We owe David Hicks no apology

by on 23 February, 2015

By John Slater11004220_10153074719993794_467850264_n

David Hick’s recent demands for an apology and compensation following the setting aside of his terrorism conviction by a US military court shows that while he may be innocent in the eyes of the law, he is yet to learn his lesson.

To examine Hicks’ case as a question of legal guilt is to totally misapprehend the real nature of the situation. Hicks’ innocence was not because there was a lack of demonstrated links with the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden or for a want of intent to carry out violent attacks (albeit unrealised). It was because at the particular time Hicks joined the Taliban, the law was not calibrated to deal with the issue of foreign fighters joining overseas terror groups and training to commit pre-meditated mass murders. This does nothing to diminish that Hicks sought to aid and abet the Taliban – an organisation single-mindedly focused on the destruction of Western Civilization – immediately after it had carried out the most deadly attack on the American mainland since Pearl Harbour. After the events of 9/11, America went to war with the Taliban. By any standard, this made Hicks an enemy combatant.

To speak in legal semantics, Hicks may have been found not guilty. Nevertheless, in national security terms, he revelled in an ideology antithetical to not only Australia, but the values underpinning the entire Western world.

Despite all this, the Howard Government expended considerable diplomatic capital appealing to the US to secure his return Australia. Claims that more should have been done to have Hicks’ released earlier overlook the sensitivities of persuading the United States to essentially grant preferential treatment to an Australian national at a time of war. In truth, the steps taken by Australian authorities were generous in light of Hicks’ actions.

In this light, having the audacity to demand compensation for injuries like teeth decay suggests Hicks’ is either delusional, or wilfully ignorant of the seriousness of his conduct.

It is equally astounding that Hicks’ continues to be lionised by the counter-culture left.  In December last year, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young remarked that “David Hicks has a hell of a lot more guts than George Brandis and all the other government ministers who stayed silent and turned a blind eye.” Filmaker and far left polemicist John Pilger went further, describing Hicks as a “courageous Australian citizen” who had suffered from “Australia’s silence on the denigration of [his] basic liberties such as freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence.”

In the real world, ‘basic liberties’ and ‘human rights’ exist only to the extent that sovereign nation states are willing to protect them. Not coincidentally, the nation states with the greatest will to safeguard such rights – North America, the Anglosphere and Continental Europe – also happen to be the major targets of Jihadist groups like the one that Hicks signed himself up for. In the end, human rights mean nothing if they aren’t supported by the most basic right of all; the right to life.  One seriously wonders why the left are so fixated upon the purported injustices suffered by Hicks, yet have little energy when it comes to standing up for the rights of the real victims of terrorism: innocent people who have lost their lives.

Similar delusions appear to affect those who spend their time apologising or making excuses for Hicks. Just last week Bill Shorten said that while Hicks’ decision to fight with Al Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was ‘foolish’, he had nonetheless suffered an ‘injustice.’ This habit of using distractions and weak language to downplay individual wrongdoing has also been seen in recent suggestions that a lack of social inclusion is to blame for Australian citizens flying overseas to join forces with ISIS. The key feature of this mindset is that it deflects blame away from terrorists by raising the question of whether our own values and culture may be partly responsible for inciting groups like the Taliban. Such ideas are alarming, to say the least. We cannot expect to defeat radical Islam if we are left apologising for the values and way of life that are the very reason Australia and its allies have become targets for terrorism in the first place.

Make no mistake, wavering in our resolve about what sets the West apart from the barbarism of radical Islam would be gifting terrorists a home goal. Apologising to David Hicks would amount to doing exactly that.

[Editor’s note: Shorten later commented that “There’s no doubt Mr Hicks was associating with known terrorists, and that’s absolutely deplorable.”]

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

Fundamentals of Liberty & Free Market Economics – Melbourne & Brisbane

by on 20 February, 2015

It is with great great pleasure that the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance can announce that we will be running our hugely-successful “Foundations of Liberty & Free Market Economics” in Semester 1 of 2015 in Melbourne and Brisbane!

It is a simple fact that Australian universities teach a biased version of political economy that promotes big government and failed Keynesian policies. This is why we launched a comprehensive education program to equip students with the intellectual tools to understand the fundamental of good economics, and to be able to combat the left.

The course shall consist of 10 interactive 2 hour evening seminars and will include student-led discussion, stimulating debate, and structured material, followed by further discussion over beer and pizza. Between seminars, students will be given recommended reading and YouTube videos, and have the opportunity to ask questions from our panel of academic advisors and the ATA staff. Seminars in Melbourne shall be led by Professor Sinclair Davidson and Professor Jason Potts from RMIT University. Seminars in Brisbane shall be led by Professor Tony Makin & Dr Alex Robson from Griffith University, Gary Johns from the Australian Institute for Progress, and John Humphreys from the University of Queensland.

This course will cover a lot of material and provide students with the intellectual ammunition needed to take on the left, but it will also be an opportunity for networking, enjoyment and building friends within the Australian pro-freedom community. 

This course is open to EVERYONE and not just currently enrolled tertiary students or recent graduates. The cost of the full program is $750 for adults or $200 for students. However, both full and half scholarships may be awarded in cases of financial need for deserving applicants. 

Here’s what some of the students previously took the course said:

“A must for anyone who wants to understand economic policy, network with others and win debates. The program provides invaluable instruction from respected academics and reaches further than any university course” – Alex Bedwany, University of New South Wales

A thorough and challenging journey, this course should be the first stop for anyone serious about exploring the freer side of political ideology in an academically rigorous way.” – Sam Bradshaw, Macquarie University

“This course challenges the ‘status quo’-style teaching of economics on offer in universities. The expert lecturers bring their keen insight to investigating dominant economic narratives, unravelling fallacies and exploring the economic issues of the future” – Lara Jeffery, University of New South Wales

“The course is a must! With engaging and extremely knowledgeable lecturers, it gave me the perfect foundation in economic theory, and was of incredible in helping me argue for limited  government!” – Margie Iliescu, Melbourne

 

Applications close on 5pm AEDT Friday 6th of March.

Persons interested in donating to assist us in providing scholarships may be able to do so here.

Build new friendships. Gain valuable career and intellectual skills. Challenge the status quo. Click HERE to Enrol today! 

