August 7, 2012
“Everything’s the opposite of what it is, isn’t it?” the songwriter Harry Nilsson mused. I cannot think of a more appropriate way of describing the contrasting views of today’s progressives and conservatives on the issue of freedom of speech. The Labor Party retained a traditional wing throughout the 1960s and 70s, but under Whitlam’s influence it increasingly attracted middle-class radicals and university-educated dissenters. It would have been nigh on impossible to convince my contemporaries that the Liberal Party, the perpetrators of the National Service Act of 1964, was liberal – let alone libertarian – in anything other than name.
Tony Abbott’s address to the Institute of Public Affairs on August 6th, titled Freedom Wars, confirms a monumental re-alignment in politics in Australia and throughout the Western world over recent decades. Progressive political organisations, from America’s Democratic Party to the Australian Labor Party, have all been captured by political correctness – another way of saying the New Left. Centre-right parties might have been compromised by PC ideology along the way but not to the same extent as their progressive counterparts, which is one of the reasons why centre-right politicians are in a position to lead the people’s legitimate struggle against the soft totalitarianism that now hangs over us like a curse.
Abbott’s likely game-changer in the battle before us is his undertaking to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act:
Any prohibitions on inciting hatred against or intimidation of particular racial groups should be akin the ancient common law offences of incitement and causing fear.
These are not easy things to say at a time when progressives control our social institutions. After all, Abbott, at his own admittance, is arguing for “the freedom to be obnoxious and objectionable”.
Should such a state of play come to pass, Cultural Marxism or Gramsci’s Long March Through the Institutions might at last be confronted head on. Abbott, in his address, talks about the need in a liberal democracy for “robust speech from different points of view in the philosophical compass”. If Abbott means what he says then the ABC and SBS must be forced to become politically even-handed, a difficult task considering that the apparatchiks who control the ABC and SBS long ago convinced themselves – bizarrely enough – they are impartial.
Abbott’s speech exposes the disingenuousness of the politically correct Left:
If it’s all right for David Marr, for instance, to upset conservative Christians, in his attempt to save them from the error of their ways, why is it not all right for Andrew Bolt to upset activist Aboriginals to the same end.
The major achievement of progressives has in a sense been religious, no small achievement for those who pride themselves on being secular. Everything they believe to be true, from Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming to radical multiculturalism, is now Holy Writ. Thus do the dissenters of yesteryear denounce – from the commanding heights – all modern-day dissent as heresy. Any criticism of the sacred convictions of the Left is proscribed, off limits, taboo.
These generally unpropitious circumstances, along with the specifics of Justice Ray Finkelstein’s media recommendations, have encouraged Tony Abbott to revisit the libertarian roots of the Liberal Party. The Leader of the Opposition refers to Sir Robert Menzies’ 1948-49 Forgotten People radio broadcasts, in which the founder of the Liberal Party championed the freedom of speech:
[I]f truth is to emerge, and in the long run be triumphant, the process of debate – the untrammelled clash of opinion – must go on.
This is all well and good, and yet the libertarian credentials of the Liberal Party are not without blemishes.
Abbott not only passes over the National Service Act of 1964, he engages in a sleight of hand when he cites the Menzies government’s ill-considered attempt to outlaw the Communist Party of Australia in the early 195os:
Menzies, it has to be said, sought to restrict freedom in order to defend the country. The Gillard government, by contrast, seeks to restrict freedom in order to defend itself.
While Labor’s advocacy for restricting freedom of speech must be fought at any cost, that does not in itself excuse the Liberal Party for past mistakes.
Abbott, to be fair, is a politician and not an historian. Moreover, he has every right to claim that the Liberal Party of today, especially under his libertarian conservative leadership, is Australia’s “freedom party”. His address to the IPA makes it abundantly clear that the two main political parties in Australia are now as different as day and night. As a political leader from a not so different era would say:
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Read Tony Abbott’s Freedom Wars speech (pdf) here…
The Quadrant Book of Poetry: 2001 - 2010
edited by Les Murray