Friday, 23 June 2017

Freedom for speech, the press, truck drivers and porn

Without a bill of rights to protect us Australians are vulnerable to the tyranny of politicians who make our laws. Though as our country is a healthy democracy with low levels of corruption, we tend to trust that our government will make laws that will not unnecessarily take away our freedom and if they try, we can vote them out.

And tyranny, really? Do we really need this eternal vigilance against an oppressive regime – this isn't bloody North Korea. But in recent times there have been serious assaults on our freedom in this country and while you may have forgotten them, I have not. And I don't mean by Human Rights Commissioners or social justice warriors but by elected politicians.

Back in 2007 the Rudd Labour government tried to censor the internet in the same way the Democratic Republic of North Korea does by blacklisting websites they considered offensive. Costing upwards of $60 million of taxpayer's money, the secret blacklist of banned websites was initially proposed to counter child pornography and benignly described as a 'filter' by then Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who later admitted that it would also target “other unwanted content”.

As the US State Department was mounting a diplomatic assault on internet censorship worldwide, the Obama administration condemned the Australian government's blacklist, along with those of Iran, China, Cuba and good old North Korea.

When Wikileaks rode to the rescue and published the secret list, only half were child pornography the other half being online poker, YouTube links, gay and straight porn, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions and mysteriously - links to a boarding kennel and a dentist.

The Liberal / National Coalition in opposition seemed to warm to the idea so long as it did not affect Internet speeds and commerce. So it was thanks to opposition from the Greens, and Fiona Patten's Australian Sex Party that the plan was finally dumped in 2012. Good thing too as it is generally held that the ultimate aim was to censor all pornography to secure the votes of the Australian Christian Lobby.

In that same year the Labour / Greens coalition government tried to censor the media in a way that both Trump and Putin would have cheered - the first peacetime government to attempt restricting press freedom since censorship was abolished in NSW in 1823.

Then Greens leader and Deputy PM Bob Brown fired the first shot at the free press when he described News Limited newspapers as the "hate media".

PM Julia Gillard convened an inquiry into media regulation and report concluded the Australian media was 'failing the public interest'. It recommended a new government funded regulator, the News Media Council, with the power to make findings against journalists and without a course of appeal. Those who disobeyed the council would face fines or imprisonment. This censor would even have power over online sites that get 15,000 hits a year which these days is just about every half decent blogger in the country (except me).

This brilliant idea became the Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013 that would regulate Australian media mergers and acquisitions as well as journalists and publishers by way of regulating the Australian Press Council.

It failed to get up - not because the opposition rejected it on the grounds of press freedom but because the crossbench found it unworkable. But it was damn close.

In 2012 the same Labour government tried to censor our speech. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon was feeling frisky following her stunning victory over Big Tobacco. Fancy packaging of cigarettes was a thing of the past so naturally freedom of speech should be next to go.

Chillingly claiming that her Discrimination Consolidation Bill would "help everyone understand what behaviour is expected", her proposed legislation sought to make any conduct that 'offends, insults or intimidates' into unlawful discrimination.

The proposed law would have reversed the burden of proof so that the offended one didn't have to provide evidence that someone offended them, the offender must instead prove that they did not. And that would be tough as there was to be no reasonable person test and discrimination was redefined as "unfavourable treatment" of a person. Ways you could discriminate against a person include their “social background”, of which there was no definition.

That's right – anything you do or say to anyone anywhere - if it offends someone they can take you to court and free of charge too (well actually compliments of the Australian taxpayer).

Amazingly but not, this dystopian future hyper nanny state nonsense was initially championed by the notorious Gillian Triggs of the Human Rights Commission who later backed away from it as ridicule poured from all sides.

Roxon resigned. Triggs did not.

And just last year you might remember how big government tried to end the free market in the transport industry by regulating self-employed truck drivers into submission or death, whichever came first.

Set up by Labour leader Bill Shorten in 2012, the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal sought to shut down owner drivers by fixing the rates that their customers paid them to prevent the drivers from from undercutting bigger unionised companies. Failure to pay these 'Safe Rates' would result in prosecution and fines of up to $54,000 for the customer, not the truck driver.

The only way out was to quit working for yourself, sell your truck and become an employee of a big company and join the Transport Workers Union. Brilliant work, and it only took four years and God knows how much of our money to to come up with.

It would be nice to say that the Liberals leapt to the defence of the truckies and free markets, but no – consecutive Prime Ministers Abbot and Turnbull dithered until the eve of an election in 2016 before abolishing the tribunal.

