The first, by Greg Day, called for a process of reverse assimilation in which the host population are supposed to assimilate into the culture of the newest arrivals:
Another example of government spin gone tragically wrong is the latest Australia Day Council advertisements, urging us all to barbecue like never before.
The advert, in the style of a 1970s Maoist propaganda poster, features three bronzed Aussies gripping their chops and snags close to their hearts in readiness for the ritual fry-up.
One can only gasp in horror at the meaning this might have for people of the Hindu faith - this is tantamount to saying throw another sacred cow on the barbie, mate.
The Age, in its wisdom, also thought it a good idea to publish a column on Australia Day criticising flag-abusers. Roel ten Cate wrote:
To an anti-social minority, every display of the flag means a vote in support of violence-based nationalism. We all know who this minority is. They can usually be seen on Australia Day with their shirt off, beer can in hand, often wearing the flag as a cape, and being generally loud ... But they are not solely to blame. All those who choose to publicly exhibit the flag - whether they have pure intentions or not - are inadvertently encouraging these flag-abusers.
Not too much joy on Australia Day from The Age so far. And the kill-joy trend continues with Stephanie Dowrick's column. She begins promisingly by stating that "we have countless reasons to be grateful". But then we get the following:
It is anyway barely possible to regard Australia Day as an unconditional celebration ... Aboriginal population ... unreflective racism and colonialism ... how difficult it is for first-generation migrants to feel at home ... exacerbated when people look and sound different...
She then offers us the prospect of an inevitable "social revolution" in which there cannot be a stable national identity:
At every level what it means to be an "Australian" is in a state of flux ... It is one of the markers of 21st-century life that populations are on the move ... While this social revolution is unrolling, we can't predict how it will alter our conceptions of nationality and belonging. But we can recognise the inevitability of this change .... A common reaction to such fears [of change] is defensiveness and bigotry.
So there's a revolutionary movement of change that will alter our conceptions of nationality. But if you question it, claims Stephanie Dowrick, you are showing mere defensive and bigotry.
At least she admits that the liberal programme is a radical one. Of the several radical/revolutionary political movements of the twentieth century, the liberal one is the sole survivor. A pity we couldn't have seen it off with the others.
So what are we to do for a national identity? Stephanie Dowrick thinks it should be based not on racial or cultural origins but on traits such as generosity, respect, neighbourliness, resourcefulness and kindness. But, as she herself admits:
These are human qualities, not national ones.
So they cannot then define a distinctively national identity. They cannot be the basis of a stable national tradition.
The final opinion piece, by Prasanth Shanmugan, is another attempt to redefine the national identity. Like a few recent migrants he feels lost in a multiculture and has picked up on how superficial it all is:
I do not agree with the policy and theory of multiculturalism, as it is defined and practised. I believe it is flawed with its narrow focus on diversity and on the other. And sadly its meaning was never elucidated beyond tasting a different cuisine each night.
But what kind of national identity does Prasanth Shanmugan endorse? He calls for a nationalism based on "attitude" rather than an ethnic nationalism based on historic kinship. According to Shanmugan, it doesn't matter what passport you hold or where you were born. What matters is simply a "clear commitment to Australia".
Unfortunately for him, he quotes former PM Bob Hawke in his support:
The commitment is all. The commitment to Australia is the one thing needful to be a true Australian.
And what does this commitment consist of? According to Hawke:
An Australian is someone who chooses to live here, obey the law and pays taxes.
You're a committed Australian simply by virtue of the fact that you choose to live here rather than somewhere else. As one commenter put it in response to Hawke:
According to Hawke, Australians have no distinct ethnic or cultural identity. In fact, they have absolutely nothing to define them as a people - no history, traditions, ancestors, customs or heroes. To be an 'Australian' is not to belong to a distinct national community; it simply means you live here and pay tax.
In short, it seems that Hawke is saying that 'Australians' don't really exist in any meaningful sense.
So there you have the four opinion pieces gifted to us by The Age on Australia Day. That is the range of thought The Age considers reasonable to offer to their readers in order to celebrate a national holiday. There's not much joy in it and certainly no sense of a tradition to be celebrated.