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Morality under imperialism

By John Passant - posted Monday, 14 July 2008

A new McCarthyism stalks Australia. Its first element is the gradual strangulation of democratic rights in the name of the war on terror. Under the guise of fighting - and presumably, in some far off future, defeating the Islamists - Christian fundamentalists and their fellow travellers around the world have restricted the rights of us all.

From Guantanamo Bay and water boarding, to rendition, to scare campaigns about security, and then to restrictions on rights of assembly, the destruction of habeas corpus and curtailing the right to free speech, the new McCarthyism has already achieved some of its anti-rights and anti-freedom agenda.

David Hicks, Mamdou Habib and Dr Mohammed Haneef are just some of the more obvious Australian examples of the reality of this conservative constriction of our fundamental freedoms.


Those protesting at World Youth Day against the feudalism of the Catholic Church and its reactionary life denying philosophies and discriminatory practices against women and gays are likely to feel the wrath of the State on them as they are locked up, charged and fined. For what? Telling their version of the truth?

Another element in all of this control is containing unions. The most outrageous example is the possible jailing of a CFMEU organiser for holding a lunchtime meeting with his members. His crime? Refusing to testify before the kangaroo court known as the Australian Building and Construction Commission about something that is normal union activity.

As the old song says, when they jail a man for striking, it's a rich man's country yet.

The second element of this McCarthyism is the new moralism. Brendan Nelson encapsulated this perfectly when he said, words to the effect, that parliamentarians have a higher code of conduct than their electors.

This is another salvo in the creeping christianisation of our politics. For example, we have an openly Christian social conservative as PM, a man for whom vigilantism is appropriate, for whom Henson's art is reprehensible and for whom God is an integral part of his persona and the way he governs.

Let's look at Iguanagate. (I love the adaptability of the English language but regret a night on the town being compared to Richard Nixon's attempts to subvert US democracy.) Anyway, that's what most people know it by so I am forced to use that description.


Belinda Neal may or may not have been drunk and attempted to brow beat some workers at Iguana Joe's. If she did, while bad conduct, it is nothing extraordinary. These types of disputes happen all the time, and people from all walks of life pull rank all the time.

I am not condoning bad behaviour, merely saying it is a common human response. I have to admit I have been known to over indulge, and quite often. Occasionally I have been known to politely disagree with other similarly alcohol impaired patrons who dispute some of my, what at the time seemed, great insights. So what?

And for this normal activity Belinda Neal is to lose pre-selection, and her husband possibly his Ministry? Come on!

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About the Author

John Passant is a Canberra writer ( and member of Socialist Alternative.

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