Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The anti-free speech politicians of Australia

Free speech is not just another one of our freedoms, it is the foundation of freedom that all our other freedoms come from. If we can’t speak freely, then we can’t think freely.

If you have never heard an idea before, then you will not think about it. Unless you read, hear, or see a new idea it will not permeate your thinking and you will not grow from experiencing it – even if you disagree. Such is the power of new information.

It is incredibly easy to police ‘wrongthink’, particularly within certain topics. All that is required is for example to made of a person who says the ‘wrong’ thing. If they experience public and painful consequences, other people quickly learn that they must not make the same mistake. Not only will the rest of society avoid saying the ‘wrong’ thing in public, they stop thinking the ‘wrong’ thing in private.

To ‘protect’ themselves and their friends, they will contribute to the persecution of strangers that say the ‘wrong’ thing – thereby perpetuating a general attack on free speech.

In the remnants of classical education at my British Boarding School, in History class, we were explicitly told by the master that he didn’t care what our opinion was, he wanted us to show him how we could argue between two opposing points of view with academic references to support each argument.

Today, kids are taught one side of an argument but not the other. They are marked down for arguing points of view that oppose the school-approved perspective.

If kids are taught what to say and not to question things or argue opposing points of view publicly, the result is that they stop thinking about opposing points of view privately. Schools are no longer teaching kids how to think, but what to think. This is the fulfilment of the ‘Outcome Based Learning’ philosophy that was introduced to replace classical learning in the Western World after the second world war.

Politics is full of examples where this type of controlled thinking plays out in the adult world. After becoming an Australian Citizen in 2020 and learning about the wonderful history of our country, I proudly became a member of what I thought was the major conservative party in Australia: The Liberal Party.

After time spent dabbling in local politics where I was involved in successfully tackling corruption, I decided to nominate for an internal Liberal Party committee position, as I had become concerned with the direction the party was taking. They had recently rejected the application of Christian groups in South Australia on the basis that Christian values ‘didn’t align’ with the modern Liberal Party’s move away from the values of its inception. I had recently raised my concerns about the party’s moral decline with a serving state Liberal MP in Victoria. When she told me that all the party wanted to do was ‘get back into power’ and they would do anything to achieve it, I was deeply concerned!

Having nominated for the internal committee position, I was contacted by the administrator for the currently serving federal Liberal MP in my electorate. The administrator specifically asked me what I thought of the federal MP’s service. It did not impress me that the MP engaged in self-seeking rather than seeking the best for their community. A brochure had been recently sent around with the MP parading her numerous successes and virtues, while the world lay in tatters around us. At that point, I thought nothing of freely expressing my miss-givings about her. I subsequently realised that this was a polling activity to gauge my level of support for the current Liberal Party leadership…

New committee members were to be elected by vote during a local branch meeting. After the meeting, based on the accepted analysis of ‘first count indicators’ in the Australian preferential voting system, I was guaranteed a place on the committee. The next day – to my shock – the meeting and the vote were both declared invalid. Apparently, there had been some infraction of the meeting rules based on the Party Constitution. I immediately smelled a rat and contacted the Head Office to validate which article of the Constitution had been breached. I received no response. The meeting and vote were rescheduled. Feeling disillusioned, I was persuaded to nominate again.

At the rescheduled meeting, there was a line of ‘new’ people that I had never seen before down one side of the room. They had all nominated for the position. The results of the vote this time were a resounding victory for the newcomers and I barely received a single vote. Clearly, there had been some coordination behind the scenes to make sure I didn’t get on and that these ‘friends’ of the party were successful.

Rather than allow free debate about ideas that might challenge the status quo, the Liberal Party leadership has shown itself to be committed to silencing discussion by penalising those that try to speak freely. Their aversion to free speech is antithetical to the conservative ethos that the Liberal Party was founded on, which is meant to put free speech at paramount importance.

