April 21

Freedom of speech and of the press


One of the most disturbing aspects of the republican campaign was the really crass behaviour of the media. “I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one,” wrote the distinguished media authority Lord Deedes “in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end.”

The Australian people were too sensible to fall for the overwhelming republican media campaign in 1999, but there is no doubt the ‘Yes’ vote was  inflated by their long campaign.  

That campaign was complemented by a speciality concocted by the sleazy end of the British media. This is “caricature journalism” which is especially directed against members of our Royal Family. We see it still in those constant  lazy ional and vindictive  attempts to paint the formidable Prince Philip as “ gaffe –prone”  For six years the man risked his life for his country, which is more than can be said for the caricaturists.

Freedom of speech and of the press is essential to the working of our constitutional system, our Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.  This freedom is always open to abuse whether by the practitioners or by those in authority. We have to be constantly on our guard. 

…soft totalitarianism…

This came into my mind in reading a piece by Dr Hal Colebatch in The Australian (21/4) which he says that Britain appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state. “As a sometime teacher of political science and international law,” he writes, “I do not use the term totalitarian loosely.”  ( Dr Colebatch was one of the speakers at the  ACM 2008 Perth National Conference.)

He recounts how the Countryside Restoration Trust chairman   was arrested at a rally against   anti-hunting laws when he quipped: "If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you."

Months later he was told no charges would be pressed, but that: "If further evidence comes to our attention whereby your involvement is implicated, we will seek to initiate proceedings."

A 14-year-old schoolgirl, who asked a teacher if she could sit with another group  as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu, was arrested, taken to a police station, fingerprinted, photographed and put in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours.

A 10-year-old child was arrested and brought before a judge, for having allegedly called an 11-year-old boy a "Paki" and "bin Laden" during a playground argument at a primary school (the other boy had called him a “skunk” and a “Teletubby”).

…“Heaven and Earth”….

Another example of a combined media government attempt to limit debate is surely in the debate about whether and to what extent man is the cause of climate change.  I am no scientist, but I think that we should hear see and be able to read all sides. ACM has no position on this question and nor should it have. Constitutional monarchists’ views will range from confirmed believers in the need for urgent action to those who believe climate change is caused by factors beyond our control.

The point is that our constitutional system allows us and indeed assures us  that we be both free to speak and that we be informed about all of those debates which must rage and swirl forever in the market place of ideas which is at the very centre of our democracy. We constitutional monarchists believe that our crowned republic is better at providing this than all of the alternatives.

I have just received my copy of Professor Ian Plimer’s “ Heaven and Earth”, Connor Court, 2009 ( Australian Conservative Books) which I have been waiting for since I heard this eminent geologist speak. A solid well footnoted tome, what really caught my eye is his warning about the “demonising of dissent”.  He says there have been calls for the trial and imprisonment of those who dissent, who have been likened to “holocaust deniers”. That is shocking.  I would not even suggest that those who want to turn this country into a politicians’ republic should be treated his way.

If our constitutional system is worth anything, it is for the freedoms for which we so many risked and  gave their lives to defend.




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