Australian Politics – Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott Resumes The Battle For Free Speech.

Posted on Sat 08/13/2016 by


Bolt New 01By Andrew Bolt ~

How interesting. Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott repents one of the decisions that cost him support of conservatives – and resumes a battle that many more Australians will now agree needs fighting:

Tony Abbott says his government should have pursued less ambitious reform of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, in comments that will re-open debate in the conservative wing of the Liberal Party about changing the Act and potentially create a new headache for Malcolm Turnbull.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott


Abbott’s speech last night set out the fights he plans to have and the bigger lessons he has so far learned of his time in office.

It seems to me he is determined now to be a voice for conservatives as he sometimes failed to be in office, and to fight for freedom. That said, he is tempering that with his first acknowledgement that he was at times too hyper-oppositional.

I am liking this transition.

First, on free speech:

My second task is to confront a regrettable truth: these are vexing times for conservatives…

Take an issue that’s quite rightly exercised many here: section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act that prohibits what might “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on racial grounds. 

This is a troubling law. At its worst, it limits free speech merely to prevent hurt feelings….

After the successful prosecution of Andrew Bolt, I promised to “repeal it in its current form” but reneged after fierce criticism from Liberal premiers and a wall of opposition in the senate. ..

Perhaps the cause of free speech would have fared better if my government’s initial bid had been merely to drop “offend’ and “insult” while leaving prohibitions on the more serious harms.

Still, as things stand, there’s no real prospect of change – even though several young Queenslanders are now facing official persecution merely for questioning reverse discrimination on social media and the Race Discrimination Commissioner is now itching to prosecute our best-known cartoonist.

The decency and fair-mindedness of the Australian people will always be a better defence against hate speech than a law administered by ideological partisans – yet our parliament prefers to tolerate over-the-top prosecutions than to upset thin-skinned activists.

Which rational person could disagree?

Then, the mea culpa:

Interestingly, while less than 50 per cent of the current government’s legislation has passed the parliament, almost 90 per cent of the former Labor government’s legislation passed without a division. 

I think the Abbott opposition was right not-to-oppose means-testing family tax benefits and meanstesting the private health insurance rebate…. Unquestionably, we were right to oppose the carbon tax …

I wonder, though, about the former government’s people swap with Malaysia.  The 800 boat people that could have been sent to Malaysia was less than a months’ intake, even then.

I doubt it would have worked.  Still, letting it stand would have been an acknowledgment of the government-of-the-day’s mandate to do the best it could, by its own lights, to meet our nation’s challenges.  It would have been a step back from the hyper-partisanship that now poisons our public life.

A dig at George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull?

In the last parliament, I could invariably count on Bill Shorten’s support on national security issues.  On deploying the armed forces or strengthening anti-terror laws, there were cabinet ministers harder-to-persuade than the Leader of the Opposition! 

The challenge for the new parliament will be to be as sensible about economic security as the old one was about national security; because we can’t keep pretending that economic growth on its own will take care of debt and deficit…

All of us need to dwell less on what divides us and more on what unites us, and to have an open mind for good ideas…

And the great war defined:

There wouldn’t be a person in this room tonight – not one of you – who would say that our civilisation is more secure today than five, ten or twenty years ago. 

The new tribalism, the loss of civility, and reality TV politics is taking its toll across the Western world.  Yet for all our present discontents, there’d hardly be any one, here, unconvinced that Western civilisation, especially its English-speaking version, is mankind’s greatest achievement.

I believe adversity has made Tony Abbott more articulate in explaining what is to be done.

Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.

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