Politicians are supposed to protect free speech at all costs, not tell people what to say.

They should trust that logic and truth are inherently powerful, therefore by simply protecting free speech in the marketplace of ideas, only the genuine truth will be logically consistent enough to survive.

As more young minds are exposed to the infallible logic of truth and allowed to debate, they will demolish any illogical or bad ideas. There is no risk that if we deregulate speech, the bad ideas will grow. History shows us that bad ideas will be displaced – like darkness is displaced by light.

We find ourselves living through trying times, and we need truthful ideas more than ever. If we are to overcome the major challenges that face us, we need more truth – not less – and the liberty to openly discuss our problems.

The last thing we should be doing is silencing people that question or try to articulate opposing arguments. We should be able to learn from these arguments without being threatened. The ability to speak freely with impunity must be protected at all costs. After all, the truth is not threatened by the lie, but the lie is threatened by the truth!


Single picture costs university $16 million as funding pulled over ‘unacceptable’ decision

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Last week, the university handed out its latest round of honorary doctorates and a photo of it circulated online. But critics couldn’t help but notice one glaring detail in the picture – the six recipients were all white men.

On Monday, this prompted the Snow Medical Research Foundation, which has given $24 million to Melbourne University in recent years, to immediately halt any further funding programs.

That included suspending its Snow Fellowship program, of which $16 million had already been pledged to the university.

“The University of Melbourne awarded their most prestigious award, their honorary doctorate, to six white men,” Snow Medical said in a statement.

“Further, in the last three years, not a single honorary doctorate has been awarded to women or someone of non-white descent. This is unacceptable.”

When Snow Medical challenged the uni about its recent spate of awards, “the response from the University of Melbourne has been unsatisfactory,” it added.

“While it appears the policies on gender equality and diversity are in place, the outcomes do not align with the University’s stated goals.”

The organisation’s founder and chair, Tom Snow, said it was a “difficult decision” but ultimately a necessary one to suspend funding indefinitely.

“This has been a difficult decision for our family, but a decision we have made very proudly,” he said online.

“NOW is the time for action on gender equality and diversity.”

Mr Snow himself attended the University of Melbourne as a student in the 1990s and his foundation has given out $90 million in research funding to date, to a number of universities and various research projects.

The current $16 million in place will still be provided to researchers, the foundation clarified, in a bid to “provide long-term certainty”.

Melbourne University admitted it had a lot of room for improvement but was obviously disappointed by the decision.

“The University of Melbourne is committed to strengthening a vibrant and inclusive community where diversity is recognised, valued and celebrated,” it said in a statement.

“While we acknowledge the areas where we need to improve, Snow Medical has made their decision on the basis of a single honorary doctorate event.

“This event is not a true reflection of who we are as a university and the steps we are taking, and continue to take, to build a diverse university community, reflective of broader society.”

Three women and an Indigenous man were meant to be at the ceremony as well but were unable to make it.

Mr Snow said he was unimpressed and wondered why they didn’t delay the ceremony until everyone could attend.

“Not one person along the way said, ‘It’s not right, we should be deferring the ceremony,’” he said.


‘Master teachers’ on $180k could help boost education standards, say campaigners

Education campaigners want public schools to get a fair go and for “master teachers” – on wages of up to $180,000 to lift standards as Australia’s performance in the global education rankings continues to slide.

That slide has come despite billions of extra dollars going into schools in the last decade.

And despite a push to remove the inequities in the education sector by giving more funding to those who are disadvantaged, unions say it is private students that have benefited the most from federal funding, receiving three times the amount going to public students.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) said the Productivity Commission had found private school students received $10,211 each from the federal government, while public school students got just a fraction of that – $2760.

The bulk of public education funding actually comes from the states and territories – 80 per cent compared to the federal government’s 20 per cent.

So overall, the government said, public schools received the highest level of support, with average per student public funding in 2019-20 reaching $20,181, compared with $13,189 for non-government school students.

