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e-cyclopedia Monday, 19 October, 1998, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
So what is Mateship?
When Tony Blair was elected UK prime minister, his big idea was that citizens should be stakeholders. For the newly re-elected Australian PM, John Howard, the driving ideology is that citizens should be "mates".

Having seen off an electoral threat which was against immigrants and against Aboriginal rights, Mr Howard's chosen direction for government seems uncannily appropriate for Australia.

Being mates with one another would ensure everything would be Dinky Di (all right), he said in his post-election speech.

"I want to dedicate my government to the maintenance of traditional Australian values. And they include those great values of mateship and egalitarianism," Mr Howard said.

What-ship?

The tradition of mateship, the reliance of a man on his mates, is a fair dinkum (true) Ocker (Australian) male thing that goes far beyond men incessantly calling each other "mate".

It may have been more politically correct (but perhaps less politically astute) for John Howard to refer to it as male-bonding.

The concept stems from the legends of the lonely and often dangerous life of the bushranger (epitomised by the movie character Crocodile Dundee). When ship-loads of convicts arrived in Australia the men would often settle in remote areas in pairs to break in the land and raise livestock.

Mateship was also significant in the trenches - both the trenches of WW I, and the gold-mining trenches of last century.

Grassrootship

McKenzie Wark, a lecturer in Media and Communication studies at Sydney's Mcquarie University said that the concept is a hard one for John Howard's Liberal Party.

Traditionally it has held a strong distaste for the masculine, working class, radical nationalist values from which mateship springs.

But he also points out that mateship was never an entirely white male concept.

"Mateship is about grassroots methods of dealing with cultural difference," he said.

"I think people's instinct was to reject top-down definitions of how multiculturalism was supposed to work, and to insist that inclusion is something that ordinary people decide on in their working and community lives."

Sickship

Australian comedian Brendan Burns, who presents Channel 4's The 11 O'clock Show, said mateship goes beyond being able to have a few tinnies (beers) with mates.

"Mateship is throwing up in the back of your your mates car and he doesn't complain," Burns said.

He did find it odd, however, that the idea of mateship was being pushed by John Howard.

"This is coming from a guy who was supposedly the most hated politician, the guy who was judged to be a loser. Now he's in for a second term," he said.

Mr Howard must have some mates after all.

See also:

08 Dec 98 | Australian elections
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