Australia: free speech for the well-off only

Threats to cut off welfare payments to protesters is an affront to civil liberties.

Tarric Brooker

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When visitors to the land Down Under imagine Australia, they often conjure up an image of the ultimate carefree life of endless beaches, beers and barbeques. A land where the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude reigns supreme, and nothing bad ever really happens, aside from encounters with some of our deadly native wildlife.

In reality, however, Australians have experienced a similar loss of civil liberties in the years since 9/11 as Britain and other Western nations have. The Australian security state has continued to expand its powers, every year bringing a new piece of legislation in which more freedoms are exchanged for promises of ‘security’. All these pieces of new legislation have eventually been waved through parliament with the support of both the major political parties, despite claims to the contrary.

In recent years, protests, focusing on domestic as well as environmental issues, with Extinction Rebellion protests to the fore, have increased in size and frequency on the streets of Australia’s major cities. The government has responded to these protests with an authoritarian plan to punish a select demographic of protesters. So, under a proposal put forward by home affairs minister Peter Dutton, certain welfare recipients, who are caught protesting, will have their income-support payments cut off. This proposal would thus restrict the freedom of speech of the unemployed and students, given both groups currently receive welfare payments.

Essentially, under Dutton’s plan, the right to protest would only be enjoyed by well-off Australians. Other Australians would risk homelessness or hunger if they took to the streets to express themselves.

Indeed, with the Australian economy suffering its worst economic downturn in a decade, and unemployment continuing to rise, the government is effectively ensuring that over a million Australians would have no way to voice their frustrations without risking their livelihoods.

The right to protest has been an important part of functioning democracies for centuries. It offers people the ability to make their opinion abundantly clear to their rulers, while also allowing us to let off steam. By making such a right conditional on one’s employment or socioeconomic status, the Australian government is indulging in a surreptitious form of social control.

It is unlikely to work. If this proposal was ever to come into law, the Australian government would quickly realise that taking away the basic democratic rights of over a million people is a recipe for far more serious forms of social unrest than we’ve seen with XR’s political stunts.

Tarric Brooker is a journalist.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

A Game

3rd November 2019 at 2:55 pm

As for Dutton… what a knob. All high on a fresh term, Labor still unelectable, going for gold. XR’s tactic of prolonged protest does need to be addressed. If they sat quietly somewhere for two weeks… whatever. But that its deliberate destruction and interference… nope. No one has the right to do that for a prolonged period of time. It becomes the issue of when their rights start to be at a cost to everyone else’s rights. Then you have to go to the greater good.
I think people confuse something like XR with a genuine, grass root revolt – say the poll tax protests in the UK. Well… that got sorted, didn’t it? So back then, no one had the right to protest. But being grass roots, with true numbers from the community… you can see its something different to what XR were doing – self indulgent, aimless showboating.
Ridiculous to go after welfare recipients. The title of the article gets it right – freedom to protest becomes the domain of the well-to-do. Gross over-reach and his party need to kick him back onto the straight and narrow.
He was a copper in Queensland. His age suggests he would have enjoyed the last days of Bjelke-Peterson. Take the boy out of corrupt, police state Queensland, but you can’t take the corrupt, police state Queensland out of the boy.

And this is what labor voters are having to battle against, as long as the ALP remain unelectable. They still think it was their tax package. The right like to believe it was their tax package. I think it was their green madness, which they have retained, but people know too much about Global warming now… the party is over on blind, virtue signalling policies, electricity bills are too high, China has too many coal fired power stations… people KNOW… and their mad, woke policies. Waving through the trans, supporting blasphemy laws for speech, wanting to expand the Human Rights Tribunal, that everyone is dirty on, they see it for what it is – cracking down on civil liberties – the love affair with high rates of immigration (which the Libs love, too, but the Libs are right wing… that’s their beat… Labor is happily undermining working conditions, helping to put pressure on housing prices, contributing to the clogging of infrastructure, but don’t then spend enough to compensate), the passion for Nanny state policies and the fervour for Safe Schools. People are getting the insincerity of the ALP.
They need to wake up to themselves, or else, people will be forced to keep a Dutton in power – they like his toughness with border control, but obviously he wants to broaden his ideas to include tough control of the general population.
So I blame the ALP for this. And when is Albanese going to get the boot? I could have told you he’d be a dud. Career politician, attention seeker, unimaginative for 20 years in parliament.