Hunting knives seized, scores of Christians murdered, citizenship doled out like candy: the stakes couldn’t be higher

by on 19 February, 2015

RachelRachel Bailes dissects the Greens’ response to Abbott’s pledge to end the ‘benefit of the doubt’ in the light of recent escalations of Islamist extremism at home and abroad.

As the Australian Coptic Movement prepares to rally in Sydney this weekend after the Mediterranean ocean ran with the blood of 21 Coptic Christians, the stakes for action on terrorism couldn’t be higher.

Meanwhile, a week after the arrests of Fairfield residents Omar al-Katobi and Mohammad Kiad on the verge of another lone-wolf style terrorist attack, Leader of the Greens Christine Milne has branded Prime Minister Tony Abbott ‘desperate’ and ‘divisive’ for his claim that Australians have been ‘taken for mugs’ by terrorists.

Ms Milne has called for Prime Minister Abbott to turn from his clamping-down rhetoric of ending the ‘benefit of the doubt’ within the immigration and welfare system and urged him instead to support her recently introduced ‘Social Cohesion Bill’ to quell the threat of terrorism.

If passed, the Social Cohesion Bill to which Milne refers would establish a taxpayer-funded Centre for Social Cohesion, complete with Director, Deputy-Director and research staff, whose role it would be to “foster dialogue”, “distribute emerging knowledge” and “coordinate programs”. The Bill pledges to bring together “government, law enforcement agencies, academics, researchers, and former extremists” in a national, centralised body to build “resilient communities”.

New Year, New Troubles for “National” “Union” of “Students”

by on 11 February, 2015

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University of Western Australia Student Rebecca Lawrence writes a follow up to “’National’ Union of Students: A National Disgrace”.

After the National Union of Students (NUS) National Conference in December 2014, I wrote about the budget and unity issues faced by the unrepresentative and militant organisation. Two months later, before university students have even returned to class, all evidence points to the fact that the union’s position has only grown more desperate.

Firstly, nothing has been done to address the gaping $366,360 deficit that the NUS has managed to rack up in the last three years (numbers revealed in a leaked audit) – in fact, the NUS is facing a further reduction in funding as student unions across the country negotiate their 2015 budgets. Most recently, the University of Melbourne Student Union cut their budgetary allowance for NUS affiliation fees from $106,000 to $55,000 and added requirements for the Union to become more focused on issues immediately relevant to students – specifically, the NUS must demonstrate “what steps it will take to support Indigenous, environment, international and disabled students”.

The NUS has reportedly continued to splash money on their own “professional development” and “campaign skills” since the National Conference, despite the dire state of their finances. After attending the NUS President’s Summit in January, Queensland University of Technology Student Union President Jack McGuire says “The event is an uninformative waste of students’ money and is simply being used as a junket for National NUS Office Bearers and uninformed campus Presidents to have a good time. Notwithstanding the misappropriation of student money and hefty registration fee, NUS is still unable to break even financially on this event”. He added that he was disappointed in the standard of the conference, and asserted that his student union would “definitely not be paying the NUS affiliation fee in 2015”.

Secondly, it is increasingly evident to students and the wider political community that the NUS can no longer pretend to be non-partisan or independent whatsoever. Claire Chandler, former President of the Tasmanian NUS branch, says “Since the Abbott government was elected in 2013, NUS has turned from being anti-cuts and relatively left wing to being specifically anti-Liberal. Their agenda is clear – to return a Federal Labor government to power as soon as possible”.

In order to run from their own tainted reputation, the NUS has rebranded many of their campaigns by removing the “National Union of Students” tagline and logo while still running the campaigns from NUS offices, with NUS funding. Examples of this include the “CommunityRun” petition, which is promoted through the NUS Facebook page but does not include NUS branding on the actual petition page, and the organisation “A Brighter Future”, whose “spokespeople” include many of the NUS National Office Bearers.

Unarguably, the NUS is no longer “national”- only 20 of Australia’s 39 campuses affiliated in 2014. It is no longer “united”, as even the remaining affiliate bodies are demanding that the NUS changes its ways. It can no longer claim to represent the claims of “students”, as it is now widely recognized as no more than a front for the ALP.

The Union’s continued incompetence, combined with the increasing strength of competing national organisations, begs the question of how much longer the “National” “Union” of “Students” can continue before it follows the Australian Union of Students’ dissolution into bankruptcy and total irrelevance.

Rebecca Lawrence is a second year where she was a 2014 UWA Student Guild Councillor and is in her second term as an NUS Delegate. Rebecca also holds the National Publications portfolio for the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation. She is currently undertaking an internship at the Lithuanian Free Market Institute as part of the Mannkal Foundation’s 2015 Scholarship Program.

 

The Queensland Election: No Appetite for Reform

by on 8 February, 2015

John SlaterJohn Slater shares his assessment of QLD’s election defeat. 

The decimation of Campbell Newman’s LNP government less than three years after it achieved the most resounding political victory in Australia’s history was an outcome few expected. Never far from controversy, there is no doubt Newman amassed an unsettling number of enemies during his short time in office. However, suffering swings in excess of 20% in some seats, the idea that Newman’s headstrong approach to governing was the sole cause of the government’s ills is unconvincing. Some commentators have attributed this to a new era of ‘volatility’ in modern politics, characterised by declining loyalty to the major parties and an electorate that feels increasingly alienated from the political class. Unfortunately, this volatility has not been defined by a more energised voting public holding the major parties to higher standards of scrutiny. Rather, as the Queensland election seems to confirm, the key feature of these unprecedented shifts in voter preference has been to reward parties engaging in the politics of populism and opportunism.

Despite notable distractions, Newman’s government was a rare example of an administration that secured an ambitious mandate to comprehensively overhaul the direction of the state government, and then fought tooth and nail at an enormous political cost to implement this vision into reality. In its first year in office, state government spending growth all but ground to a halt, dropping from an unsustainable 9.8% per year to just 0.2%, where it then remained. Crucially, restoring fiscal rectitude to the treasury did not come at the expense of key frontline services, with the state’s school maintenance backlog cleared after years of neglect, record investments made in health and more active police officer’s than ever before.

