Not all that long ago – depending maybe on your age – the idea that we could mention Christmas in an end-of-year column that is also looking forward would not have been controversial. But it seems some people believe “Christmas” is not politically correct. We live in a multicultural society, constitutionally we are a secular society, that is we do not have an “established” religion, and, let’s be honest, with every passing census fewer Australians claim to have any religious affiliation at all.
I agree with all of that but I think we need to lighten up here. Although now that my old network Channel Ten is owned by the big American broadcaster CBS, none of the newsrooms were supposed to have Christmas parties. End-of-year party, yes, even a “holidays” party but “Christmas” – no, no, no.
Here I think we need to take a leaf out of the book of the American radical feminist author, Naomi Wolf. She hit the news in the past few weeks for calling out Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister, Angus Taylor, for claiming: a) they were together at Oxford, and b) inferring she was among a bunch of secular liberals who didn’t want his college to have a Christmas tree.
Taylor, she claimed, was not only guilty of a faulty memory – she wasn’t even a student at Oxford at the same time – but also for dumb stereotyping. Sure, Wolf is a “progressive feminist” and she is Jewish but she insists she is not now, nor has she ever been anti-Christmas. In fact, she says she is married to a Christian and loves celebrating Christmas. And why wouldn’t she? Plenty of secular Australians love Christmas for its family reunions, celebration of friends and holiday relaxation.
There are plenty of “non-Christian” Australians who take full advantage of the holidays surrounding Christmas to do the same. Our Sikh neighbours even invite us in for drinks. It’s a pity our federal government hasn’t stopped to reflect on all of this. Instead we have Prime Minister Morrison tying himself up in knots over proposed laws to allow people of faith to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t share their worldview.
Last week as Sydney choked under suffocating smoke haze, Morrison and Attorney-General, Christian Porter, released a second draft paper on religious freedom. It has 11 changes to their first attempt; all in fact extending the right of believers to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws. Allow me a prediction – these laws will not be enacted but put on the never never. Just like Morrison’s promise to outlaw within two weeks of the Wentworth by-election the ability of private schools to expel gay kids; 14 months later we are still waiting. The schools, by the way, say it’s not necessary because they don’t want to do it anyway.
Besides, next year Morrison has to grapple with a realistic policy on climate change and stagnating wages as well as spending more of his surplus on disability and aged care.