Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Liberal principles break out when not in power

I am not, I confess, a left winger. In Australia, this means you are conservative, but I am not a conservative either. The "conservative" parties are led by the Liberal Party of Australia, which was formed after the war by a liberal individualist name of Bob Menzies. Once upon a time, the Liberal Party was, well, liberal.

Now when Menzies retired, the Liberal Party had a crisis of confidence, as old Bob, Ming the Merciless we called him, had ruled with an iron fist for some time - he was the only PM of my childhood. They faffed about for a while until a crucial event in Australian political history occurred. A socialist PM, name of Whitlam, got ousted by what he thought was a compliant Governor General (who stands as viceroy here, because Her Majesty is otherwise occupied most of the time with corgis). In came Malcolm Fraser.

Fraser was absolutely hated by the left. He was all that was bad with the right-wing. He was autocratic (a member of the Squatocracy that formed in the late 19thC), unpopular amongst the young, and just generally the Devil Incarnate.

Fraser lost to a populist socialist (named of Hawke), and retired, to become, suprise surprise, a real liberal. He began to champion democracy in Africa, charitable development NGOs, and freedom of speech and liberty and equality for all. His party of course treated him with embarrassment, as they followed Thatcher and Reagan into our present enlightened state of neo-conservatism (which is neither new, nor conservative).

But I have become more and more impressed by Fraser's principles. He really does have it in him, and I only wish that the art of the possible had allowed him to express it more when he was in a position to do something about it (although he did leave a number of surprisingly liberal legacies that got in under the radar).

Just today, he has attacked the extreme powers open to the Australian intelligence agency, ASIO, in the present anti-terrorism frenzy. And he's right; spot on the money; got it in one. They don't need that freedom to attack terrorism - there are laws sufficient to deal with them when (if?) they come. There is no reason why an unsupervised agency (except by the executive arm of government) should have the right to ignore habeus corpus, rules of evidence, and the presumption of innocence. The Patriot Act in America is bad enough, but what justifies this in Australia, the land of common law and individual freedom?

Oh, I forgot. It means that the present neoconservative government can continue to have control over what is done and said, like they have with the detention of refugees, the deportation of citizens, and the restriction of funding to any academic activity they personally (yes, you, Dr Nelson) don't either like or understand.

It is extremely frustrating to be a liberal democrat in this climate of fear and reactionary politics.

Late note: There are some other complaints and fears being expressed I'm pleased to see. But I bet the reactionary media (i.e., the commercial media) don't see it as a problem...