On 17th March 2016, the Coalition joined forces with the Greens to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act and abolish Senate Group Voting Tickets. Group Voting Tickets allowed voters to simply put a 1 above-the-line and delegate to their party of choice the distribution of preferences. Whilst minor parties differed widely on policy matters, the one thing they had in common was their dislike of the Greens. Using Group Voting Tickets, minor parties came to arrangements with each other to combine their votes to get ahead of them.
The Coalition-Greens deal ended that.
When these new laws were introduced, I gave the following speech in the senate:
“Nothing good will come of this. The government’s claim that these changes will benefit the voter is false. Voters will be severely disadvantaged because the government is removing from voters – approximately three million of them, their right to delegate to their minor party of choice the distribution of their preferences. These changes will result in The Greens obtaining the balance of power permanently.”
Former Prime Minister John Howard also warned the government that the Coalition’s deal with the Greens could backfire on them. “The principal beneficiary of these changes will be the Australian Greens,” Howard said.
He was right. The Greens won six senate seats at the 2019 election (one from each state) and will almost certainly repeat this result in 2022 giving them a total of 12 senators and the balance of power, enough to join forces with Labor to pass or block legislation.
The Liberals and Nationals can rail all they like against Adam Bandt and the Greens but they have only themselves to blame. They have become the Greens enablers.
The Coalition went to the 2013 election promising to abolish the carbon tax, abolish the mining tax and stop the boats. Upon election, the senate crossbench – I was one of them, voted in support of these three key election pledges. The Greens opposed them. Yet during that term, the Coalition did a deal with those very same Greens to get rid of the crossbenchers who had supported them.
They say one of the most painful of all human emotions is betrayal because it cuts the deepest. In life we put up guards and shields and filter things people say to us. But with those you trust you let your guard down, you let them into your inner most being so when someone you trust betrays you it hurts very deeply. Like the scene in the movie Braveheart when William Wallace removes the helmet of Robert the Bruce and realises he has betrayed him. The look on his face. It’s the same with political leaders. We trust our side of politics to hold the line. We vote for them, they get into power, and then they betray us. Those who voted for the Liberals or Nationals expecting them to clean up the disgracefully biased ABC or the Human Rights Commission or Section 18c (of the Racial Discrimination Act) or put an end to the appointment of activist judges or multi-million dollar grants to Marxist academics have been betrayed. Instead of practicing what they have preached, the Coalition instead teamed up with the Greens to get rid of people like me who really do want to fix those things. The Libs and Nats talk endlessly about freedom and personal responsibility and self-reliance and free speech and the rights of the individual and lower taxes and the rule of law and property rights and free markets and smaller government but when they get into office, no matter how long they’re there, they don’t do anything about these things. They talk about Thatcher and Reagan but act like Cameron and Bush.
What I would like to do today is outline a six point plan to counter both the insidious influence of the Greens, and the disappointment of the major parties.
A New Political Party
Today I announce the launch of the Australian Family Party.
1. Family Resilience
The Australian Family Party believes the family should be the nation’s top priority. The Australian Family Party believes it is time to strengthen the family, to protect the family, to fight for the family. Your family is the one thing you’d take a bullet for.
Family has what is called ‘agency’. It can do things.
Family provides meaning, belonging and security. Strong family relationships reduce depression and anxiety disorders, strengthen the immune system and speed recovery from surgery.
We all know there is no model or perfect family – every family is flawed because it is made up of flawed human beings. But the family is the place to cultivate the right way to view life and the world around us. These are indeed difficult times but we’ve known hardships before. They are the snakes and ladders of life and these too will pass.
Social ills caused by the rupturing of family relationships – divorce, de-facto relationships, fatherless households, single mothers bringing up children, high housing costs, lead to a breakdown in society.
Family breakdown is costly. Mental illness costs the economy $180bn a year. More than 3,000 Australians take their lives each year. More young men take their own lives than are killed in road accidents. Boys raised in father-absent environments are five times more likely to commit suicide, ten times more likely to abuse drugs, fourteen times more likely to commit rape, and twenty times more likely to end up in a correctional facility. Fatherless households are a dreadful problem.
As are divorce, domestic violence, loneliness and addiction to alcohol, gambling, drugs and pornography.
Suicide rates have increased. Rates of depression have sky-rocketed. Drug overdoses, the ICE scourge, something is very wrong.
