Today I was pointed towards Advance Australia, a new lobby group that has been called the ‘conservative GetUp’. So I decided to take a look at their website and some of the notable figures behind the fledgling group, and from the look of it there’s a lot of rhetoric but no real aim. Granted, they have only just started up, but even so the lack of agenda outside of simply opposing anything that so much as suggests ‘leftist’ doesn’t bode well for a group that wants to be taken seriously. Let’s dissect it (I may have gone overboard, but at least I’m being comprehensive!)
There’s a strange irony in their saying “Australians have never liked being forced into conformity and we don’t take kindly to mindless authority.” Many of the things people label ‘PC culture’ are in fact things that break away from the current conformity of society, and promote the individual rather than following ‘traditional’ norms. Their argument is that political correctness has ‘gone too far’, a common one touted by certain LNP members (although ‘too far’ is usually expressed as ‘mad’). They give examples of this, but I don’t know of anyone who actually takes those points seriously; any who do would be in the minority. The use of the word ‘guys’ in a workplace is offensive? Where did they find that? My understanding is that the word guys was a fairly gender neutral term, and was used frequently to address a collective in social and work situations I’ve been involved in. To dismantle an idea, one has to come up with credible examples.
In the next paragraph they say this: “where people are increasingly divided and pitted against each other along racial, sexual and gender lines.” I agree with that. We seem to be following America in the sense that our debates are somehow becoming polarised – you are either on one side or the other, and if you believe in one thing you must believe in the rest. Are those issues important? For sure; racism and sexism of all kinds still exists globally – and yes, here in Australia – and should be dealt with appropriately. But so much focus is given to these relatively trivial matters that it drives people’s political ideals and voting habits. If you base your vote on a single issue, such as gay marriage or abortion, then you’re an idiot – and that goes for anyone, whether supporting or opposing. Politics is a spectrum, and this polarisation that we are copying from America needs to stop. Again, one can’t miss the irony of them decrying polarisation in this way while contributing aggressively on the opposing side.
So while I do agree that we appear to be divided on certain topics, my gripe with them is that they immediately accuse “elites and left wing activists” of being the culprit. Never mind the fact that the actual elites like Rupert Murdoch may have financial ties to Advance Australia – more on that later. As I said, calling out a divide by entrenching the divide.
Next claim: “in their world mainstream culture and traditional families are frowned upon”. I don’t notice any widespread frowning epidemic. The ‘traditional’ family of husband and wife with children is still very much the majority, but it is acknowledged that families of different make ups also exist. As for culture, we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism. I see no disdain for the ‘dominant’ culture, but merely a request to recognise that there is more than one worldview.
Their last comment on PC culture is that these crafty left-wing activists have infiltrated schools and universities to brainwash the children. As someone who went through 13 years of public schooling and has just finished their third year of university, I can say that that is blatantly incorrect and comes across as an attack on our academic institutions. The idea that universities are hubs for ‘cultural Marxism’ (a term that doesn’t actually mean anything, someone please explain to me what it means) and gender studies is absurd. But the worst part is, while people riot against these wild and untrue ideas, the parties they vote for use it as justification to cut funding to public schools and to privatise and deregulate universities. As someone who believes education is a fundamental right and should be accessible freely by anyone who wishes to learn, I find that an incredibly scary prospect.
Sure, there are cases of ‘political correctness’ where you just look at it and go ‘you can’t be serious’. But the majority of the ‘political correctness’ arguments are just shallow outrages over issues that are not at all important to our country’s politics. And considering I don’t know any ‘politically correct’ person who actually uses that term, one can’t help but think it’s just another slogan to spark controversy.
A Fair Go
Another phrase they repeatedly use is a fair go. And, as you’d expect, they blame ‘radical leftists’ for destroying this sacred value by supporting what they call “equality of outcome”. They provide even more unsubstantiated claims, such as getting rid of grades in schools and abolishing scoring systems in sporting events. Not only have I never heard either of those ideas being suggested – at all, let alone seriously – but to the contrary, achievement is celebrated and friendly competition is highly encouraged.
They then say that equality of outcome will lead to a lack of incentive to work. What this fails to take into account is that work – the act of doing something for enjoyment and passion for a greater purpose – is something that is a fundamental part of human nature. Sure, money might incentivise some people, but more often than not working solely for the purpose of making money kills the joy of working. Anecdotal as it may be, I write not because I’m making money from it, but because I enjoy it and believe there is something to be gained from it, both for myself and readers. If I make money in the future from writing, that would be incredible – but it will never be a metric to gauge my interests. They somehow also manage to blame this on socialism and communism as well, which I won’t even bother going into now.
