About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Big Brothers Rudd and Conroy are watching

Every day I get a little bit angrier with our current government, here in Australia. I'm not suggesting that the alternative is any better - quite the contrary - but the continuing creeping totalitarianism of the current bunch frightens me and pisses me off. No, I do not want a record kept of my email conversations or of the websites I've looked at. I've committed no crimes, and I don't want my privacy invaded as if I were a suspect being investigated or an accused criminal awaiting trial.

With no better alternative coming from the other side of politics - surprise! surprise! - something drastic must be done. Perhaps we need nothing less than an entire new mainstream political party. Sorry, but the Greens don't cut it - besides, I don't entirely trust them on issues relating to our personal freedoms. The newly-formed Sex Party has policies as good as any I've seen, but its relatively narrow focus takes it out of the mainstream. Still, it'll get my first vote at the next election, later this year. After that, into the future, who knows?

But wake up Australia. Somehow the people, energy, time, and money must be found to defend our liberties. The situation is pretty hopeless when even voting out the incumbents won't make things better - and will probably make them worse. I mean, for the Flying Spaghetti Monster's sake, do we really want Tony Abbott as our prime minister? No, we don't ... or at least I don't. But we can't go on handcuffed to the present crowd forever, just because it's the lesser of two evils.

If it's the lesser of two evils, we need to find an alternative that's actually not evil. But where?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Secular Party of Australia is what you're looking for: http://www.secular.org.au/

Russell Blackford said...

Maybe worth a first or at least high preference, but again too narrow to be a mainstream alternative. Could turn out to be the nucleus of something, though.

Brian said...

Russell, can you move back to Melbourne, to the outer north-east, run for the Senate? You'll have my vote. Plato's republic was a fascist state, but if the philospher-kings were like you or A.C. Grayling then I'd vote them in. :)

Ben said...

Care to elaborate on your thoughts re the greens?

Alex said...

Just thought I'd pop in and say that those liberties you claim you have? Yeah, you don't really have them. This isn't the US with liberties and rights written down. This is Australia where all of those things we take for granted is through implied rights through the high courts. Australia is the only western democracy with no bill of rights. Maybe a new party that updates this country to fit the 21st century would be in order?

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Blackford said...

Re the Greens, I just have to say two words: "Clive Hamilton". Hamilton is a consistent apologist for censorship.

March Hare said...

I wish more people would get upset about this in Australia and the UK (and the US, but they're just discovering terrorism and are willing to give up anything to be safe!)

People should realise that the government are people. Would you really want your neighbour looking over your shoulder while you surf? How about your spouse going through all of those emails you thought you had deleted?

The government represents those people so they effectively are reading your email and watching you surf.

Kirth Gersen said...

@ Alexander Johannesen -- March Hare has the sense of it. In allowing the Patriot Act to pass after 9/11, we in the U.S. gave up the last pretense of not being a totalitarian Orwellian super-state. "The land of the free" now has the highest per capta incarceration rate on Earth -- ahead of China even.

Ben said...

Re: Clive Hamilton, you're condemning the entire party over a single member who holds a view that isn't even consistent with the parties views Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to defend the greens, but since I generally appreciate your opinions I was just hoping for some thoughts on the greens that were a little more ... thought provoking I guess.

Russell Blackford said...

I didn't use the word "condemn". I epxressed a degree of distrust, and I expressed it rather mildly.

But when one of a party's star candidates takes a certain view, you have to worry that that view will be reflected down the track in party policy, or that it will at least lead to the watering down of any contrary policy. That happens all the time in all sorts of organisations - if there's a loud, respected voice in the room that favours X ... well the whole organisation might not come out favouring X. But it may well be more muted in developing a policy of not-X. Don't you agree? Haven't you seen this happen? I have many times.