Moreover, when confronted with a larger-than-expected debt concealed by its predecessors, rather than taking an axe to government services Newman conducted perhaps the most comprehensive program of public consultation in Australian state political history in its ‘Strong Choices’ campaign. With Strong Choices, the government literally sought advice from over 55 000 Queenslander’s who took part in the survey about how they wanted to deal with the government’s unconscionably high $80 billion dollar public debt. Following this, the government then undertook the seemingly impossible task of heeding these views when devising policies to reduce the state’s debt while addressing the state’s infrastructure backlog to accommodate an expanding population, set to grow from 4.5million to 7 million over the coming decades. Even though these policies were the natural progression of the government’s 2012 platform, it still sought a fresh mandate at the 2015 election, offering the public full disclosure of exactly how it planned to tackle the state’s long-term debt and infrastructure challenges.

Whether or not you agree with the particular merits of the LNP’s plan, it cannot be criticised for a want of courage, or shirking the long-term structural problems Queensland faced. As the Government’s leadership understood (and as the polls have now confirmed), this strategy was never about political expediency. Stepping away from the hyperbole of the media cycle, the key fact is that Newman transparently brought before the public a debt reduction plan that was the result of public consultation, years of planning and were focused squarely upon longer term structural challenges. In this sense, it is not an exaggeration to say that Newman’s 2015 election platform set a high water mark for honesty and vision in Australian politics.

If the LNP staked its credibility on what it would do with the privilege of government, the Labor Party’s campaign strategy did the opposite. Running a small target campaign built around economically illiterate attacks on leasing state assets, misrepresenting the government’s record on front line services and the shamelessly hypocritical politicisation of the Great Barrier Reef, the Labor Party relied on defining itself as everything the LNP wasn’t.

The most striking feature of these attacks was their denial of the factual realities of the LNP’s record in government. Record per capita health spending, taking the nation’s surgery and ambulance waiting times from the worst to the best in the country and higher than ever employment of frontline health professionals were ignored in favour of emotionally fuelled rhetoric about the state’s health system had been brought to its knees. The spectre of a higher GST – a federal tax – was wheeled out as a puerile distraction, even though changes had been unequivocally ruled out at both the state and federal level. The rank opportunism of Annastacia Palazcuk raising the GST in the first place was exposed in an astonishing episode late in the campaign when the opposition leader failed to recall at what rate the GST was levied. All this only weeks after holding a press conference in an Inala shopping claiming with confected hysteria that local shoppers couldn’t afford to pay a cent more for their groceries.

The centrepiece of the Labor Party’s campaign of misinformation was the frequently repeated, but patently false assertion that leasing assets would result in higher electricity prices based on the outcomes of Victoria’s electricity privatisation. Clearly the fact that electricity prices are not just lower in Victoria than in Queensland, but have also increased at a slower rate since privatisation was an inconvenient distraction from Labor’s intellectually bankrupt narrative that asset leases were an assault on living standards.

This is not to say that negative politics isn’t a well-worn tactic of election campaigns, especially from the opposition benches. The difference is that besides the rancour, the Labor Party offered no serious contribution to the core issues most closely connected with the state’s future wellbeing; the $80 billion debt and growing infrastructure deficit. In dealing with these kinds of longer-term policy challenges, the key principle is that there are no silver bullet solutions, but only imperfect alternatives. In fact, bringing home to the public that there was no single cure for the debt, but rather a series of solutions, each with their own trade-offs, was one of key messages behind the strong choices campaign. What this means is that attacks against the Government’s planned leasing of state assets can only be properly evaluated when weighed against the alternatives; cutting services, or raising taxes. In contrast, Labor’s plan to use income generated by assets on paying down the debt blatantly disregarded that this income was already incorporated as part of the budget. By acting under the pretence that they could spend this money twice, the real nature of the debt issue – a choice between unpleasant, imperfect alternatives – was never brought home to the public. Thanks to Labor, voters entered election day under the misapprehension that they could reject Newman’s plan to lease assets and continue as they were, either ignorant or indifferent to the infrastructure and debt challenges facing the state.

It is far from true that the LNP, or any political party for that matter, has a monopoly on what policies constitute the public good. However, what can be said is that the Newman government made honest attempts to address these issue, prioritising the state’s long-term needs over the LNP’s short-term political prospects. The most troubling aspect is not so much that the government seems to have lost its majority after only one term, but that the opposition achieved this based on how little of substance they said. By rewarding this demagoguery with electoral success, voters are in effect encouraging the type of politics they claim to hate – sloganeering, negativity and repetition.

In some ways, the Queensland election result is reminiscent of John Hewson’s failure to win what had been dubbed an ‘unlosable’ election in 1993. Like Newman, Hewson took an ambitious policy manifesto to an election offering detailed plans addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges and was savaged by an intellectually dishonest scare campaign. For both leaders, their policy ambition became a political liability while campaigning. Of course, he key difference between the two figures is that Newman was buttressed by a parliamentary supermajority. Contrary to the predictions of countless pundits, it seems that the days of voters giving embattled first term governments the benefit of the doubt – a courtesy extended to the likes of John Howard, Jeff Kennett and Peter Beattie – are over.

This twin phenomenon of an electorate both untrusting of incumbents and growingly susceptible to policy-lite populism is a genuine cause for concern. The state’s most vexing public policy challenges; declining revenue, mounting debt, a growing population, changing demographics, an infrastructure backlog and ever increasing demands on the public provision of health and education – are not problems solvable by policies that fit neatly within three year electoral cycle. Government’s that seek to implement strategies making short term sacrifices in the interests of the longer term public good now must now contend not only with cravenly populist oppositions, but an impressionable public with a waning appetite for serious reform.

Unfortunately, Australia’s now endemic political apathy is only likely to reinforce this growing culture of base politics. As much as parties will continue to pay lip-service to values and ideas, the content of these ideas will be inevitably shaped by the most fundamental value of political parties – getting elected. If people want politician’s to act with greater loyalty to their role of serving the public rather than feathering their own nests, real change can only come externally. As the revered historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed after his travels throughout 19th century America, the voting public always gets the government they deserve. Until Queensland – and for that matter Australia – learn to demand a genuine contest of ideas from the major parties, the price will be a country unable to meet is future challenges and ultimately, national decline.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

MEDIA RELEASE: No Matter Tuesday’s Result, Joe Hockey Has Got To Go

by on 7 February, 2015

No Matter Tuesday’s Result, Joe Hockey Has Got To Go

Click HERE to download as PDF

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, a non-partisan activist body dedicated to protecting taxpayers’ rights, has called on Joe Hockey to be sacked as Treasurer irrespective of the results of Tuesday’s leadership spill.

“No matter the result of Tuesday’s leadership spill, one thing is certain: Joe Hockey’s legacy is one of consistent, abject failure, and his position as Treasurer is untenable” said Tim Andrews, Executive Director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.