There is also a strong link between dysfunctional families and crime.
We see this played out in both indigenous and non-indigenous communities.
The Australian Family Party believes it is futile looking to politicians, public sector bureaucrats and regulators to fix these social ills.
But there is hope. The family.
2. Family Economics
Power prices, house prices, water prices. Family budgets and family businesses – family farms, family shops, trade contractors, are all under siege. The unbearable cost of energy, regulation and taxation is sending family businesses to the wall.
Families which are renting or cannot afford solar panels or solar batteries are subsidising those who can. Low and middle income families are paying much more for their electricity than high income users. Water utilities hand over billions of dollars to state governments in the form of hidden taxes called ‘dividends’ – another impost on low and middle income families and pensioners. These ‘dividends’ from low income families, pensioners, renters and small business owners are then dished out in the form of government grants to all and sundry to garner votes.
Whether it’s the Federal Government or individual State Governments, our taxes, charges and utility dividends go into one general revenue account. There is no such thing as ‘this tax pays for that service’. Every dollar a low income person or pensioner or renter pays in taxes, charges or loaded utility costs (water, power) is the same dollar the government dishes out in grants, benefits or subsidies.
Then there’s childcare. Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent each year on childcare subsidies – subsidies which benefit childcare centre owners more than parents while single-income families who provide child care at home at no cost to the taxpayer are severely disadvantaged compared with two-income families who benefit from two tax-free thresholds. Mothers who want to mother their own children are penalised. The way the family is taxed, particularly the single-income family is inequitable. The Australian Family Party strongly advocates income-splitting for single-income households.
It’s the same with aged care. According to the aged care royal commission, the sector should be ripped up and started again. Billions of dollars in government subsidies have lined the pockets of aged care entrepreneurs while, as identified by the commission, nursing home residents suffer systemic neglect.
3. Family Technology
There is an indisputable link between mental health and social media. Social media kills people. Violent computer games affect boys. Cyber bullying has turned deadly for girls. Sexting is rife. Online sexual predators are pervasive. Terrorist radicalisation and recruitment are real.
The internet has become the new wild west with power concentrated in the hands of tech giants – Facebook, Google, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Netflix. These global giants are out of control. They destroy competition and privacy and misuse the information they collect.
No parent wants their children growing up being manipulated by tech engineers who know how to control their attention and make it impossible for them to do their homework, or to make them compare themselves to unrealistic standards of beauty. Social media companies manipulate people. And unlike protections for children when watching Saturday morning TV saying you can’t advertise in these ways, there are no such rules governing children watching online.
So how to respond to this new threat to our way of life? Do we try to control it or do we try to inoculate people against its effects?
Any suggestion these global behemoths can reform themselves or be trusted to ‘act fairly’ is laughable. And they’ve only just begun – they’ve been going less than 20 years. Imagine what they’ll be like in another 20 years. They’ll be craftier, more devious, more predatory, more intrusive, and more exploitative.
Things are changing so profoundly – in social attitudes, world economics, and especially technology that politicians and bureaucrats are hopelessly ill-equipped to manage it.
Politicians, public sector bureaucrats and regulators who think they can control these internet titans are either delusional or dishonest. They are bullies when it comes to ordinary citizens, but powerless – or rather, impotent when it comes to tech giants. Facebook, Google and Amazon are bigger than many of the world’s governments anyway. And once they start issuing their own currency they’ll almost be governments. Listening to politicians and regulators saying things like, “We’re going to introduce codes of conduct” or “We are going to increase fines and other penalties” or “We’re going to set up specialist units within the ACCC to better understand how their algorithms work” or “We are going to appoint an internet ombudsman” or an “eSafety Commissioner” must make the tech companies laugh out loud. And as for academics suggesting, “We need to bring them into public ownership. Nationalise them. They need to be subject to democratic, not market, control”, if you thought the owners of these tech giants were authoritarian, imagine them being owned and run by politicians and bureaucrats! Big Brother would truly have arrived. Last year (2019) Google was granted a patent to monitor home activities like a high-tech nanny reporting things people in the home are doing, saying, watching, reading and eating.
The nation state is hopelessly outdated and outgunned in the digital age. We can no longer rely on politicians, public servant bureaucrats and regulators to protect us. Citizens and businesses must protect themselves.
