THE Australian Labor Party hasn’t been the party for blue-collar battlers for a very, very long time. Instead, this is the party for group interests pushing such things as state-sanctioned abortion on demand, assisted suicide, the LGBTIQPAX+ agenda, radical environmentalism, etc.
However, in many ways the Liberal Party is not so different. According to the IPA’s Legal Rights Audit, the Morrison government is directly responsible for a substantial increase in the violation of fundamental legal rights.1
Morgan Begg, the report’s main author and research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, writes2:
“The Coalition government is trashing fundamental legal rights of all Australians, creating unprecedented challenge to individual freedom and human dignity.
I have had personal experience of the problem. As Senior Vice-President of the Fremantle Division of the Liberal Party WA, I was deeply happy to see an important motion which was proposed by our distinguished member, Sherry Sufi, being approved by the WA Liberal Party. It moved:
“That the Liberal Party of Australia (WA Division) calls on the Federal Government to introduce offering right of passage to persecuted European minorities of South Africa and Zimbabwe enabling them to re-settle in Australia”.
As a consequence, Peter Dutton instructed the Home Affairs Department to consider bringing that severely persecuted white minority from South Africa to Australia on refugee visa grounds. Dutton called for them to be given special consideration, correctly reminding us that the group deserved our “special attention” due to the “horrific circumstances” they face at home.
To my utter disappointment no special visa was granted. As reported, the then Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop refused to back Dutton and abide to the motion passed by the WA Liberal Party. While Bishop acknowledged this was a worthy response to an obvious humanitarian crisis with more than 19,000 murders, she said persecuted South Africans were not immediately eligible for humanitarian visas.3 Needless to say, the Prime Minister remained entirely silent on the subject and refused to directly assist.
When Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, many expected a new kind of leadership in line with Christian values and principles — particularly after he explained to Australians the grief he felt and the tears he shed over the plight of genuine refugees. But when a Christian lady called Asia Bibi was needing to escape from imminent death in November 2018, there was an opportunity for him to demonstrate his integrity and the truthfulness of his own admissions.
Asia Bibi was a Christian farm labourer from Pakistan whose story began in June 2009 when she was picking berries with other farmworkers in a field in Punjab. She got into an argument with two Muslim women who refused to drink water she fetched because it had been touched by a Christian. Pakistan’s blasphemy law carries the death sentence. Despite the harsh penalty, a remarkably light burden of proof needs to be produced and the accusers can refuse to repeat the allegation in court for fear of blaspheming themselves. As a result, Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 on charges of blaspheming the “prophet” Muhammed.
Fortunately, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned her conviction on grounds that there was no evidence to support condemnation. She was then acquitted after spending almost eight years on death row and in solitary confinement. Because there were riots on the streets and radical Islamists vowed to assassinate her, Asia Bibi was forced to hide herself and apply for a refugee status in order to save her life.
On that occasion I publicly urged on Sky News the Prime Minister to show compassion and to offer political asylum to Asia Bibi, an innocent Christian woman who narrowly avoided the death penalty.4 The case was a litmus test on whether Morrison really cared about the basic rights of an innocent person and fellow believer. All he actually needed to do was to grant her asylum.
To my utter dismay, in an abhorrently administrative letter the Australian government refused to offer such desperately needed assistance, citing her apparent failure to be granted U.N. Refugee Status and the pressures on the offshore component of its resettlement program.
Instead of offering asylum to a Christian woman in desperate need of assistance, the Morrison government eventually conceded that it would consider to offer asylum to Asia Bibi only if Canada or another country did not do so. The question is: Why should Australia have to wait for a response from Canada first? It’s hard to see any justification for waiting on Canada. Martyn Iles, Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said:5
“Either it’s the right thing to do or it isn’t. And with extremists hunting her from house to house, it is important for us to act now.”
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Unfortunately our “Christian” Prime Minister did not agree with him. What is significant is that the Morrison Government gave over $47 million in aid to Pakistan that year. We should ask for our taxpayers’ money back. President Trump was so angered by the behaviour of Pakistan’s government over a range of issues that he had cut foreign aid to Pakistan, claiming the U.S. gets no co-operation in return. Remember how Osama bin Laden was found within five miles of a military academy while the whole civilised world was hunting for this arch-terrorist? And the Pakistani doctor who revealed his location to the US was sent to prison in Pakistan.
Naturally, the election of a Shorten-led Labor government in May 2019 would be disastrous for the nation. The federal Labor Party apparently felt that talking about abortion-on-demand via “access to health services” would be electorally beneficial. In March 2019, Labor’s spokesperson for women Tanya Plibersek announced a wide-ranging plan, that included a move to use hospital funding agreements to “expect” states to provide abortion services in their public hospital systems. As part of its strategy, Labor would review Medicare rebates around medical terminations (using the drug RU486) and help more GPs provide medical abortions.6
The Prime Minister claims to be a Christian so I presume he personally opposes abortion. And yet, he could not bring himself to say so. Sadly, when responding to Labor’s abortion announcement, Morrison limited to state7:
“This is a very controversial and sensitive issue and on these matters I have never sought to divide Australians on this. … I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion, because frankly I don’t think it is good for our country.”