“Mr Hockey’s repeated and consistent failures are at the core of the Abbott Government’s problems. He has failed to communicate the need for budget reform to the Australian people, and his inability to sell the Government’s reform agenda is inexcusable and embarrassing.

“Despite his “tough” rhetoric significantly damaging the Government’s popularity, Mr Hockey has failed to take any concrete action to reign in Commonwealth overspending.  The 2014-15MYEFO shows overspending set to skyrocket with more and more new cash-splash schemes announced, while the cuts that Mr Hockey did make were poorly thought out and disproportionate. This is the worst of all worlds – all the political pain, for none of the economic gain; public support for reform is strained and yet there is no benefit for the taxpayer.

“As well as failing to reform expenditures, Mr Hockey has failed in his core promise to relieve the tax burden, with the 2014-15 budget increasing the tax burden by a staggering $100 billion, slugging every Aussie family with multiple tax hikes. Yesterday’s shambolic announcement of a progressive company tax stifling Australian businesses with more red tape, when Australia’s company tax is already one of the highest in the world,  was just the latest in a long string of bizarre announcements that make no economic or political sense.

“There can be no doubt about it: For the sake of the country, Joe Hockey has got to go” concluded Mr Andrews.

“Treasurer Joe Hockey has failed to stamp his authority on economic management” added Professor Sinclair Davidson, Professor of Institutional Economics at RMIT University and Academic Fellow of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. “A government that lacks fiscal discipline cannot govern Australia. If Tony Abbott does survive the Tuesday ballot, he needs to get serious about the economy.  That means a new team in Treasury.”

Media Contact: Tim Andrews, Executive Director, Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.  Email: tandrews@taxpayers.org.au

Goodbye, Newman

by on 3 February, 2015

1609697_10152650821929989_322121146_nZeev Vinokurov examines the follies of the Newman government

There are a range of lessons to be drawn from the Newman LNP government’s one-term government. I don’t pretend to have all the answers; the Newman government’s campaign was riven with problems. I will fix on a few of those problems: the government’s divisive and illiberal VLAD laws, their contempt for the separation of powers and their contempt for the public. I don’t pretend that these were the causes of Newman’s downfall, though I wish they were. But I do think they posed an unnecessary distraction for the government. The anti-association “VLAD” laws proved a distraction precisely because they targeted innocent people and persecuted them for spending time with one another, both on the road and off it. The VLAD laws were designed to lock up any group of three or more persons who associated with one another and were deemed members of a club which the government or a court deemed to be unlawful. The punishment was six months imprisonment; the maximum punishment for club members involved in criminal activity was also increased dramatically. Dramatic as these punishments might seem, it does not appear as if they had any effect on crime rates. Crime was steadily going down before VLAD and it was steadily going down after it. But VLAD turned an entire community of motorcycling enthusiasts, numbering in the tens of thousands, into anti-LNP sympathisers and activists.  What’s more, the government’s attacks on the legal profession, its scurrilous suggestions that the ALP enjoyed links to organised crime, and the transparent bribery of the election season cemented the LNP’s reputation for transparent demagoguery.

The VLAD laws had other offensive features. For example, as a final humiliation, those charged under the VLAD laws would be segregated from the general prison population and forced to wear pink jumpsuits. The government declared a number of motorcycling clubs to be illegal on the spot, but it was always open to a Court to declare that any association was unlawful if it had a criminal purpose. For instance, a football club that was engaged in a minor brawl once might become a target of the VLAD laws.

There was never really much going for the VLAD laws: they were introduced on the flimsy premise that the acts of a few club members should condemn the membership to persecution. The additional punishments imposed on club members guilty of other offences were arbitrary. The nature of the deed, not your associations, should dictate the punishment a person should receive on committing a criminal offence. But they made for a good law-and-order campaign for the public to swallow up. At least that’s what Newman thought.

Faced with criticism from the Bar Association and the legal profession at the draconian nature of the laws, Newman fired back with accusations that any lawyer acting for a VLAD law defendant was a “hired gun” in cahoots with organised crime. This extraordinary comment elicited a suit in defamation, as well as criticism from across the legal profession and even the normally impartial judiciary.

Unsurprisingly, the VLAD law proved incredibly divisive. Polling commissioned in early 2014 demonstrated that almost half of the electorate was more likely to vote against the LNP because of their enactment. Perhaps a little incredibly, the poll predicted that the LNP could lose up 30 seats as a result. Moreover, in July 2014, the electorate demonstrated their willingness to do so by voting out the LNP in the Stafford by-election. Newman seems to have partly attributed the loss to the enactment of the VLAD laws, which he immediately wound back in response. Prisoners would no longer be segregated or forced to wear pink jumpsuits, but the rest of the VLAD law would remain in force.

It was too little, too late. Queenslanders were tired of seeing their fellow citizens harassed for their choice of friends or their motorcycling hobbies. Innocent recreational riders were repeatedly harassed on the roads by police. The Vietnam Veterans’ motorcycling club was raided by police. A librarian, with a clean record, was charged with the crime of entering a pub with two of her fellow motorcycling club enthusiasts. Five Victorians on holiday were charged with the same offence. Another five Queenslanders got similar treatment. Newman refused to back down. Even as he afforded a minor concession to VLAD law opponents, he offered them more contempt. As he put it then:

“I’m sorry today, if I’ve done things that have upset people.”

That is to say that he wasn’t sorry in the least. Apparently, anyone who disagreed with him was being irrational.

It’s worth noting that in opposition the LNP campaigned against a milder version of the VLAD law backed by the governing ALP government in the 2009 election. At the time, the then-opposition leader Lawrence Springborg observed:

“The Bar Association, the Law Society and the Council for Civil Liberties have justifiable and fundamental objections to this bill, including its attack on the freedom of association and the application of a civil standard of proof in what is otherwise a criminal proceeding…[.].”

Springborg was Health Minister under Newman’s former government. He did not breathe a word of criticism against the VLAD laws on their introduction.

