A number of people have expressed confusion about the Right’s position on free speech. On the one hand, they argue that 18C is contrary to Australian values because, well, we should be allowed to say what we like and if people are offended bad luck, because that’s the price we all pay for the freedom we invaded Turkey to preserve back in WW1. However, on the other hand, whenever anybody says anything which offends them, there’s an immediate baying for blood. Gillian Triggs should resign. The ABC should be brought into line. Yassmin Abdel-Magied should stop talking and self-deport. (Is that a euphemism for “Go back where you came from”?)
Surely, some of you have said, if we all have the right to offend, then it works both ways. Surely, you can’t complain about political correctness stifling debate, then turn around and say that certain people shouldn’t be allowed to speak. No, no, say the opponents of 18C, we’re not saying that they shouldn’t have the right to speak; we’re simply saying that when they do we should be able to object because what they’re saying is wrong and contrary to Australian values. Surely, you then argue, the same applies to the Right! Surely, what they say should be subject to criticism and people should be able to say it’s wrong. No, no, say the conservatives, when we’re criticised it’s a stifling of free speech… Besides, we’re always right, so it’s completely different.
Well, Tony Abbott made a wonderful speech to the Harry Perkins institute of Medical Research on May 3rd, where he put together a marvellous collection of thought bubbles which demonstrated the sort of intellect that made him the sort of Prime Minister that managed to last a whole two years. He began by telling us that being on the backbench “you have the time to reflect, and the freedom to speak”.
Apparently then, the government is run by a group of ministers who not only have no time to reflect on what they’re doing, but even if they do, they don’t have any freedom to speak… Not only does this explain a plethora of this government’s actions, but it makes the fuss over 18C seem trivial, given that those in charge neither think, nor speak their mind.
Anyway, we could go on for days about the content of Abbott’s speech. We could speculate about what he meant by his assertion: “Believers or not, they know that Gospel values are the best way to live.” We could admire his tenacity about what he sees as his government’s crowning achievement when he reminds us: “The Abbott government stopped the boats because no self-respecting country can expose itself to peaceful invasion.” (Personally, I’d prefer a “peaceful invasion” to the more aggressive kind…) We could wonder – when he talks about intergenerational theft being as bad as parents living on their children’s credit card – what on earth children are doing with a credit card. And we could wonder whether he’s still talking about “Gospel values” when he tells us that his government did things “because they made economic sense but fundamentally we did them because they were morally right”.
However, I want to concentrate on the bit about the terrible ANZAC day tweet. As Abbott said, “The most talked about person in Australia over the past week or so has been Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Of course, she shouldn’t have tweeted ‘Lest we forget’ only to make a political point.” It’s disgraceful, isn’t it, that someone would use ANZAC Day to make a political point. Taking it down and apologising isn’t good enough. ANZAC Day should be about our soldiers, not politics.
And as Abbott went on to say, “At the Dawn Service I attended, the padre denounced political correctness as shutting the mouth, twisting the mind and warping the soul – to a ripple of applause from 15,000 people.”
Yes, that’s right. ANZAC Day is about the soldiers and denouncing political correctness. It shouldn’t be used to make political points. Unless you’re a padre with whom Abbott agrees. Then you manage a “ripple” of applause.
I guess the rest of the 15,000 were too stifled by political correctness to join in.