The union countered that argument by saying private school fees paid by parents ensured private students were far better off than their poorer cousins in the public sector.

Australian Education Union federal president, Correna Haythorpe said the recommendations of the 2012 Gonski report, which was about finding a way to financially support disadvantaged students, had been ignored by successive Coalition governments.

Figures showed that public schools were only funded, by both levels of government, to the tune of around 90 per cent of what Gonski recommended, according to McKell Institute chief executive Michael Buckland.

The McKell Institute looked across the whole of the sector from early-childhood to primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education, and concluded reform was necessary, if Australia wanted to compete on the world stage with the likes of China.

The slow running down of TAFE and the flawed funding model for universities, which heavily relied on overseas students, were also problems, Mr Buckland said.

“Australia’s fall in education rankings, underfunded public schools and the long running down of investment in TAFE are shortsighted public policy decisions that hurt us all,” he said.

“We also risk damaging universities for good if we don’t come up with another way to fund it.”

The results of a survey by the AEU released this week revealed that 83 per cent of TAFE teachers reported that their institution had closed courses in the past three years, with lack of funding the most commonly cited reason.

It also found 80 per cent of teachers did not believe TAFE students studying today were receiving the same quality of education as they did two years go.

Meanwhile, Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the sector took a $1.8 billion hit during the pandemic, when international students were unable to get into the country. In order to mitigate those financial losses, 17,300 full-time, part-time and casual jobs had been slashed.

“The way we fund universities is not sustainable,” she said.

Ms Jackson said the group would be calling on the federal government to invest more and encourage industry with incentives to back university research programs.

Mr Buckland said free TAFE courses in identified areas of skill shortages was an economic reform that would help Australia build back stronger after Covid, while good quality, childhood education from birth to primary school would also benefit kids and the economy.

He said that the Federal Government also needed to do more to combat the shortage of teachers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects by introducing incentives.

Grattan Institute’s Jordana Hunter said a top priority for new education spending was to restructure the teacher career path to encourage high achievers to pursue the profession.

“We should be paying our expert teachers much more and giving them more responsibility for building the quality of teaching in our schools,” she said.

Ms Hunter said the institute, a public policy think tank, recommended two new roles. ‘instructional specialists’ would be paid around $140,000 – about $40,000 more than the top pay for classroom teachers – to work with teachers in their schools. ‘Master teachers’ would be paid around $180,000 to work with several schools to improve practices.

Meanwhile, early childhood education campaigners said one in five kids from disadvantaged backgrounds were already behind their peers when they started primary school – and they were never able to catch up.


Liberal Democrats lose High Court bid to keep party name

The Liberal Democrats party will have to change its name after losing a High Court bid to overturn new electoral laws.

The case was sparked by the Liberal Party's challenge to the Liberal Democrats over the use of the word "Liberal" in its party name.

The High Court today found the electoral laws, which allow an established party to challenge a newer party over the use of the same words in its name, were valid.

The High Court delivered the result quickly, to enable the situation to be resolved ahead of the next election.

New electoral laws can force name change

The challenge before the High Court today related to changes made last year to the so-called non-confusion provisions in the Electoral Act's Register of Political Parties.

The new rules enable an incumbent party to force (via objection) a name change or de-registration of a registered party when the name shares a word in common with the original party.

In this case, it was the use of the word "Liberal" in "Liberal Democrats".

The Liberal Democrats formed about 20 years ago, and have been registered as a party since 2001 in the ACT. The party has been operating under the current name since 2008.

Presumably pre-empting the High Court's decision, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) confirmed it had received an application from the Liberal Democratic Party requesting its name be changed to the Liberty and Democracy Party on February 14.

Under the Electoral Act, the intention for a party to register or change its name must be advertised publicly by the AEC for one month to allow for any objections.

That means the party's name could be officially updated in less than a week.

The High Court will deliver its reasons for the decision at a later time.




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