Of a similar piece was Newman’s decision to promote the controversial Chief Magistrate Carmody to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland. That saga began when the then-Chief Magistrate emailed his fellow Magistrates, warning them of the danger of realising persons in motorcycling clubs on bail. The move was seen as a clear sign of support for the Newman government. When the bail applications kept going, the Chief Magistrate arbitrarily reserved all such bail applicants for himself. He was then promoted to Chief Justice on the retirement of his predecessor. The legal profession and the judiciary regarded his elevation as a clear act of political favouritism. His appointment ceremony was boycotted by the other Justices of the Supreme Court. Justice Muir even called on Carmody to refuse the appointment given that the Bar and the judiciary lacked confidence in him. Carmody refused, and even went on talkback radio to defend the government’s decision to appoint him. It was a political act that was clearly inappropriate given his judicial appointment. The appointment itself smacked of clear political favouritism and was an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

As the State election drew closer, Newman dug in. The ALP had committed itself to repealing the VLAD laws, so the Premier accused the ALP of being in league with organised crime. (The commitment was later watered down to a review.) Newman offered no proof, but asked journalists to “google it.” The best that might be said of his claim is that there is a video on YouTube in which an Electrical Trades Union official, speaking at a protest against the VLAD laws, admits to having accepted donations from motorcycling clubs. This is not quite the same as showing that those motorcycling clubs are criminal. That is, and remains, a baseless accusation. Newman miscalculated; without proof, the media portrayed the claim for what it was: a base slander.

To make matters worse, Newman engaged in transparent vote-buying. Of course, every politician promises taxpayer-funded, so-called “free” goodies to his electorate during election season and Newman was no exception. But not every politician has the temerity to threaten to withdraw the goods on offer if the seats in question aren’t held by his party. The problem is that the threat lays bare the pretence that these spending measures are for the public good. That is much harder to do when the message is “if you don’t vote for us, you don’t get a pool.” The media blasted Newman for it, and quite rightly so. Rarely does one see such openly displayed appeals to avarice. Politicians are usually more subtle than that.

The Newman government’s extraordinary excesses were not the only factors responsible for his downfall, but they were undeniably factors. You simply cannot make enemies of tens of thousands of motorcycling enthusiasts in Queensland and across the country, not to mention the legal profession and the judiciary, without losing votes and winning the ire, and even the fear, of the electorate. There is a lesson to be drawn from this. I, for one, am not sorry to see Newman go.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Queensland 2015. What happened?

by on 3 February, 2015

Michael Smyth presents 10 thought provocative points that seek to explain what exactly went wrong for the Liberal National Party at the weekend’s Queensland State Election. 

What happened? There are many people asking themselves and others what happened on Saturday, but the fact is that there are several factors that contributed to the upset that occurred:

1) The people voted for the LNP in 2012, because they were angry with Labor’s lies on asset sales and fuel subsidies (not to mention increased taxation burden on businesses); the people voted *against* the LNP in 2015 because of the hubris and pride of the parliamentary wing of the party.

While it is obvious that governments eventually become drunk with power, becoming unduly proud is not something that one might normally associate with a first-term government. Unfortunately, the people have a pattern of being less forgiving to the Centre-Right compared to those on the Left. Just look at how many chances Labor has been given both federally and in the States.

2) The sheer volume of disinformation and outright lies perpetrated by the ALP, the Greens, and their allies in GetUp and the unions, was virtually impossible to cut through; No matter how good the LNP’s PR machine was, they were never going to cut through; Oscar Wilde once said “A lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth ties up its shoelaces”, and sadly he was correct.

Dictators and democratic politicians alike are aware of the maxim, “People will more readily fall for a big lie than a small one”, but when there is a big lie surrounded by several smaller lies, and the media are saturated with them, nobody’s PR machine is going to be able to cut through.

3) Related to point two, the amount of money spent by the LNP was dwarfed by the money that Unions, GetUp, the Greens and the ALP pooled together to ensure that the LNP was defeated.

GetUp and the Unions’ advertisements were all authorised by members of the ALP or the Greens. Even the address of the other advertisements was the same as an ALP office just up from the TLC building! Money talks, and because of the electoral funding laws loophole, unions are able to spend almost limitless amounts of money peddling their lies and propaganda. Yell louder than everyone else, and people who don’t know better will hear only what is yelled the loudest.

4) Quite a few of the rank-and-file members (myself included) left the LNP because they were not happy about some of the things that were happening at Headquarters; the dishonourable way that Headquarters treated Bruce Flegg is the most obvious example, but screwing over more committed and sound candidates at preselection (e.g. Redcliffe and Stafford) did significant damage to the LNP while they were in power.

This point might not be taken well by erstwhile associates of mine, but the fact is that the LNP cannot claim to be a democratic or representative party if it permits Executive members to turn up and override the preference of the Branches and SECs. How can one give ALP hacks grief about their lack of direct preselection if the LNP is also engaging in backroom deals and throwing weight around to roll candidates that have grassroots support? As for the less obvious examples cited, it would be prudent for the LNP administrative wing to start vetting members of its party more scrupulously in order to avoid a repeat of the Scott Driscoll fiasco, or the Chris Davis dummy spit.

5) While the LNP didn’t technically lie, they did breach faith by proposing a lease of assets (especially when they had rightly slammed the ALP for selling them off); to their credit they did run on the platform of leasing the assets, but the damage was already done

The LNP sought election to seek a mandate to sell off the assets, but the people emphatically rejected the idea of selling the assets prior to the election. Instead of noting what the people wanted, they proposed asset leasing, believing that it was the only way to reduce debt. While it is true that the leasing would have significantly reduced debt (and thus interest repayments on the debt), Queenslanders are not as fond of neoliberalism as the outgoing Treasurer would like.

6) As per point one, people voted against the LNP rather than for the ALP; the ALP had no policies other than “we’re not them”.

While people claim that Abbott and the Coalition did that federally, the difference is that Abbott and the Coalition actually had policies; Palaszczuk has repeatedly refused to guarantee job growth, couldn’t even tell a radio station and the listeners what the GST was when asked, has consistently exaggerated the number of jobs lost through public service rationalisation (see below), and has failed to acknowledge the mistakes made under her predecessor Anna Bligh.

7) Related to points two and three; if you repeat a lie long enough, people will believe it, and that is what happened with the numerous lies; first of all it was 14,000 jobs cut from the public service, then 20,000, then 24,000, because the higher the number the greater the outrage.

The reality is that out of the 14,000 positions lost, 8,000 of them were contractors and 6,000 were actual jobs, the latter who were then able to seamlessly move into the private sector or be re-employed where they were actually needed, rather than as administrative staff hired to appease the unions’ insatiable desire for members’ fees and superannuation. Yes, those industry super funds are controlled by the unions, who treat them as piggy banks for their own personal and corporate use.

