There is no doubt that Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes a great deal of pleasure in talking about freedom. A few months ago, when referring to Australia’s imminent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he commented that despite the toll, it had all been worthwhile. ‘Freedom is always worth it,’ he stated. ‘Freedom is always worth fighting for.’
In his National Statement to the General Assembly of the UN, our PM boasted that Australia is a proud liberal democracy which has a strong commitment ‘to promoting universal values like human rights, gender equality and the rule of law. We’ve always believed in these values,’ he claimed. ‘It’s what makes us who we are.’
Over the last twenty months, it has become clear that the Prime Minister does not believe in freedom, he is just paying lip service to the concept. If Morrison really believed in freedom of speech, he would not have said that repealing Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act will ‘not create one job’. And he certainly would have said something about the handcuffing and arrest of a pregnant woman in her pyjamas by two policemen clad in black.
While that ‘fella from Down Under’ was waxing lyrical about how gloriously free we are in Australia to an international audience, back home his own citizens who were protesting about loss of freedom and livelihoods, as well as non-consensual medical treatments, were being hit with batons, thrown onto the concrete floor of train stations, punched in the face, kicked while prostrate on the ground, pulled out of cars and beaten up, pepper-sprayed in the eyes and shot in the back with sub- lethal weapons by the police.
Scott Morrison, however, is not alone amongst the political class in his disregard for freedom. Certainly, the vitriolic, ineloquent and downright insulting responses to the freedom protesters by our elected politicians and unelected police commissioners reveal that they too have scant regard for freedom. In the last few months, voters have variously been described as ‘filthy’ by Gladys Berejiklian, ‘wankers’ by the Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner, ‘hooligans’ and ‘dropkicks’ by Premier Mark McGowan and ‘boofheads’ by New South Wales Police Minister David Elliot.
We can add a new slur to this array of insults, courtesy of National party federal Cabinet minister, David Littlerproud, who called the desperate Victorians who took to the streets and ended up at the Shrine of Remembrance, ‘society scum’. To add insult to injury, Littleproud believes that ‘they should be forced into isolation at Her Majesty’s pleasure’. Perhaps he should pause for a moment to consider that one of the main reasons why Victorians are protesting is because they have already been in forced isolation for over 235 days at the pleasure of Daniel Andrews.
‘That is not Australian,’ Littleproud went on to say of the protesters. On the contrary, it is very Australian to protest. It is a right protected by the Australian Constitution under the implied freedom of political communication. Moreover, the Attorney-General’s Department informs us that Australia is ‘party to seven international human rights treatises, with the freedom of assembly and association contained in articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as article 8(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’. This of course, begs the question as to where the Attorney-General is in all this. The silence is positively deafening.
Warming to his theme, Littleproud continued ‘I support anyone who wants to protest, but once they step over that line and start going into violence, they start destroying our monuments to those that have protected our freedoms… they don’t deserve to be walking free in society’.
We have certainly seen many a monument being destroyed and graffitied in this country, but it hasn’t been at the hands of the freedom protesters. By and large, the protest to which he was referring was peaceful, with the exception of a minority of troublemakers. Anyone who sat down and bothered to watch the extensive live footage could see that the men and women were unarmed and there to protest peacefully. There was even a moment at the Shrine of Remembrance when, a few hours into the standoff, the riot police appeared to put down their shields and weapons, to which the protesters responded by rushing over to them and getting on their knees with genuine relief and delight. Unfortunately, a few hours later, those same police were deployed against the crowd.
The total lack of empathy, judgement and awareness of the facts displayed by Littleproud beggars belief and his statement remains completely at odds with the values of the National party. These include, among others, ‘individual achievement, the importance of free choice and a fair go, reward for private enterprise and the need for equity investment and wealth generation’. Perhaps Littleproud should reconsider the party of his allegiance and join the Greens.
While Littleproud’s comments might not have been well thought through, his remarks are indicative of what many in politics really think of the hoi polloi, especially those sporting high-vis jackets and steel capped boots.
What we are witnessing in Australia is a complete betrayal of the people by both the political class and the media, who together have joined forces to create a two-tiered society which is inimical to the Australian way of life.
As the Liberal party earnestly explains in its platform, ‘one of the defining features of our nation has been its commitment to social equality. The distinctive egalitarianism of Australians is reflected in attitudes which have become part of our social fabric – the disdain for rigid class structures, the celebration of mateship, a belief in a “fair go”’. It is time that all our politicians take stock and look at just how unequal Australian society has become.
In an interview with American network CBS, the Prime Minister asserted that ‘we are different societies… and that when it comes to public health, we’re a very pragmatic nation’.
No, Mr Morrison, it’s not pragmatism, it’s despotism.
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Dr Bella d’Abrera is the Director, Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs.
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