I digress though, for while I argue that point, backed by research done by others on that very question, no one is proposing equality of outcome anyway. I do not hate people like Jeff Bezos or other billionaires because of class envy – live your life of lavish excess to your heart’s content. No, I hate them because their excess is built on the back of greed and extortion. Their excess comes at the price of others who suffer under unfair working conditions and a wage that is in no way liveable. If someone can create a global brand and earn millions or even billions in profits, good on them. If that same someone extorts tax loopholes to avoid paying taxes, ferrets their money in offshore bank accounts, and screws over their employees (who are also just looking for a fair go) by refusing to pay them a decent wage – that is when it becomes an issue. When workers in third world countries are paid pennies to make products in unsafe factories, and threatened if they try to unionise, for companies making millions of dollars off of those products – that is when it becomes an issue.
Even accounting for the debate on a UBI (universal basic income), no one is fighting to tear down other’s success. But it is entirely fair to expect that those lucky enough to achieve such success will fairly treat their workers with dignity and allow them to have their ‘fair go’ at life too.
On merit, I tend to agree with them. They, again, focus heavily on the issues of race and gender, talking about quotas and the like, but that is just not important (except in certain professions). The reason quotas are introduced is because some – not all, but some – companies will still hire men over women, or whites over blacks. It was to combat discrimination and provide diversity to the workplace. While that is obviously well intentioned, unless the job requires or would be aided by having a certain identity, those aspects are not important. If a person is qualified for a position, based on the merit of their education and/or experience, then their race or sex should be irrelevant. Until that becomes the norm, however, quotas appear to be a temporary fix to shift society in that direction. (A profession where quotas or specific identities would be welcome is politics – in a representative democracy, one would expect the representation to be carried out by different demographics. The role of Indigenous Envoy being given to Tony Abbott, for example, is one such farcical scenario; imagine if the Minister for Women was a male too).
It feels repetitive when I say yet another phrase often used by people with reprehensible views is free speech. In bold, italics, and its own line, they are at pains to tell you that your freedom is under threat. And AGAIN it’s those pesky ‘left-wing activists’ with the bureaucrats and elites behind them who are to blame. A few things need to be taken into consideration here though, because freedom of speech or freedom of religion is not what is under threat; it’s a little more nuanced than that blanket statement makes it out to be.
Freedom of speech and thought is another fundamental right that should not be touched in any way. To show just how seriously I mean this, I’ll use these quotes by Noam Chomsky.
“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”
“If we do not believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we do not believe in it at all.”
To stifle free speech is to stifle debate and democracy, which Advance Australia proclaim proudly. But the awkward thing is, they aren’t being forcefully prevented from speaking. No one has denied them their right to express themselves – that is clearly evident from their endless appearances on television or newspaper platforms, where they complain about not being given a platform, and the fact they now have their own lobby group so they can complain about it there too. The other side to this, involving protests and opposition to their views, is also not stopping them from holding their views. But if your view is that climate change does not exist and coal is a sacred artifact, then you will just be ignored because you’re opposing science and fact. You can rabble on about any number of theories, but people aren’t required to listen, and lies will be debated viciously. If your view is that homosexuals are sinful, and need to be cured for their ‘condition’, again, you can say that if you wish. Prepare to accept the consequences of what you say, because that is simply offensive, and people have their freedom of speech rights to protest your bigotry.
If any ‘left-wing activist’, or just anyone in general, is violent, or actively tries to prevent you from speaking on any platform at all, then yes, that is wrong and authoritarian. But that is not the same as facing the consequences of your words. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that people required police protection if they were to defend Palestinians and talk about Israel’s occupation at universities, or when black people were murdered because they tried fighting for their rights as human beings. It isn’t just the ‘left’ that can be violent.
Freedom of religion is also an important right. No one should be discriminated on the basis of their religious convictions, so long as those beliefs are not forced onto others in a way that discriminates against them and their own freedoms. Abortion; gay marriage; the Royal Commission into sex abuse finding rampant and institutional abuse of children in the Catholic Church; none of those are attacks on religious freedoms like it’s been claimed. Abortion is a women’s issue and your religion has no say. Gay marriage is an LGBT+ issue and your religion has no say. The RC findings is a human/child’s rights and criminal issue and does not call for the abolition of the church in its recommendations. If someone attacks your religion and tries to dismantle your right to practice it in private or in a public place of worship, then that is a legitimate attack on your freedom of religion and should by all means be opposed. That is very different to the accusations these people seem to hang on to.