8) The media gave much airtime to disinformation, and while I’m not going to make a ridiculous claim about a media conspiracy (after all, I’m not a Greens voter or an intellectually crippled socialist); the media should have been more vigourous in calling out or challenging the disinformation.

Due to the saturation of the media by anti-LNP parties and groups, there was barely any airtime left for the LNP to get its message out there and refute the deliberate disinformation. The LNP was emailing its members asking for additional support due to the relentless media blitz by Labor and the Unions, but given the media’s half-arsed attention to detail (the word exists in Hansard and has been ruled as Parliamentary, so I’m entitled to use it here) it wouldn’t have made a difference even if LNP Headquarters had received as much money to spend as the ALP and their collective forces spent.

9) The ALP co-opted their allies in GetUp, the Greens and the Unions to hand out paraphernalia that encouraged a vote to put the LNP last, which was successful given the severity of the swing against the LNP; there was quite a bit of intimidation felt by some voters going in and being harassed by stooges from GetUp and the Unions (one of which was in his work uniform and lying outright about bus privatisation)

Some “volunteers” from the Labor Party and the Greens are lovely, but then there are some who are utterly uncouth and do whatever they can to get people to vote their way, especially lying, the Union heavies love their lies. At the Redcliffe and Stafford by-elections, there were reports made to the ECQ about intimidation by anti-LNP groups against LNP volunteers, and at Saturday’s election it happened as well. I’m not going to say that LNP volunteers are saintly, but they generally don’t lie to get votes just before people cast their ballots.

10) People felt aggrieved at the LNP State government for things that the Coalition was doing at the Federal level, and so more than usual voted against the LNP; such a vote however is akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, and as such Queensland is going to reap the consequences of what it has sown.

I was tempted to write an article after the Liberal Party lost in Victoria, explaining why people might be deserting the Liberal Party, and why members are leaving in not insignificant numbers. However, now is a better time to write an article, given that those who influence or control the party might finally be receptive enough to read it; humility is crucial in politics, and even moreso in government. I should clarify that my reasons for leaving the LNP were to do with decisions made at the Federal level rather than the State level, and I am bitterly disappointed that Queenslanders were much quicker to forgive Labor than they were prepared to be patient with the LNP.

Michael Smyth was Treasurer of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Monarchist League from 2011-2014, and previously Secretary of the Griffith University Liberal Club from 2009-2012. His opinions are his own, and do not reflect the position of any of the aforementioned organisations.

Can Tony Survive?

by on 2 February, 2015

A lot is riding on Tony Abbott’s National Press Club speech today, in which, among other things, he is expected to dump his unwanted and unaffordable gold plated paid parental leave scheme.

The move to ditch PPL is certainly welcome, however, despite this, I can’t see how even if Tony Abbott gives one of the best speeches of his life at the press club today he can still survive.

Even Tony Abbott’s most diehard supporters will have to admit the utter hatred – and it really is hatred – in the community for him. And this is simply something that can not be overcome. Australians have just stopped listening, and, as was the case with Julia Gillard, when Australians have stopped listening, not even the greatest of speeches can make them start again.

Added to this is his consistent refusal to consult or listen - particularly to the parliamentary party, and the exhaustion of any goodwill he may have had. The Prince Philip debacle /wasn’t/ an exception – it was the rule – time after time after time this has happened, and after it being said so many times, him promising to “listen more” now is like the boy who cried wolf.

All the proposed alternatives to Abbott are deeply, deeply flawed, but I simply can’t see any other way forward.

Tim Andrews is the Executive Director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance

The Myth of Invasion Day

by on 29 January, 2015

Sherry Sufi

In 2008, when incoming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd provided Indigenous Australians the apology outgoing Prime Minister John Howard had long refused to, Australians were told:

“The time has come, well and truly come … for all Australians, those who are indigenous and those who are not to come together, truly reconcile and together build a truly great nation.”

While I don’t dispute the sincerity of these words, like many Australians, I remain skeptical of their fulfilment.

Eight years on, the evidence does not exist to support the idea that any progress has been made towards true reconciliation.

On the contrary, activists seem less satisfied and more assertive. Further campaigns have surfaced, which continue to reinforce existing disunity while doing nothing to address Indigenous disadvantage in life expectancy, child mortality, education and employment.

This year’s ‘Invasion Day’ protests in Melbourne and Brisbane mark the 8th consecutive year of Australia Day celebrations being sabotaged by activists.

In 2014, Captain Cook’s 259 year old Cottage was vandalised two days before Australia Day.

In 2013, over 300 rallied outside QLD Parliament with banners proclaiming Australia “always was, always will be aboriginal land”.

In 2012, a frightened Prime Minister Julia Gillard was swept off her feet by security at a disrupted ceremony and escorted to safety, losing her shoe in the process.

In 2011, over 300 gathered outside Tasmanian Parliament calling for Australia Day to be shifted to another date.

In 2010, over 100 marched at Tasmanian Parliament with protest organiser Nala Mansell-McKenna asserting she was there to “mourn those lives, the loss of land and culture” due to British colonisation.

In 2009, Australian of the Year Mick Dodson said 26th January alienated Indigenous Australians and urged for a change of date.

In 2008, more than 100 rallied in Launceston’s City Park with Indigenous activist Adam Thompson setting an Australian flag on fire with a cigarette lighter, followed by cheers from the crowd.

Rudd’s apology was expected to be a real game changer for race relations in our nation. It has been, except in the opposite direction. Apart from convincing the activists they can pretty much get anything they want provided they make sufficient noise, it has achieved little else.

The activists seem more interested in winning short term symbolic battles, rather than focussing on winning the greater war on Indigenous disadvantage. Their demands come from a seemingly endless political wishlist. Grant one, they move to the next. Grant none, all guns come blazing with accusations of coldheartedness, and lack of compassion and empathy.

Post-apology Australia has witnessed the rise of the taxpayer funded Recognise campaign seeking Indigenous recognition in the Commonwealth Constitution using exactly the same arguments as those deployed by the apology campaign activists.

Efforts have been made to produce an Indigenous rendition of our national anthem.

There exists a self-proclaimed Aboriginal Provisional Government that issues unauthorised aboriginal passports and people have attempted to use them to re-enter Australia.

Not only is the Aboriginal Tent Embassy still around, it continues to play an active role in causing further disharmony in the name of reconciliation.