Tech entrepreneur and former Google insider Tristan Harris says we are in the midst of a ‘great social upheaval’. He calls it ‘the checkmate’ where technology attacks the very foundation of what we trust. He says we are entering a digital Dark Age where disinformation is more valuable than factual information. Tech investor Roger McNamee calls tech tyrants a ‘clear and present danger to democracy’.
There is only one institution which can combat the lawlessness of this digital jungle and its predators. One thing more powerful than the tech titans and cyber-bullies and their algorithms and that is the family.
The family is the best place to build relationships and learn who to trust, who not to trust, who to communicate with, and who not to communicate with. Facebook friends are not real friends, they are not family. Real family is mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
4. Free to Speak
Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of opinion. These freedoms are critical to the very existence of a strong democracy and are recognised in international treaties and conventions to which Australia is a party. Without free speech, no search for truth is possible. People who aren’t free can never reach their true potential.
The Australian people own the Australian language, not politicians. The Australian people have delegated to politicians the responsibility to protect them from harm. They have not delegated to them the right to decide who should or should not be offended. Being offended is part and parcel of the price of freedom. Regulating for what is essentially the hurt feelings of a reader or a hearer is not the same as incitement to harm. It is not a politician’s or regulator’s role to regulate free speech, it is society’s.
When I was in parliament, I tried to amend Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The Coalition blocked it.
Now it goes without saying that no-one should be obnoxious and no-one should be rude or insulting or offensive, but these things should not be outlawed.
Tolerance has become a one-way street. In the name of tolerance and acceptance an anti-freedom culture has developed. Views will not be tolerated if they do not conform. The rights of individuals and voluntary groups are under threat and we know from history how things turn out when free speech is repressed.
5. Free to Believe
Without free speech there can be no search for truth. Without freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, we are not free.
Western democracy was founded in Christianity and in the family. It’s why Marx and Engels, the co-authors of the Communist Manifesto, were determined to undermine both. Marx and Engels knew religion was the enemy, and the family was the enemy. They did not like what families and people of faith people talked about around the dinner table. Sound familiar? They also knew the family and people of faith did not need the state.
There are some things free people will not be dictated to or lectured about. One of them is their religion or their morals, particularly what they teach their children. They will certainly not allow themselves be bullied into submission by being called bigots or homophobes.
The debate over religious freedom seems to be not about equality and tolerance at all but about discrimination against religious people. The left calls for tolerance but what they really want is for everyone to agree with and endorse – even celebrate, their view of the world. If you don’t, you are a bigot.
And it’s not as if they try to convince or persuade people with reasoned arguments. They’re not interested in debate or argument. To quote Mark Steyn, “They don’t want to win the debate, they want to prevent the debate” and they want the legislative power of the state to force everyone to comply. Their aim is to shape society. They know that without the power of the state they have nothing.
If being free means anything it means citizens having the right to ensure that the religious and moral education of their children conforms to their own convictions – as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory. It means having freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe and practice the core commitments, tenets and values of one’s faith – including, for example, the rights of parents not to have their children participate in Safe Schools programs. It is every parent’s right to raise their child in their faith and in accordance with their moral principles, and it is the state’s role to uphold and protect those rights.
The socialist left is out to undermine our freedoms. They’re coming for our churches, our schools, our farms, our mines, our cars and, most of all, for our children. They’re coming for our old people with their euthanasia needles, they’re coming for our about-to-be-born babies with their grotesque point-of-birth abortion laws, their coming for our teenagers with their drug liberalisation laws, and they’re coming to indoctrinate our primary school children. They’re also coming for Christmas Day and Australia Day and Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. These people mean business. They are brutal and dictatorial.
In 2013, David Flint and Jai Martinkovits wrote a book called, ‘Give Us Back Our Country’. In the seven years since they wrote that book, it is fairly clear we are not getting our country back any time soon. If anything, more of our country and our freedoms have been taken from us. In a recent article Flint is no longer calling for our country to be ‘given back’, but rather we’re going to have to take it back.
The culture wars have always been important. The Greek-Roman wars saw Rome conquer Greece militarily, but the Greeks conquer the Romans philosophically. Rome controlled the territory, but the Greeks controlled the culture. Or as modern day management would say, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. In Australia today, the right controls the territory but the left controls the culture.