As I've said on other threads, there are lots of things that I think based on my life experience, and I'm not going to try to pull rank and claim my life experience is superior to someone else's. Reasonable people with different life experiences and knowledge bases will reach different conclusions on many things. All I can say is that I'm not simply being irrational or hypersuspicious. I think I have reason not to trust a party on this kind of issue if it has Hamilton as one of its stars.

That and that you might think about this for yourself. If what I say above doesn't resonate with your own experience, well fine. We can agree to disagree.

But from my viewpoint, what we need to see at this stage are some very strong and unequivocal statements from Hamilton condemning these developments and repudiating his past views on censorship.

Shatterface said...

As a Brit I understand just what you are going through. After an eternity of Tory governments there was an all too brief feeling of elation - before New Labour revealed themselves to be even worse.

Censorship, detention without trial, complicity in torture, ID cards, a DNA database straight out of The X-Files and a PM with a direct line to god. We had some improvement on gay rights but on most other fronts civil liberties were pushed back decades, if not centuries.

Did Magna Carta mean nothing to them? Did she die in vain?

I'm still realing from the fact it took a new Tory government - albeit in coalition with Liberal Democrats - to repeal laws that imprisoned the *children* of asylum seekers.

Barcs said...

Russell - I could not agree more. The lack of a good alternative is depressing. I would feel better about Labor (a little better, at least) if Gillard took over the party leadership - thought that's doubtful.

Sean Wright said...

Yes its funny that we have the mining debacle, the ets debacle and oh so quietly the government are attempting to slip these changes by censorship, then this logging of your online travels.

Mike said...

Along with the internet filter and browsing records, don't forget the already implemented requirement about declarations re pornography at our borders.

@Alexander: I've listened to some of the debates about an Australian Bill of Rights, and I'm not convinced that it's a magic bullet. Australia does not have the same political structure as the UK (e.g. constitution) or USA (separate executive) to name two.

A bill of rights will never have the same power as an engaged citizenry.

Tony Smith said...

Russell, as much as I'd love to add a token vote to the Secular Party, the current public funding regime 4% cut off means my first preference has to be Green as they have to be a better long term investment than the majors. But seeing we are blessed with preferential that doesn't lock me into anything beyond potentially being counted early towards their senate quota--hardly disastrous. (I too suspect you are giving too much weight to Clive Hamilton within the bigger picture.)

Right now I'm seeing the problem as much it terms of an entrenched public service amplified by Rudd's blind faith in bureaucracy as a career bureaucrat himself and only two real changes of government between 1975 and Rudd's election. While most were also internal like Hawke-Keating, between 1966 and 1975 we had five changes of prime minister and seemingly consequent generational change in public service leadership.

So right now I'm strongly in favour of a narrow Labor loss if we can't quite get the Greens the balance of power in both houses, in the expectation that will even up the senate considerably and the maybe irrational hope that an Abbott government could also be a one term affair.

Like most everybody else, I like Julia, but I'm also very nervous about her background as an ambulance chaser (Slater and Gordon). But if Labor really is going so badly that they dump Rudd in her favour before the election it will be surely too late to turn the ship around and she will be sipping from the same poisoned chalice as all but one female state labor leader before her.

What to do about Conroy is an even tougher issue. While I'm already signed up for put Conroy last, that is on the strength of one big negative that we all agree about outweighing his very positive roles in trying to separate Telstra's wholesale and retail operations, 15 years after others who could have were too weak, and in pushing the National Broadband Network. However it is also impossible to imagine that near enough Victorians will be convinced to vote below the line, so the faceless twenty-something careerist political operatives will retain the control to which they have become accustomed without a milligram of perspective between the lot of them. (I'm also about the last person to be ageist in other circumstances.)

Necandum said...

Its sort of like a natural progression. As a society grows, the 'masses', the 'headcount' increase exponentially. They become insulated in their own little bubble and don't take much interest in larger matters.

About the only answer I can think of is to go an found a new state. So I guess we're waiting for the space age to really kick off...