Safe and Secure Nation
Here they mention a few topics in varying detail: our role in international conflicts; our borders and immigration; our nation’s history; and the push to decriminalise and legalise currently illicit substances. I won’t comment on the first point, as they have nothing on their site to gauge their views on it yet (other than praising the strategic alliances we have had with the UK, the US, and Israel, all rather involved in countless war crimes I bet they’ll ignore – I’ll let that speak for itself). Only a brief comment on the latter point.
Their claim regarding borders is that “radical leftists” are calling for them to be opened. Obviously false, because of course there are reasons of security and legality to take into account. They say that we need to determine for ourselves who we allow into the country, but the problem with that is that we already do. People can’t just come to Australia and start doing whatever they want – they come in legally, go through customs, and either become residents or citizens, or go back to their countries. One can only expect this group will have issues with the asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru – those economic refugees looking to take all your jobs and welfare simultaneously. But even there they have no real basis for an argument. Under international law, seeking asylum is entirely legal, and over 90% of the refugees have been vetted and confirmed as genuine. We have an obligation, under international law, and because we have contributed to the wars some of these people are fleeing, to bring them to our shores. Even if they were not ‘genuine’, our treatment of them and the conditions in which they’ve been forced to endure for years should be reason enough to bring them here as reparation. To argue otherwise is to defy international law, as our government (on both sides) has done for over a decade now, and a continuation of human rights’ abuses.
The accusation that history is being ‘rewritten’ to downplay the “western Judeo-Christian heritage” is also farcical. If anything, the rewriting of history to reveal the truth of our initial invasion and occupation does the exact opposite – we learn more about our imperial past. Far from being told to feel ashamed of it, it is being taught and mentioned so that we acknowledge the wrongs we have previously committed, and to learn more about our Indigenous peoples and their culture and way of life as well (see Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe for a good insight into Indigenous history pre-colonial times). We should know this history, not to feel bad for being white, but so we as a nation can move forward on the same page and with great Indigenous representation. Australia’s history did not begin in 1770; that seems to be the part that was rewritten for quite some time.
As for the legalisation of drugs, that is by no means anything that’ll happen soon. The Greens and the Liberal Democrats (that grub Leyonhjelm) are the only ones I’m aware of who wish to legalise marijuana, and the Greens want to decriminalise drugs so they can be treated as a medical issues rather than a criminal one. The evidence is out there: criminalising addicts is counterproductive, and funding services that allow people to safely handle and recover from these substances – such as pill testing at music festivals – are known to save lives.
So above I have gone through a number of talking points on Advance Australia’s website, analysing them and calling out any contradictions, ironies, and falsehoods I could find. I also added some points of my own not explicitly taken from their website, but are still related to the types of issues that I predict may arise on their agenda or were referenced. Not much more can really be said; this is only their barebones website and they haven’t even started any official campaigns yet, other than requesting funds and a couple of signatures. More to come, for sure, but right now it’s a wait and see what happens. Will it gain momentum, like GetUp, or will it simply fall flat? With members of the Advisory Council being connected to libertarian and ‘right-wing’ think tanks with financial backers like Rupert Murdoch, one is inclined to believe that if they don’t get enough people on board, they’ll still have funding in some way. Rather hypocritical if that comes to pass; they’ll no longer be able to use George Soros as the imagined scary elite funding GetUp (which is just false anyway) if they do end up with the scary elite Murdoch funding them.
As a member of GetUp myself, and seeing its successes in rallying like-minded people together based on researched and well implemented campaigns, it will be fascinating to see how a conservative version will fare. Personally, I see no need for a conservative GetUp that will probably back Coalition policies. Reason being, they already have plenty to choose from, take your pick: gambling; mining; banking; fossil fuel; corporate; development; etc. All of these industries donate exorbitant amounts to both the government and to their own campaigns for policy that they want. A conservative lobbyist group is hardly a new concept, it’s just been shrouded in the corrupt behind-the-scenes of Canberra for decades.
That being said, the marketing of Advance Australia may prove effective on a voter level. Only time will tell, and I’ll be sure to watch their actions.