People and faith-based institutions – schools, hospitals, aged care providers, charities, should not have to rely on exemptions from anti-discrimination laws to function in accordance with their faith. They should, for example, have the freedom to select people as they see fit. Political parties have that right because the political allegiance of a job applicant matters; in environmental groups, views about climate change are relevant; in women’s shelters, gender is important; saying you can only become a member of a chess club if you play chess is not discriminating against people who don’t play chess. In ethnic clubs and institutions, ethnicity is sensible and practical. We accept all these differences. And in religious institutions, religion matters. Forcing religious schools to become indistinguishable from secular schools regarding staffing is senseless. After all, no-one is forced to work for a religious organisation or send their children to a religious school where all the staff follow that particular religion.
Expressions of faith by a person or faith-based organisation must be declared lawful. Section 116 of the Constitution says there can be no law which prohibits the free exercise of any religion. Statutory exemptions are inadequate. Exemptions granted can just as easily be withdrawn. The right to religious freedom must be treated as a pre-eminent right and be recognised and protected. Human Rights Commissions should have no role to play. A Commonwealth law, by reference to its Objects clauses, must recognise religious freedom as pre-eminent, and override all state and territory anti-discrimination laws.
I would commend to you the 10 liberties contained in The Niagara 2020 Declaration.
6. Free to Work
There has been a dignity and sanctity associated with work since ancient times. The Hebrew word for ‘work’ and ‘worship’ is the same – Avodah. Denying a person the right to work is like denying them to right to worship. ‘He who builds a factory, builds a temple’, said Calvin Coolidge, ‘He who works there, worships there’.
When people, young people in particular, are excluded from full participation in community and working life, the social costs are enormous – drug and alcohol abuse, crime, domestic violence, poor health, depression, frustration, boredom, bikie gang recruitment, civil disorder, teenage pregnancy, even suicide. This is what happens when young people can’t get a job. They are locked out of the labour market at exactly the time they are biologically ready to enter into relationships, get married and start a family.
It is not only morally wrong, it is economically foolish.
A single person with no dependents on Newstart (Jobkeeper) Allowance receives approximately $400 a week. The minimum wage is $740 per week. No-one is permitted to work for any amount under $740. We praise people who work for nothing – those who work in OpShops, nursing homes, meals on wheels, animal shelters and many other organisations, but we don’t allow them to work for any amount between zero and $740. Surely if you are allowed to work for nothing you should be allowed to work for something. It is absurd.
There is a solution to this madness, and it lies with focussing on the people who want to work. For example, a person could be unemployed, living at home rent-free, with no (or very low) cost of living and would be willing to work at a starting pay rate of say $20 an hour – which is a lot higher than they are getting from Centrelink, but because penalty rates on weekends or public holidays are around $40 an hour they are not allowed to take the job. So they stay on unemployment benefits, the business stays shut and the customer doesn’t get to buy whatever it is they wanted to buy. What a clever country we are.
Australia has been groaning under this yoke for a century.
For the low skilled or poorly educated or socially disadvantaged or for those who lack connections or self-confidence, the barriers to entry to getting a job are almost insurmountable.
To be clear on this, the Australian Family Party is not talking about ‘amending labour laws’ – in Australia’s case the Fair Work Act. It is saying a person’s ownership of their own labour should be absolutely sacrosanct. No person should be prevented from working under terms and conditions which suit them.
Before anyone mentions ‘WorkChoices’, I was a vehement opponent of WorkChoices. I visited Canberra on a number of occasions lobbying various Ministers imploring them not to proceed along the WorkChoices path. I suggested they leave Peter Reith’s 1996 Workplace Relations Act alone and simply allow people to ‘opt out’ if they wanted to. Those workers who wished to stay in the workplace regulation system could do so, but those who didn’t want to stay could opt out. As history shows, the former Government didn’t take my advice and Australia went from Peter Reith’s 600 page Workplace Relations Act to Kevin Andrews’ 2,000 page disaster WorkChoices.
Now we have its successor, the Fair Work Act 3,000 pages of rules and regulations. Disputes costing the nation millions of dollars can be laid squarely at the feet of the political/bureaucratic/regulatory-designed Fair Work Act. Accord-like forums comprising politicians, bureaucrats, business executives and unions are so patronising. Those who want union leaders like Sally McManus or Business Council of Australia CEOs like Jennifer Westacott or politicians like Christian Porter to speak on their behalf are more than welcome, but there are a lot of people who don’t. And those who don’t, know a lot more about their own personal circumstances and their own lives than some remote politician or union leader or business executive.
