be a stronger discursive base because the idea of Australia will be articulated as a more autonomous, unitary and cohesive subject, unfettered by a perceived allegiance to another's monarch. For example, until the Australia Act (1986) Australia did not possess the full and unfettered sovereign rights of a State. A republican Australia would go a long way toward confirming those rights in the eyes of the world.

 4. The Proper Name...
Identifying Australia in postmodern times is not about uncovering a 'real' or 'more authentic' Australia, it is about the process of constituting a 'proper name'. And by 'proper' I do not mean one that is more virtuous, or more homogeneous. It is not about finding a unitary, or coherent body to which we can ascribe an identity. For to do so is to participate in a fraud, an illusion that the state as speaking subject is the rational, unitary, coherent subject of Western Modernism, as articulated through the Treaty of Westphalia. To maintain that artifice is to maintain injustice and to maintain a theoretical framework that is simply not practical. And policymakers are, at the very least, practical.

 We have seen that the distinction between 'legal' persons and 'natural' persons cannot be maintained as a simple Manichæan dichotomy of nature and culture, because the status of the 'natural' person is itself constituted by and within a discursive economy through the articulation of sets of rights and duties (boundaries). That is to say they are both fully discursive categories.

 Australian tolerance of diversity is one of Australia's strengths. But to be perceived as a strength, it must be perceived as Australia's own tolerance, rather than the tolerance allowed a wayward colony by another. There is strength in diversity only when articulated from a position of confident autonomy.

 We have seen also that Sovereignty, too, is a 'legal fiction' by which states articulate rights to govern within its boundaries (stating States) and duties to (re)present all the people within those borders in dealings with other States (stat[e]ing States).

It would be cumbersome to try to maintain these discursive categories as objects. What I have alluded to in this chapter is a set of processes, the by-product of which functions as a proper name. Identifying Australia is a process, not a thing - a verb, rather than a noun. It is a process that is set in play through the invocation of the name, not an end-product. Indeed, the invocation of the name serves to stand in place of the thing in order to signify its difference from and defer-ment from the present. All this is to suggest that identifying Australia is a boundarymaking process that can be read out from and articulated through sets of discursive practices.

The final point I want to make is that these processes have always been in play. A noted nineteenth century strategist, Carl von Clausewitz, proposed the maxim that 'war is a continuation of policy by other means'. I am inclined to the view that policy is a continuation of conflict by other means. We speak of identifying Australia as though this were a mark of its fragility, its evanescence. We speak of Australia's identity in precisely the place where we do not perceive it to be. A similar sentiment seems to be echoed by the Chinese scholar Lao Tzu around 500B.C. when he wrote:

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space that there is nothing that utility of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
and it is on these spaces that the utility of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognise the utility of what is not.

Australia's identity, then, would seem to be best expressed as that which emerges from the difference between the questions we ask of it, and the stat(e)ments we make about it.

* Jerry Everard is the author of the book Virtual States: Internet, Globalisation and Inequality published by Routledge UK. He holds Ph.D.s in International Relations (1992) and in Cultural Studies (1998) from the Australian National University. He has taught Literary Theory, Linguistics, Gender studies, Aboriginal Literature and Media studies at Murdoch University, and Philosophy and International Relations at the Australian National University. His writings have appeared in Alternatives, The Australian Journal of International Studies, and Pacific Research. His research interests include: the Internet, the Philosophy and Psychology of Cyberspace, International/Internotional Relations and Subjectivity, and Arms Control and International Security issues. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University Department of English .


1 See Gayatri Spivak's translator's preface in Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1976, p.xivff.
2 Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice Methuen, London, 1980, p.65.
3 For an expansion of the anarchic view of international relaitons, see Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society, Macmillan, London, 1977, p. 46.
4 See G.M. Dillon and Jerry Everard, 'Stat(e)ing Australia: Squid Jigging and the Masque of State' in Alternatives Vol. 17 (1992) pp. 281-312.
5 See Christopher Tilley 'Michel Foucault: Towards an Archeology of Archeology', Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and Post-Structuralism, ed. Christopher Tilley, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1990, p.338.
6 Richard K. Ashley, 'The State of the Discipline: Realism under Challenge' in Richard Higgott and J.L. Richardson eds. International Relations: Global and Australian Perspectives on an Evolving Discipline, Australian National University, Canberra, 1991, p. 52.
7 Ibid. p.51.
8 John Frow, 'The Subject of Law', in Social; Theory and Legal Politics, Gary Wickham ed., Local Consumption Publications, Sydney, 1987, p.69.
9 See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume I: an introduction, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1984, p.85.
10 John Frow, Op. cit., p.69.
11 Jean-François Lyotard 'The Différend, The Referent, and The Proper Name' Diacritics (Fall, 1984) p.7.
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid. p.7.
14 Ibid. p.5.
15 The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1901.
16 The Australia Act 1986
17 Michael Lavarch quoted in Australian Associated Press wire service Catholic Monarchy Ban Inconsistent With Aust Constitution, Canberra, 13 April 1994.
18 G.M. Dillon and Jerry Everard, Op.cit., p. 287.
19 Wayne Cristaudo, 'Republic of Australia? The Political Philosophy of Republicanism' in Current Affairs Bulletin (April, 1993) pp. 4-9.
20 Republic Advisory Committee, An Australian Republic: The Options. Volume 1 - The Report, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1993, p.46.
21 Ibid., p.39.

(c) 1994 Jerry Everard


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