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Liberals not liberal

By David Leyonhjelm - posted Tuesday, 12 February 2019


Our governing party is guilty of cultural appropriation.  It calls itself a liberal party but it is not liberal. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘liberal’ as being favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms, open to new ideas and willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one's own.  In a political context it defines it as favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform.

The Liberal Party is none of these.  Under Prime Ministers Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison it has led the charge in turning Australia towards a police state.  The majority positions in the party on recreational cannabis use, assisted suicide and same sex marriage, for example, demonstrate no openness to new ideas or acceptance of behaviour different from one’s own. And the policies of the Liberal government towards foreign investment show no liberal values either.

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Following the September 11 attacks in the United States, the Liberal Party has instituted the widespread tracking and retention of information from financial transactions, driver’s licences, passports, personal biometrics, phone and internet communications, devices and computers.  Where this information is encrypted, the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Morrison has now implemented legislation to force tech companies to assist with decryption. 

The Liberal Party has given police the power in certain areas to stop and search you and to seize your property without a warrant.

The Liberal Party has allowed Australians who are not suspected of an offence to be detained for up to a week, imprisoned for up to five years for telling someone about this detention or for not answering questions, and subjected to ongoing house arrest and the wearing of a tracking device.

If you are suspected of an offence, you can be detained without charge for more than a week, thanks to the Liberal Party.  Your wealth can be seized if authorities consider the wealth to be ‘unexplained’.  At trial, security agencies can withhold relevant evidence from you and present heavily edited summaries to secure a conviction.  Once convicted, the Liberal Party plans to strip you of Australian citizenship even if it just suspects you are entitled to citizenship in another country.  And once your prison sentence is served, the Liberal Party now allows you to be kept in jail indefinitely through continuing detention orders.

Unsatisfied with existing laws that make it a crime to incite specific terrorist acts, the Liberal Party has banned and censored actions, words, books, films and computer games deemed to be advocating, urging, promoting or praising terrorism or violence. 

The Liberal Party has also banned Australians from associating with various groups, including the Kurdistan Workers Party, despite our armed forces fighting on the same side as this group.  And journalists reporting on security agencies face imprisonment if their reporting is deemed to interfere with security operations. 

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This only exacerbates the attack on the free press arising from powers introduced by the Liberal Party to spy on the communications between journalists and their sources.   These powers have also been used by agencies to spy on communications between non-government parliamentarians and constituents.

This response of the Liberal Party to terrorism, outstripping the response in any other Western country, is the antithesis of respecting individual rights and freedoms. 

For the Liberal Party to keep the word ‘liberal’ in its name is an abuse of language.  If a business tried the same thing they would be taken to court for misleading and deceptive conduct.

In any other country, a ‘liberal’ is someone who accepts that different people make different choices, as long as they are not harming anyone else.  And in any other country, a ‘liberal’ defends individual rights against encroaching police powers. 

In any other country, conservatives hate liberals and wouldn’t be seen dead with them. But in Australia, with its compulsory and preferential voting, our governing party wants to keep ‘liberal’ in its name to help extend its appeal beyond conservatives, to those Australians who do not follow politics closely but like the idea of a party purporting to defend our freedoms.

The Liberal Party is hoodwinking the nation. Those greats who have stood for liberal values throughout the history of western civilisation - people like John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Mary Wollstonecraft, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman - would be appalled by the cultural appropriation perpetrated by the Liberal Party.

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This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review.



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About the Author

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW.

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