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This week Tony Abbott provided new perspective and insight on the major debates and events of the week.
Tony and I discussed the massive protests in Melbourne, why they were needed, and what do they say about the state of our freedom and democracy in our country today; the principles of religious freedom and why religious tolerance is a fundamental Australian value; plus Tony answers a listener’s question on whether Peta Credlin could and should run for parliament.
You can listen to the episode on your web browser here, or on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Podcasts.
In last week’s edition of Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott, Tony made a very important and astute observation about the nature of political change.
Reflecting on his 25 years in public life, Tony said ‘You’ve got to have a political standard bearer. In order to achieve change as opposed to merely complain, there needs to be a warrior who is prepared to fight.’
The former prime minister and Distinguished Fellow of the IPA made these comments in the context of the victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia gubernatorial race held earlier this month in the US.
Youngkin’s victory was in large part due to his clear and firm opposition to the teaching of critical race theory in schools, as well as his promise to keep schools open during lockdowns.
The point Tony was making is that the revolt against critical race theory which was led by parents and civil society would not have been nearly as successful if it weren’t for Youngkin championing their cause.
This is a theme that Tony and I have been discussing for the past few months. There are millions of Australians who feel that no one in society is speaking for them or representing their values and aspirations.
Most of our major institutions, such as the political parties, big business, the media, universities, and many civic organisations, promote the same view on the big issues facing our nation’s future. On climate change, mass migration, the efficacy of lockdowns, and social issues, too often only one politically correct view is permitted. And even marginal deviations from that view are ruthlessly policed through cancel culture.
This is not the Australia that many of us would recognise or grew up in.
Australia has always been a country which tolerates a wide range of views with the understanding that everyone should have their voice heard because we all have equal worth and dignity.
It is one of the foundational underpinnings of our egalitarian and classless society.
The idea that one person or a small group of individuals should have more influence over the direction of our nation because of their job title, last name, or credential is inconsistent with what it means to be Australian.
No where has the need for political standard bearers, of ‘warriors’ as Tony Abbott put it, been more apparent than in Victoria over the past few weeks.
Last Saturday saw the biggest protest in Australia since the Vietnam war.
One estimate based on the ariel footage of the crowd had the number of protestors in Melbourne CBD at around 130,000.
Others have put the number closer to 80,000, which is about the equivalent to the Melbourne Cricket Ground at full capacity.
Sure, there were a couple of protestors who arguably went a bit too far in some of what they did and said.
“You’ve got to have a political standard bearer. In order to achieve change as opposed to merely complain, there needs to be a warrior who is prepared to fight.”
Distinguished Fellow at the IPA Tony Abbott
But the overwhelming majority were mainstream Australians who are concerned about the future of freedom and democracy and the kind of country they will be leaving for their children and grandchildren.
But you wouldn’t know this from watching or reading the media, who reported mere ‘thousands’ or a ‘few thousand’ ‘anti-vax’ and ‘far-right extremists’ had attended the protests.
The immediate focus of the protests is a new proposed ‘pandemic management’ law currently being debated in the upper house of the Victorian Parliament, having passed the Labor-dominated lower house a few weeks ago.
The powers which would be conferred to the Premier of Victoria under the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 have never been contemplated in peacetime anywhere in Australia.
Research and analysis undertaken by Morgan Begg, Director of Legal Rights Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, identified that the Bill gives the Premier of Victoria dictatorial powers. [Read here] It would allow the Premier and his officials to:
- Impose indefinite lockdowns even if there are no cases of the virus anywhere in Australia.
- Imprison people for up to two years without trial.
- Arrest people because of their religion, political beliefs, or ethnic background.
All of these powers could be exercised without the control or scrutiny of the Parliament or the courts.
Morgan’s research was featured in a full-page statement in The Herald Sun newspaper on Monday. The initiative was made possible by the generous support of over 400 Australians who added their name to the statement and let millions of Australians know that this is not the Australia they want to live in.
As Morgan identified, everything that we hold dear and cherish as Australians – democratic oversight, the rule of law, the right to a fair trial, equality before the law, freedom of speech – would be undermined by the proposed law.
In terms of political standard bearers, only two politicians had the courage and vision to address the crowd. They were Victorian state Liberal MP Bernie Finn and former federal Liberal MP and now member of the United Australia Party Craig Kelly.
That no senior Coalition or Labor party figure addressed the crowd, and that many rushed to condemn the protesters, says everything you need to know about the major parties in Australia today.
And it demonstrates the significant gulf that exists between the mainstream of Australian society and the political class. Until we have a political standard bearer to channel the frustrations and aspirations of millions of Australians who feel left out of the political process, the protests – while effective in raising the profile of an issue – are unlikely to lead to the long-term cultural and political change that Australia needs.
But what it also means is there is a significant opportunity for a future Australian Glenn Youngkin to stand up and be a champion for mainstream Australia.
This week’s The Must Read is by Peter Savodnik published on Bari Weiss’ Substack, titled The rise of the republican class warrior. Overall Savodnik is fairly unsympathetic to ‘populism’, but he makes a number of important observations about the changing political and cultural dynamic across the Western world.
Savodnik argues that ‘this is a politics that is unconcerned with abstract debates – about markets, freedom, the relationship between the state and the individual – and focused squarely on the middle-class values that, Republicans insist, Democrat have abandoned.’
One of they key points is around Tony Abbott’s observation about political standard bearers. A new wave of Trump-aligned Republicans such as J.D Vance and Blake Masters are seeking to translate Trump’s ‘counter revolutionary mindset into a workable program.’ [Read here]
I hope you enjoy the essay and thank you for your support of the Australian way of life.