(I find it funny that the Tories have an Australian on board who “won” the Liberal Party their unwinnable election. Um… yeah… dunno how much credit he deserves for that. Bill Shorten was never liked. He was never going to be liked. He then made a hash of the election at a few key moments… the Liberals only really had to turn up.)

Anita McGuire

3rd November 2019 at 4:14 am

Actually a large number of Australian workers resent working to pay taxes to provide Marxist human speed bumps with a lifestyle choice, that involves preventing ordinary people from going about their lawful business, spitting on innocent people, punching police horses and other lawless, criminal acts. All in defense of an ideology (they publicly state they don’t care about the environment, but are using it as a vehicle to engage in a Marxist revolution) that has killed hundreds of millions and destroyed any country that adopts it.
Finally under the conditions that Australians accept to access welfare these creatures have clearly forfeited their financial support. They can’t very well maintain the fiction that they are willing to participate in paid employment whilst willfully glued to a road or suspended from a bridge or punching horses.

Brendan O’Leary

2nd November 2019 at 6:58 pm

I’m not a fan of either welfare payments or extinction rebellion.

But withholding the former shouldn’t be used as a political weapon against the latter.

This is the danger of wanting government to solve all your problems.

But the idea that these ridiculous privileged people who obstruct traffic and abuse miners are “poor” is deluded beyond belief.

Ven Oods

2nd November 2019 at 5:31 pm

It used to be said that ‘you couldn’t make up this stuff’.
Well, now you don’t need to, because it’s happening.

Forlorn Dream

1st November 2019 at 12:42 pm

If this is true then it really is a despicable proposal. What’s next, take away the right to vote for the unemployed too? Actually, that would make sense to them, it would stop the the undesirables being able to help vote these people out of power.

H McLean

1st November 2019 at 12:01 pm

Sad to say, the only thing worse than the incumbent Liberal/National Coalition government is the prospect of a Labor one. The brazen lurch to neoMarxist insanity from Australian public institutions has not been slowed by the supposedly right-of-centre Liberals in the slightest. Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a moron with a perma-grin. At every opportunity Dutton proves to be the worst kind of fake-Liberal Conservative, penny pinching and mean-spirited.

The only decent choices in Australian politics are the independent and minor party senators shouting on from the sidelines, you know, the eccentric fringe larrikins who without the double-and-triple-dealings made possible by our PR voting laws would never make it into the political arena in a million years. They’re too uncouth and uncultured to truly lead but, by god, they’d make a better job of it than any of the mainstream mob.

Anita McGuire

3rd November 2019 at 4:44 am

The preferential voting system also benefits the mainstream parties. In my electorate small right-winged parties and independents overwhelmingly won the last election. But they also split the vote. The preferences we are forced give to everyone’s elected a labor politician.

Anita McGuire

3rd November 2019 at 5:10 am

Sorry should be to everyone’s disgust.

A Game

3rd November 2019 at 2:44 pm

PR voting, which empowers the little people’s parties works very well to keep moderating the centre. Hanson is a right wing, free marketeer. Most of her supporters are working class and a mix of Lib and Labor voters. Her support base force her to reject her natural instincts regarding business tax cuts and wage attacks, which means she tends to act as a force for Labor. (They are too self destructive and woke to acknowledge it, of course.)
People like Jacqui Lambie, by always working with the popular sentiment of the day, put pressure, once again, on the main parties, this time the Libs because they are in government, to not let their natural instincts reign supreme.
In electorates for the lower house… the pressure of small interest groups means the main parties cannot wholly indulge their wildest dreams/ideologies. That is a good thing.
Also, you can lodge your protest vote (I like to send one in for the animal rights party) by giving them number 1, knowing they are not going to get enough primary votes, and then you real vote gets number 2.
The biggest help as been the Labor/Greens preference swap. But they still lost the last election. It can never thwart democracy. It actually empowers democracy, in that all ideas have to be addressed, all the time. That is a good thing.

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