At last! - free speech reform

At last! - free speech reform

It’s amazing what a bit of leadership tension does for intestinal fortitude. After months of obfuscations and prevarication the beleaguered Prime Minister has finally put forward some sensible reforms to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Last year when I introduced my 18C reform bill (against the PMs wishes) – signed by 19 other Senators – addressing the government opposition to the Bill I said:

Next year at some point they’ll probably say ‘this is a good idea’ and true to form they’ll say ‘we always supported it but the timing wasn’t right.’

Yesterday’s announcement proved the prescience of that statement and clearly shows how the major parties have sacrificed conviction for political expediency.

This was reinforced by the government introducing the RDA amendments in the senate, where they are sure to fail thanks to Nick Xenophon, the Greens and Labor (pictured). This decision raises concerns about the ability of the government to even get the reforms through the House of Representatives where it has a majority. 

We all know that things are finely balanced in the lower house, but it speaks volumes about the current political malaise that an issue as fundamental to a functioning democracy like freedom of speech might not have the numbers even within the governing centre-right party.

There are some who lament the amount of time conservatives spend discussing matters like freedom of speech. Critics say it’s not raised often around the BBQ or the shearing sheds. That might be true but leadership isn’t always about responding to concerns, it requires the ability to identify problems before they become universally apparent.

Unfortunately, true leadership doesn’t gel well with modern politics. Politicians get no electoral credit for preventing a crisis, only for responding to one.

It’s much more difficult to seek re-election by saying ‘vote for me because xyz didn’t happen’ rather than ‘vote for me because I fixed xyz for you’. Not that the fixes always work!

That’s a problem for all of us. The political class actually benefits from everyone else running into political brick walls constructed for the very purpose of being knocked down later on.

Principled and fearless leadership identifies potential problems early, makes others aware of the pitfalls ahead and makes the case for the need to change course.

Some of these future obstacles are crystal clear while some are less apparent. Perhaps the most pressing of them is the escalating national debt.

Without a swift expansion of Australian Conservatives numbers in the senate, I suspect we’ll see the debt level reach $1 trillion before we see a budget surplus delivered by either of the major parties. The reason for that is simple: neither major party has the courage necessary to cut spending and ensure government lives within its means.

A responsible and principled senate cross bench with a strong Australian Conservative representation can help them find that courage.

We cannot afford more fairy-tale economics from the Greens and Labor whilst the Libs will never be entrusted with a Senate majority to do the right thing.

That makes the agenda to provide a principled and credible alternative in the Senate more important than ever. It’s the only way we can put a stop to the long term detrimental impact of a spiralling debt load on our nation.

It is about averting a crisis for which few will provide any thanks but it is a moral obligation we owe to future generations. 

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