We owe David Hicks no apology

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

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

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”.

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


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.


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

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

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.

Can Tony Survive?

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