It’s been said that any place you can’t leave is a prison. Well, the present workplace regulation system is a prison, trapping people in its thousands of pages of regulations. And when we ask why we lock people up like this, we are told “Oh it’s for their own good – we don’t want them to be exploited.” Clive James famously said Australians like to think of themselves as descendants of convicts when in fact we are overwhelmingly descendants of prison guards! We need to be set free.
The workplace prison system is an infringement on liberty, freedom and dignity. It violates a person’s right to get a job and provide for themselves and their families. It is unjust and unfair – particularly to young people where youth unemployment is over 40% in some areas.
Consider the following: a person over the age of 18 is permitted to:
- get married
- have children
- drive a motor vehicle
- buy a house
- take out a mortgage
- travel to some of the most dangerous places on earth
- smoke cigarettes
- drink alcohol
- serve in the army
- and of course vote
… but is not permitted to work on terms and conditions which suit them and their family.
The unemployed and the under-employed could lift Australia’s productivity by being permitted to work as and when and on terms and conditions, suit them.
Following the recent budget, the Treasurer talked endlessly about ‘labour market dynamics’ – “we’ve got this, we’ve got that” when the truth is they’ve got nothing. They can’t possibly know all the factors and circumstances affecting every individual worker and their family. Put simply, the Treasurer cannot begin to know what is best for you.
Australia has social and economic problems that it wants to solve and social and economic goals it wants to achieve – full employment, affordable housing, low crime rates, however looking to politicians, bureaucrats and regulators to solve these problems and achieve these goals is not going to work. I’ve been a politician and I’ve been a public servant. I’ve seen both up close and believe me you don’t want them running your lives for you. If we learn nothing else from watching Question Time it is these people should not be controlling our lives. Not only do they behave appallingly, they take our money and our freedom and say they will act in our best interest. Instead they act in their own interest and the interest of rent-seeking cartels. Aged care, child care, disability care. As Eric Hoffer once said, ‘Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and eventually degenerates into a racket’. The big rent-seekers in energy, superannuation, pharmaceuticals, higher education, unions, land developers, indigenous groups, public transport and manufacturing, even government itself has degenerated into a racket.
As James Maddison once said, governments are made up of human beings, not angels. It’s why we see such abuses of power.
The major parties and their machine men live in a world that is foreign to common people. Simply put, they do not know enough to make the correct decisions. If they did, as Bert Kelly once said, “they wouldn’t be here they’d be sitting in the South of France with their feet in a bucket of champagne!”
The simple reason is those at the top know less than those at the bottom. ‘The tyranny of experts’, the fatal deceit. The very word bureaucracy itself gives the game away. Bureaucracy is derived from two words – ‘bureau’ from the French word for ‘desk’ and ‘kratos’ from the Greek word for power, hence ‘bureau-krat’, ‘desk-power’.
Over the past decade – before Covid19 hit, when the economy was healthy, government debt increased every year under both Labor and the Coalition. Commonwealth debt is forecast to exceed a trillion dollars – that’s 1,000 billion dollars. It is not going to end well. The old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, hasn’t been around for 100 years for nothing.
To quote the IPA’s Daniel Wild, “Whether it was Wayne Swan’s non-existent budget surpluses, Julia Gillard’s “there will be no carbon tax”, submarines that won’t keep us safe, the costly and inferior NBN, the fraud that is compulsory superannuation, the current Treasurer’s premature claim that we are “back in the black”, the $570 billion in gross commonwealth debt, and so on, our political elites get it wrong so many times”.
A renaissance is needed, one that puts the family at the centre of society.
Free markets and a free and civilised society rely on individual consciences. It is the family that nurtures the conscience. For a free society to prosper, people have to be able to control themselves. Only family can teach self-control. Only in a family can you learn to live with other people whilst maintaining your individuality.
The State has a duty to the family. Society has a duty to the family. And what the State and society owe the family is not food or housing or education or health care, what the family is owed first and foremost is ‘recognition’. We can serve Australia, and the world, best by putting the family first.