As can be seen, Morrison opposed Labor’s abortion proposal on grounds that the issue apparently is too divisive. In his attempt to take the highest moral ground he ended up conveying the message that avoiding controversy is a higher good than stopping the killing of unborn children.
Another aspect of the Prime Minister’s behaviour is his notorious disregard for individual rights. Of course, a Christian worldview understands that the Creator has endowed us with fundamental rights and freedoms. For us Christians such basic rights do not originate with human government but with God Himself, who ordains governments to secure their protection by the law. Accordingly, government was instituted by God to protect our unalienable rights from our own arbitrary tendencies and political tyranny.8
While Christian teaching emphasises that each person has worth and responsibility before God, our Prime Minister appears to believe that ultimate salvation can be achieved only via an all-powerful state. His first instincts are always authoritarian. For instance, he wants the vaccine against coronavirus to be as mandatory as possible.9
“I expect that it would be mandatory as you can possibly make it,” adding that he is “talking about a pandemic which has destroyed the global economy”.10
First of all, what has destroyed our economy is the appalling behaviour of illiberal leaders such as Morrison himself. There were far better and more efficient ways to fight this virus apart from draconian restrictions, bans and gross violations of the rule of law. The Prime Minister appears to ignore that Australia is a country in which the federal government has been constitutionally designed to be subject to the rule of law.11 The Morrison government has no more powers than those explicitly granted by the Australian Constitution.12
We are supposedly living in a free and democratic society. It is quite extraordinary that a supposed democratic leader attempts to coerce citizens to do things they might not want to do. Instead of using the power of State to command his “subjects” to do whatever he might want, the Prime Minister should learn that true leaders do not use their legal authority to primarily impose things but instead to persuade and convince their fellow citizens to do what is right.
Take also the Prime Minister’s notorious disregard for freedom of speech. When Israel Folau faced serious Rugby Union’s banishment for merely posting a “controversial” statement from the Bible on his Facebook page, Morrison’s first reaction was to condemn the rugby player. He said of Folau’s Instagram comments:
“I thought they were terribly insensitive and obviously that is a matter for the ARU and they’ve taken that decision.”13
Here you have a “Christian” Prime Minister literally throwing a fellow believer under the metaphorical bus — joining the lynch mob against a brother in Christ who dares to exercise free speech by manifesting his opinion.
This was not the first time he had done such a thing.
In April 2019, Victorian Liberals forced two Christian candidates to resign over so-called “homophobic” and “Islamophobic” comments. Peter Killin, Liberal candidate for Wills, was forced to resign after calling a certain Liberal MP a “notorious homosexual”14. Jeremy Hearn, Liberal candidate for Isaacs, was also forced to resign over comments about the threat of radical Islam that were made online.
Instead of defending the right of Liberal candidates to express these opinions, speaking to journalists Morrison went on his way to warn the party to avoid candidates expressing these conservative views by “improving” its internal vetting procedures.
“For the Liberal Party in this day and age when there is social media, multiple posting, that represents new challenges in the vetting of candidates.”
Here you have a “Christian” politician who appears to have little regard for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. As a Christian myself, I would seriously question the Christian maturity of anyone who supports the above actions. As for the Folau affair, for example, Morrison decided to not stand for the basic rights of a fellow believer. And what does it tell us about his commitment to basic human rights if he cannot even take a strong stance for a fellow believer needing rescue from imminent death?
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Dr Augusto Zimmermann PhD, LLM, LLB, DipEd, CertIntArb is co-editor of the book Fundamental Rights in the Age of Covid-19. He is Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth/WA, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus. He is President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA), and former Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, from 2012-2017. Dr Zimmermann was chair and professor of Constitutional Law at Murdoch University from 2007 to 2017.
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- Morgan Begg and Kristen Pereira, ‘Legal Rights Audit 2019’, Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne/Vic, February 2020, p 1.
- Nicola Berkovic, ‘Coalition Worse than ALP on Human Rights’, The Australian, 6 February 2020.
- Olivia Caisley, ‘South Africa violence: Julie Bishop refuses to back Peter Dutton‘, The Australian, 18 March 2018.
- ‘Coalition urged to give persecuted Pakistani woman asylum in Australia‘, Sky News, 18 November 2018.
- Martyn Iles, ‘Australia to offer Asia Bibi asylum‘, ACL.org.au, 24 November 2018
- Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1–7
- Richard Furgason, ‘Future Vaccine Should Be Mandatory, Says PM’, The Australian, 19 August 2020.
- Jade Gailberger, ‘Coronavirus Vaccine Should Be Mandatory: PM’, PerthNow, 19 August 2020.
- W A Wynes, Legislative, Executive and Judicial Powers in Australia (Sydney: The Law Book Co, 1955), vii.
- For instance, whereas Section 51 (xxiiiA) of the Australian Constitution allows for the granting of various services by the federal government, this should not be to the extent of authorising any form of civil conscription. This means that no government in this country, or those acting on its behalf, is constitutionally authorised to make the Australian people take any medicament against their best will, or force children to be vaccinated in order to maintain benefit payments.