The Australian Way: It’s not Australian to condemn someone you disagree with

18 August 2021

By: Daniel Wild

By the time you read this, over 6,000 Australians will have listened to the first episode of Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott.

The response we have received about the podcast and first edition of The Australian Way has been enthusiastic and passionate. It is so encouraging to know that there are still so many Australians like us who care deeply about our values and are committed to preserving the Australian way of life.

Dozens of you rang into the Australian Heartland Hotline on 03 9946 4307 to join the discussion and to leave your questions for Tony. We respond to as many of your questions as we can, so please don’t get disheartened if yours is yet to be answered.

If you are new to The Australian Way – welcome to the community! I am delighted to have you with us. You can listen to the first episode of the podcast with Tony Abbott here, and read the first edition of the newsletter here.

And you can listen to this week’s episode of Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott here.

My favourite part of this week’s discussion was a question from a listener from Tamworth who asked Tony when he will be back in the “top job”. I think you will enjoy his answer as much as I did.

Thank you for your support of the Australian way of life.

Tony Abbott provided much needed perspective and guidance as Australia remains in what is arguably its greatest challenge since World War Two. Tony shared his wisdom and penetrating insights in a way that only he could. The wealth of experience Tony brings as a former Prime Minister, Health Minister, and Leader of the House grounds his analysis in a way that is without parallel.

This week, we discussed what the fracturing on the political right means for the future of Australian democracy; the bipartisan support for lockdowns and when they might finally end; whether it was right to withdraw troops from Afghanistan; and Tony tells us about his favourite moments in parliament, and if he would ever seek to become PM again.

Every young Australian should know the name Adair Blain.

His story shows how the federal parliament was once a place for visionary, courageous, and brave leaders. But now it resembles the staff cafeteria at the ABC where dissenting opinions are not allowed, and when they are aired are swiftly crushed and condemned.

Blain served in World War One as a corporal in the 32nd Battalion of the First Australian Imperial Force in France from 1916 to 1919. Blain was severely wounded twice. On one occasion in the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin he was hit in the face by chlorine gas shell.

Returning from war, Blain successfully ran as an Independent for the Northern Territory electorate in the 1934 election, which he represented until he was defeated in the 1949 election.

What is so remarkable about Blain is that during his time in parliament he signed up to fight in World War Two, was captured by the Japanese following the Fall of Singapore in 1942, and for three and a half years was held as a prisoner of war.

In true Australian spirit, Blain downplayed his heroics, saying upon his return to parliament in 1945 that “I am physically ok, although it is true that we have been through a few trials, which I do not wish to magnify.”

It says so much about how Australia has changed since then that our parliament is now almost entirely comprised of political insiders who join together to not only censure debate, but to condemn those who speak up on behalf of mainstream Australians.

Yet this is exactly what happened last Tuesday when Labor Leader Anthony Albanese moved a motion to condemn the comments that George Christensen, the Member for Dawson in North Queensland, had made about governments’ public policy response to COVID-19. Not to disagree. But to condemn.

“What Christensen said is what millions of Australians believe.”

In no fewer than 200 words, Christensen gave one of the most powerful speeches of the last decade. Christensen said that “lockdowns don’t work”, and that lockdowns “destroy people’s livelihoods and people’s lives. Studies have shown they can even increase mortality rates.”

What Christensen said is what millions of Australians believe. Anywhere from one-third to one-half of Australians disagree with governments’ response to COVID-19. What Christensen said is also grounded in evidence.

A research report released by the Institute of Public Affairs in September last year titled Medical Capacity: An alternative to lockdowns, identified that lockdowns do not work, in the sense that the humanitarian and economic costs they impose exceed their stated health benefits.

Modelling in that report estimated that the pursuit of a virus elimination strategy would cost $319 billion in terms of forgone GDP at the national level between June 2020 and June 2022. That’s more than double the total annual value of Australia’s entire Health Care and Social Assistance industry.

What is so concerning is that the Liberal and National Parties joined with Labor (and the Greens) in condemning Christensen. There is no clearer demonstration of dangerous and divisive totalitarian group think than when both major parties silence and condemn an elected member of parliament for calling a spade a spade.

Whereas in 1945 the Prime Minister, the Leader of the National Party of Australia (then called the Country Party), and the Leader of the Opposition joined in unison to congratulate the return of a war hero to parliament, today they join together to shut down freedom of speech and debate taking place in parliament.

Not a single member of the House of Representatives who was present at the time spoke against the motion.

The same condemnation of freedom of speech later occurred in the Senate, where at least four Senators voted against it. They were Senators Matt Canavan, Jacqui Lambie, Sam McMahon (a Senator for the Northern Territory), and Malcom Roberts. Senators Alex Antic and Pauline Hanson also defended parliamentary democracy and freedom of speech.

