Abuse and indignant invective are the responses you are likely to attract for even daring to raise questions about the $8 million taxpayer funded Safe Schools program. Liberal Senator Cory Bernadi was on the receiving end of Bill Shorten’s tongue-lashing for doing just that at a recent press conference in Parliament House. Threatened with a split in the party room following the spat, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull quickly ordered a snap review of the controversial program.
The aggressive advocacy of the Safe Schools program is just one example of the ‘minority fundamentalism’ that former PM John Howard warns is threatening to undermine Australian civil society. Marking the 20th anniversary of his historic election win in March 1996, Howard also laments what he calls the hollowing out of the sensible political centre as political activism moves away from the daily concerns of mainstream voters to the ideological purity of the margins.
This shift in the political landscape, which Howard concedes has made government much harder than it was in his day, has been accompanied by the rise of identity politics that view every issue through the prism of sexuality, race and gender. So effective is their control of the political debate about a number of key issues that these nouveaux fundamentalists can quickly silence dissenting views through vilification, abuse, personal attack, and lazily attributing opposition to what Senator Penny Wong habitually describes as the ‘hard right’.
Even though Safe Schools architect Roz Ward now admits the program is part of a Marxist plan to change society, advocates for the program insist its primary concern is to prevent bullying. Many people have their doubts. They see the real aim of the program as not to prevent bullying but to engineer the way children and young people think about sexuality and gender. But when Senator Eric Abetz voiced the concerns of parents on ABC’s The Drum, he was met with Jane Caro’s sneering response that the parents had got it wrong. Stupid parents.
Bullying is wrong and must be wholly unacceptable in every Australian school. No child should have to suffer at the hands of a bully. But a crucial part of growing up is learning how to live with difference. Children need to learn that the health of a free and open society depends upon the ability of every citizen to be tolerant of different people, different opinions, and different beliefs.
We must teach our children that the differences between boys and girls have real social implications, and not fill their heads with Marxist ideas that difference is merely a bigoted social construct. Children need to learn how to live with the many differences they will encounter in life, yet it has become alarmingly fashionable to promote the idea that gender, identity, and sexual orientation are plastic and malleable.
Much the same goes for the other hot button topic of our day: same-sex marriage. Far from tolerating a balanced exchange of views, advocates of ‘marriage equality’ are bent on stifling any debate about legalising a new definition of marriage. Just ask Tasmania’s Roman Catholic archbishop Julian Porteous, who is being hauled before the state’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in a bid to stop him proclaiming orthodox Catholic teaching about marriage.
And even now that Malcolm Turnbull has decided to honour Tony Abbott’s commitment to put the issue of same-sex marriage to the Australian people in a plebiscite, the activists are still not happy. Far from wanting the wider public to debate the issue and weigh the arguments for and against, the activists are suspicious. Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus dismissed the idea of a plebiscite as a waste of time and nothing more than an expensive public opinion poll. Well, so much for elections.
Plebiscite opponents want to keep same-sex marriage well away from the people to avoid anything as risky as sounding out public opinion. The activists think they might just possibly have the numbers to win a vote on same-sex marriage in the parliament and want to have it dealt with by the current crop of MPs. They are a lot less confident of their numbers in the community at large.
But why not let the Australian people have their say? After all, it would ensure that the change to the Marriage Act 1961 has political legitimacy and is not just seen as an inside political fix. The activists know full well why not: it’s because given the chance to express a view, the people, in their ignorance, might give the wrong answer. Stupid people.
The enlightened values of diversity and equality so dear to the elite might be trumped by the bigotry, religious zealotry and homophobia well known to stalk the darkened minds of the masses. Far too dangerous to trust any kind of public airing of the issue to the plebs. No ‘people’s choice’ then for those who at other times like to strut their democratic credentials with all the shameless certitude of peacocks.
Any who dare to question the fashionable identity ideologies of the day are promptly closed down by shrill accusations of homophobia, sexism, or racism. The aim is to exclude from the public forum all but those whose voices are deemed authentic in virtue of belonging to a minority that is weak, vulnerable or oppressed.
Identity politics is the self-indulgent, somewhat rarefied game played by a privileged and media-savvy elite. This small but powerful minority can afford to view society through the prism of identity politics; meanwhile the rest of the country has to go about earning a living, paying the mortgage or the rent, putting food on the table, and getting the kids through school.
Viewing every issue through the prism of identity politics is, however, a serious mistake. In addition to turning every aggrieved member of society into a victim belonging to one minority group or another, it also fragments society into an assortment of single identities based on race, gender or sexuality. Far from fostering social cohesion, identity politics generates social resentment, especially among those groups branded as oppressors and denigrators.
The elites will assume this resentment is the fruit of ignorance and bigotry; the rest of us will know it’s because we’ve simply had enough of being hectored and lectured by those who’ve established themselves as the moral tribunes of our society, and who insist that they alone have the wisdom and judgement to discern right from wrong.
Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10