Far from strengthening national unity, Rudd’s apology has opened up a political Pandora’s Box. These demands for greater sovereignty and constant protests are its consequences.

It ought to surprise no one that John Howard has long criticised Rudd for apologising.

This activism rests on the shoulders of exaggerated narratives about our colonial past which, in the absence of an alternative paradigm in our historically indifferent society, manage to get away with perpetuating politicised myths which legitimise their struggles.

The myth of Invasion Day is one of many such exaggerations that continues to mislead Australians. Now more than ever before, there is an indispensable need to go right to the core of these narratives and dismantle them for once and for all.

As someone who has enjoyed the friendship of many Indigenous Australians over the years, I am well-aware of the challenges some face on a day-to-day basis which can, at times, be difficult for non-Indigenous Australians to relate to.

There is no dispute that some of our fellow Indigenous Australians have had it tough. Not only due to the collateral effects of the often well-intentioned albeit badly implemented social policies of earlier Australian governments, but due largely to the harsh realities of survival in geographical isolation from the rest of the world for 40,000 years.

It is subconsciously taken for granted that the advent of agriculture, irrigation, domestication of animals, pottery, architecture, written language, literature and complex governments are the indicators of ‘progress’ and ‘civilisation’. Be that as it may, what is often forgotten is that throughout history, civilisation by that definition has been a direct by-product of interaction between different cultures, either through trade or war.

Sophisticated civilisations such as Christian Europe, the Islamic world, China and India have all participated in and ultimately benefitted from centuries of trade and war. Gunpowder, rubber stamps, rifles, cannons, telescopes, compass, medicine, alchemy, algebra, the decimal system, printing press and trigonometry are notable products of the exchange between these cultures.

The Medieval and early modern period was an undeclared race to the top which Europe ultimately won. Driven by an insatiable lust for exploration and discovery, Europe not only went on to conquering most of this planet following Christopher Columbus’ rediscovery of America in 1492 (Viking Lief Erikson had already been there 5 centuries earlier), it held on to most of its colonial possessions until after World War II.

Prolonged geographical isolation from the Afro-Eurasian world meant that Indigenous culture would develop along a remarkably different trajectory. Over 40,000 years of sustained existence, Indigenous Australians were able to develop their own techniques to hunt, gather, fish and trek their way through the vastness of desert and jungle. Theirs is an admirable tale of survival in the face of nature’s harshest environmental challenges. It would be absurd to expect that they should have been able to compete with the European, Islamic, Chinese and Indian stages of civilisation.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians will today agree that Australia is one of the finer by-products of European colonisation. Having never had a civil war, a revolution or an assassinated leader, our track record as the world’s bastion of political stability remains self-evidently pristine. Our societal values uphold the freedoms of thought, expression, association, choice and worship. We have equality of opportunity for all citzens, affordable access to healthcare and education, no conscription, no death penalty, no rigid class structure, no feudal hierarchy, no caste system and a very manageable population stationed on land abound in nature’s gifts of beauty, rich and rare.

Australia is, without much exaggeration, the closest thing to paradise on earth. A utopia as Sir Thomas More (the wise man beheaded by King Henry VIII) would have called it.

Yet the fact that paradise was to be built on an island already inhabited by humans from a stage of development the Europeans had overcome through trade and war many thousand years earlier, remains a happenstance of nature. Neither party had deliberate intention to inflict malice upon the other.

In fact, relations between early settlers and natives were far more cordial than most Australians realise. British perceptions of the natives of ‘New Holland’ as it was then known were primarily shaped by the sympathetic accounts of discoverer Captain James Cook, authored two decades prior to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.

In a journal entry in his Voyages of the Endeavour, Cook wrote:

“From what I have said of the natives of New Holland they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans, being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary conveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in a tranquility which is not disturbed by the inequality of conditions. The earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life, they covet not magnificent houses, household stuff etc., they live in a warm and fine climate and enjoy a very wholesome air, so that they have very little need for clothing and this they seem to be fully sensible of, for many to whom we gave cloth etc. to, left it carelessly upon the sea beach and in the woods as a thing they had no manner of use for. In short term, nor would they ever part with any thing of their own for any one article we could offer them, this in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessaries of life and that they have no superfluities”.

This little known passage is an indication of the mindset of late 18th century British colonisers.

For most of his career, Captain Cook was fascinated by the cultures of lands he had explored and never saw the natives as ‘savages’ as often falsely assumed. (It remains greatly ironic that he was brutally speared to death by the natives of Hawaii during an expedition in 1779).

What would begin with the arrival of the First Fleet on 26th January 1788 was settlement, not invasion. It cannot be defined any other way.

Invasions are organised military expeditions launched after failed diplomacy. They involve an intention to subjugate followed by a declaration of war. They are usually met with sovereign resistance and return fire, until the army that suffers the most damage reaches a point where it can no longer keep up the fight and is forced into surrender.

Alexander the Great going into Persia in 330 BCE.

Julius Caesar going into Britain in 54 BCE.

William of Normandy going into England in 1066.

Sultan Mehmed II going into Constantinople in 1453.

Adolf Hitler going into Poland in 1939.

These are all invasions.

Poor old Captain Arthur Phillip bringing a group of disease stricken poorly fed convicts to their new prison country on the other side of the planet was most certainly not an “invasion”.

The natives initially identified settlers as ghosts returning from the dead. After a while, they realised these were just humans. Over time many noticed that Europeans had one thing the arduous life of a hunter-gatherer lacked, that was surplus of food. Natives chose to remain close to early settlers as they often ran out of food as it was difficult to obtain and the settlers provided what they could.

The first Governor of New South Wales Phillip developed a fondness for the Eora people when the colony at Port Botany. He befriended native man Woollaraware Bennelong who became the first Indigenous Australian to be escorted to England to meet King George III. (The Federal seat of Bennelong held by Prime Minister John Howard for 33 years from 1974 to 2007 is named after him). On one occasion, Captain Phillip was speared in the shoulder by the natives for merely reprimanding one for stealing one of his shovels.

Phillip survived the attack and ordered his men not to retaliate. He understood that in Indigenous culture people shared what they had with their family and friends, thus lacked a concept of personal belongings. Misunderstandings of this sort often led to mutual mistrust sometimes culminating in hostile encounters despite the lack of intentional belligerence on either part.