In speaking against the motion, Senator Canavan said “This motion seeks to silence people who are elected representatives of the Australian people from speaking about a particular viewpoint. That is our job. Our job is to express views and opinions.”

That’s exactly right.

The Australian way is that we all get to have our say. You can have an argument with your best mate in the front bar at the pub without resorting to violence and without thinking that the person with whom you disagree is less of a person because they have a different opinion.

Australians have always got to have their say on the big issues facing the future of the nation.

We had our say on the question of military conscription – twice – in 1916 and 1917, where the result was a narrow “no”.

We had our say on becoming more equal by removing unnecessary references to race in the Constitution in 1967 where the result was an overwhelming “yes”.

We had our say on whether to become a republic in 1999 where the result was a convincing “no”.

The point is not the outcome of any of those referenda. But that they were all very emotional and hotly contested issues with passionate views held on either side. And that, despite this, the Australian people got to have their say, and we moved on together, united as a nation.

Even Gough Whitlam, after he was dismissed by the Governor-General in 1975, didn’t call for an uprising. He didn’t seek to censor his opponents. He didn’t discredit the institutions of our parliamentary democracy. But in that infamous speech given on the steps of Old Parliament House on 11 November 1975 (where he declared “may God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General), he called for a vote. Whitlam said, “maintain your rage and enthusiasm through the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day.”

And Australians had their say in the election held in December of that year.

That’s the Australian way.

“Many Australians now no longer feel anyone is speaking for them.”

But because the media is so heavily invested in the electoral success of the Morrison government, and have been cheerleaders of lockdowns and have refused to air any alternative voices for so long, the content of Christensen’s comments were not discussed in any mainstream media outlet. There was either deafening silence or loud applause for parliament’s condemnation.

The video of Christensen’s speech, which had been viewed by millions of Australians, was also deleted by Facebook and YouTube for breaching their “community standards.” (You can still watch the video here on Rumble, which is an alternative to YouTube).

So on the single biggest issue facing Australia there is no debate. No vote. No alternative views. No referenda. But condemnation.

As a consequence, many Australians now no longer feel anyone is speaking for them.

Tom Minear, the Herald Sun national politics editor, recently reported a Labor backbencher saying “with the major parties in lock-step on lockdowns, voters also feel disempowered. Many paid little attention to politics before the pandemic – now, the government controls their lives, and they feel like no one is speaking up for them.”

At least in other jurisdictions such as California, citizens who are unhappy with the direction of their government can initiate a “recall” election before the next general election is due (the recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom will be held on 14 September). If a recall election were held today in Victoria, Daniel Andrews still might win, but at least there would be a debate.

What this shows is that the institutions of liberal democracy, namely the parliament, media, and academia, have shrivelled away and are dying. Robust debate, open dialogue, and freedom of speech are central to the Australian way of life.

Importantly, they mean that every Australian gets to have their say without needing to seek the approval of the ruling elite. Because once people start to believe that the institutions no longer reflect their values, trust and confidence in those institutions will quickly erode, as they are now.

That is precisely why the IPA was founded in 1943: to further the individual, social, political, and economic freedom of the Australian people, and to maintain and enhance the Australian way of life. And it is why the IPA has continued to provide research, discussion, and analysis which explains why freedom and democracy are indispensable to human freedom and human flourishing.

As Australia remains mired in the biggest cultural, economic, and political crisis since World War Two, it is more important than ever that we stay true to the Australian way with debate, democracy, freedom of speech, and honest and sincere political representation.

I can’t help but wonder what Adair Blain would have made of what happened in parliament last Tuesday.

This weeks’ The Must Read is an incredibly astute essay by journalist Fred Pawle, The authoritarian takeover of Australia, published in Spiked! online.

Pawle argues that governments responses to COVID-19 have revealed how the Australian way of life has changed so dramatically over recent years. A new class of “neo-authoritarian” elites, unlike Australia has ever seen before, now dominate all of Australia’s positions of power and are imposing restrictions on the rest of us without rubbing shoulders with the families, small business owners, and children who they are damaging.

Pawle notes, for example, that New South Wales chief health officer, Kerry Chant, has been on the public purse since 1991. And that she has “spent her entire career cloistered away from the freely enterprising general population, biding her time until the opportunity arose to exercise the powers none of us knew she had”. Sadly, there are few signs of rebellion amongst the population, and that “where once we were independent and resilient, we are now a nation that looks to its government for moral guidance and economic protection.”

Many of you would recognise the name Fred Pawle because Fred is the author of an outstanding biography of the great Australian cartoonist, humourist, and free speech hero, Bill Leak. Leak died in 2017 after being pursued and hounded by the Australian Human Rights Commission for exercising his right to freedom of speech.

You can pre-order Fred’s biography here, as thousands of Australians already have.

Thank you for your support of the Australian way of life.