Get Thee Behind Me And Tony Abbott And Freedom

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On Monday freedom died. Tony Abbott announced his national security plans or as some called them, “thought bubbles”.

The man, who had previously planned to amend the Racial Discrimination Act to permit people to be bigots now plans to expand racial and religious hate speech laws in the name of the War against Terror II. It was not unexpected; a man flanked by triple the required flags for a press conference will rarely be poised to announce an advance in human liberty.

Spare a thought in these times for the people trying to get behind Tony Abbott. Two groups of people must be quite dizzy: freedom loving Liberal MPs and Muslims.

I am sure many Liberal MP’s believed that freedom was in their DNA. So many of them had that same profound experience at University. They read John Stuart Mill, who suggested people should be able to say whatever they like, and thought, “Yeah I should be able to say what I like. I’m the freedom guy!” The youngsters than began a political career by engaging in unrestrained shouting matches with leftists, gay people, and feminists. This being before twitter, so there was actual shouting.

It must be hard for a Liberal MP to realize he is not the freedom guy. The slide was confirmed by Tony’s newfound commitment to hate speech, although it started much earlier. There was the ASIO anti-whistleblower legislation. Then came the plan to spy on everyone’s online activity, all the time, without a warrant, to investigate any crime, without statutory oversight at a cost to the taxpayer of $400 million (maybe). That’s about as unfree as you get: we spy; you pay.

Let’s not forget Manus Island, where detainees are banned from seeing lawyers or journalists. And when journalists got anywhere near the facility, the Government gets the AFP to investigate! Even if you support the merits of off-shore processing, if banning lawyers and journalists from an island prison does not make you realize you aren’t the freedom guy, freedom isn’t your thing.

Also struggling to get behind the Government is “the Muslims” (as they are known on twitter and in the comments threads of news.com.au). I note the mere idea of a homogenous group known as “the Muslims” is absurd, but for the purposes of space I, like Tony Abbott, won’t bother with distinction.

On Monday Muslims found out they need to condemn terrorism more often and “mean it”. Like most things Tony says about national security, it is unclear what this means. My only advice to the Muslim community is next time you condemn terrorism, pepper your remarks with the word “evil” and ensure you are flanked by as many flags as space allows.

The hate speech announcement would have particularly perplexed “the Muslims”. Back last year the Muslim community had argued hate speech laws were necessary, and as a result were labeled as the enemies of freedom.

Then out of nowhere, Tony Abbott backed down from repealing hate speech laws, because he needs “the Muslims” to join Team Australia and back his security agenda.

At the time the only actual policy announced for the agenda was the bold act of cutting the dole for terrorists. This was hard to get behind, because it was lame. We now know the PM was thinking of invading Iraq, solo. This is harder to get behind because it’s mad.

I can see the appeal though. Maybe Australia can succeed where the US failed? We’ve got a lot of unique qualities: ticker; mateship; and a will to notch up our first big Imperial war victory. Also sending Australian troops to Iraq would be the best way to capture the Aussies gone ISIL, and bring them back to face the music at Centrelink.

After all this Abbott now announces “the Muslims” have had too much free speech that needs to be stopped by hate speech laws. Turns out the problem is not that “the Muslims” hate freedom, is that they have got too attached to it.

Staying behind Tony Abbott is no mean feat. It’s like following a drunk driver; you want to keep a safe distance lest he change direction unexpectedly. The only people who have been able to stay behind him are those stuck in the car, Peta Credlin and Joe Hockey. 

Mathew Kenneally

Mathew Kenneally is a stand up comedian who moonlights as a lawyer. He's a regular new Matilda columnist and is the co-author with Toby Halligan of the satirical blog Diary Leaks. He is also the co-founder of the topical comedy room Political Asylum.

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