In 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered for hostilities to be ceased at once. He welcomed the natives and appointed Indigenous tribal leaders to act as conduits between settlers and natives. Macquarie gave away many plots of land to the natives who chose to be a part of the newfound colony and encouraged them to view the benefits of becoming self-sufficient through the embrace of the European ethic. His efforts were often thwarted by native defiance of British law and order.

Cook’s sympathetic view, Philip’s close ties with the Eora and Macquarie’s inclusiveness all stand to dispel the false narrative that British colonisation was intentionally vile and sought to eliminate the natives like the Spanish conquistadors had attempted to do to their natives in the Americas.

No doubt, violent clashes between settlers and natives occurred on occasion. These are well-documented and close examination of the records reveals they were precipitated by a circumstantial context as opposed to some insidious government plot to wipe out the natives as falsely assumed.

Natives often attacked farmers and their cattles which led to retaliation. Even so, the rule of law did what it was there to do. When British settlers were found to be at fault, they were brought to justice. The Myall Creek massacre is a case in point. 30 natives were killed by 10 Europeans and 1 African on 10th June 1838 at Bingara, New South Wales. After two trials, 7 of the 11 involved were found guilty of murder and hanged.

From late Medieval to the early modern period, Britain was faced with unprecedented chaos and instability. The English Civil War saw King Charles I beheaded. England fell from one form of absolutism to another under Oliver Cromwell, until Monarchy was restored in 1660. Religious intolerance, poverty and crime resulted in overcrowded prisons. English exploration of the Americas had come with the option to transport convicts and religious minorities to the newfound colonies across the Atlantic.

In 1776, that option was taken away when American rebels disgruntled by the British Crown’s imposition of taxes without Parliamentary representation fought for and won their independence, giving birth to the United States of America.

Confronted by the need to find an alternative settler and penal colony, New Holland whose existence the British had prior awareness of due to Captain Cook’s voyages, became the obvious choice.

To suggest that the British Empire should not have colonised Australia would stand to contradict the reality that all societies are the result of human migration at some point in history. Some later than others.

If Creationism is true, then having descended from Adam and Eve we all migrated out of the ancient Near East to populate all continents of the earth.

If Evolutionism is true, then having evolved from prokaryotes and eukaryotes we evolved into bipedal hominids and migrated out of Africa to populate all continents of the earth.

Either way, humans have gone where necessity has taken us. The means by which we move around tends to reflect the norms and pressures of the timeframe in which our migration occurs combined with the relative power and resources available to us.

As for the question of sovereignty, the ‘nationstate’ is a 19th century political construct that emerged in reaction to the ancien régime aristocracy rooted in European imperialism. Until the aftermath of Europe’s decolonisation of its acquired territories, the creation of the United Nations in 1945 and the enforcement of international law, there was no globally applicable legal mechanism that prevented discovery, exploration, settlement, war and conquest. Grievances resultant from the perceived or actual effects of colonial activities undertaken by those who lived prior to this period cannot be held against their cultural descendants today.

Besides, this dynamic was already in force in pre-1788 Australia, albeit it never left its shores. The inhabitants of New Holland were as ethnolinguistically heterogenous as their European counterparts and as prone to territorial conflict. The Battle of Hastings (1066), the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) stand as proof of the longstanding rivalry between the English and the French despite both being a European people.

It is equally oversimplifying to think of the Eora, Noongar, Darambal and Gunai people as a homogenous Indigenous people. For the most part, they either knew nothing of each other’s existence or (to put it in contemporary terms) frequently violated each other’s ‘sovereignties’ upon contact like the various strands of Europeans had done.

Most nationstates on today’s world map are melting pots of diverse human varieties united by common boundaries, under one flag, in an exchange that renders the significance of ancestral chronology, irrelevant.

The Vikings arrived in England before the Normans.

The Berbers arrived in Morocco before the Arabs.

The Ainus arrived in Japan before the Nippons.

The Pelasgians arrived in the Aegean Peninsula before the Greeks.

The Etruscans arrived in Italy before the Romans.

The Incas arrived in Peru before the Spaniards.

The list is endless.

No piece of land or its sovereignty exclusively belongs to its perceived or actual ‘first comers’.

It is a job for the political order that triumphs in the end to treat all its citizens with justice and fairness, regardless of the chronology of their ancestral presence and that is a job modern Australia has done exceptionally well.

This nation was settled, not invaded. Our founding narrative is to be celebrated, not lamented.

That said, neither is our society perfect, nor is perfection our goal.

Rejoicing in what we got right, learning from where we went wrong and improving what we can do better tomorrow is the goal and its fulfilment is an eternal journey. One that does not involve formatting our national hard disk and installing a new operating system, but one that involves our readiness to run software updates when the occasion and justifications are right.

Our nation has run more of those updates than we give ourselves credit for.

If Australia was half the apartheid activists make it out to be, neither would we have had the 1967 Referendum that enfranchised our Indigenous Australians with the right to vote, nor the Mabo Decision and the Native Title Act which recognised native title, nor Rudd’s well-intentioned apology.

We ought to see as proof of Australian inclusiveness the success stories of many accomplished Indigenous Australians like Neville Bonner, Noel Pearson, Cathy Freeman, David Wirrpanda and recent Australian of the Year 2014 Adam Goodes.

We ought to acknowledge that Labor Senator Nova Peris and Liberal MP Ken Wyatt’s Parliamentary presence stands as proof of both our major parties’ committment to providing Indigenous Australians the support and representation they seek.

Constant activism and protests will not make this Commonwealth of ours renowned of all the lands. For that, we must resolutely banish our national obsession with hollow symbolic gestures and join forces to fight Indigenous disadvantage, for that would be true reconciliation embodying the spirit of Advance Australia Fair.

Today more than ever before, Australians will appreciate Prime Minister John Howard’s reasons for refusing to provide that apology:

“I have always supported reconciliation but not of the apologetic, shame-laden, guilt-ridden type.”

“I think in the past we have become obsessed with things like apologies and there are millions of Australians who will never entertain an apology because they don’t believe that there is anything to apologise for.”

“They are sorry for past mistreatment but that is different from assuming responsibility for it.”

Sherry Sufi is a Political Editor with qualifications in Politics, History, Philosophy, Information Systems and International Studies. He has worked as a Policy Adviser to both State and Federal MPs. Sherry’s PhD research investigates the role of first language in ethnic conflict and nationalism. He can be reached via facebook here.