All these attacks on freedom occurred in the last 10 years. All by elected politicians and funded by you and me. Imagine if all of these laws had passed - government agencies would be regulating the internet, the media, and everything you and I do and say. And having crushed the truckies under their boots – looking around for their next target. And no porn. None.

It would be easy to take the view that the Australian Labour Party is the enemy of freedom. It is true that the Liberals are unlikely to propose such laws as these while in government. But they have shown that they will consider selling out our freedom while in opposition or in any position where they can blame their colleagues on the other side of the house.

Freedom and democracy won the day over tyranny in all these cases. So you could say this is proof that our system works – and it does. But tyranny lurks there in the schemes of those who seek power over others, waiting for us to drop our guard for that crucial moment to deliver a knockout blow.

A law once made is hard to unmake - as evidenced by the reluctance and subsequent failure of the Liberal government to abolish 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

My brand of libertarianism is a rejection of law making as the solution to all society's evils. These examples go well beyond that - they are of laws made to do evil on our society.

Remember u r free ()

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Equality is a consensual hallucination (and I do not consent)

A casual reader might mistake me for a dope smoking gay rights activist or a cop hating social justice warrior – but they have not read the fine print. Libertarians may share some common ground with the progressive left on such things as same sex marriage - but for different reasons as I shall explain.


The left these days is all about equality, which I guess goes back to their roots as representatives of the working class striving for equality with the middle class. Or the women struggling to be equal to men, or the blackfellas to white fellows.

My sophisticated libertarian position on equality is that it is, in fact, bullshit.

Equality – really? In what way are you equal to me, or even want to be? Why the hell would I want to be equal to you even if I thought that was possible. I have $10,000 in the bank and you have you have $20,000 does that mean you must give away half your savings to be equal to me, or do I have to sell my car to be equal to you? Or maybe you should give me five grand to make us even.

Should I look like you, or should you look like me, or do we have facial surgery to both look like Che Guevara? Should my wife put on some weight or should yours lose a couple of kilos? I have two kids how many you got? Do we need to trade them away too? Mine are different colours though – so should we spray tan one of yours?

If we should all be educated to the same degree - do I have to go back and finish school or should you whip your kids out in Year 10?

Perhaps you mean the minorities? Equality for the blackfellas, the transsexuals, the migrants? I have met many and none of them have expressed an interest in being me - and I don't blame them.

All Australians are equal in the eyes of the law. All can vote. All can access an range of government services to make our lives easier. Health care an education are free for all. We live in a famously peaceful and secular society. So what the hell is it you really want?

What you want is exceptionalism.

You want aboriginals, gays, muslims and others to be different and to be treated as different so you can insist they are marginalised when they should be equal to the majority.

To achieve equality for the exceptional ones you now demand inclusivity. Having insisted that the peg is square, now you want to hammer it into a round hole.

And to do this you need force. You need discriminatory laws to discourage discrimination. You need commissions, agencies, tribunals and cops. You need a big government with a big bloody hammer constantly bashing away at those pegs.

All the while equality is but a consensual hallucination – we have it when we agree that we have it. But we will never agree, will we? No one ever says righto chaps were all equal lets go out and and have a fucking good time, do they?

No. They will fight for rights that don't exist, exclude the included, minoritise minorities or even majorities (women).

During my time in The People's Republic of China I saw a lot of people forced to be equal – they were uniformly cold, poor and pissed off about it. Now many of them are wealthy due to the fact that the government caved in on equality and let them be individuals. Now they might just take over the world.

I support same-sex marriage on the basis of freedom and fairness rather than inclusivity and equality. I don't want the government to be kind enough to include gay people in the Marriage Act - I would rather the government butt out of marriage entirely as it is none of their god-damn business.

Failing that, gay people should be treated fairly by the law - not to make gay people equal to straight people but because as Australian people we are all young and free.

The Marriage Act does exclude not anyone by way of their sexual orientation - it excludes us all. I am not free to marry another man if I choose to do so and my sister isn't free to marry a woman. Whether we wish to do so, or not, is irrelevant.

Their are no gay rights at stake here – just our natural ability to do what we want without interference from church, government or anyone else who wants to to tell us what to do in our personal lives.

So remember u r free (and equality be damned)

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Cry havok and let slip the dogs of the Potato Marketing Corporation

“...eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government." - Andrew Jackson, 1837.


A guy rang me recently looking for employment as a security guard. When I offered him a spot at the annual Nimbin Mardi Grass he promptly declined and told me he was “disgusted by homosexuality”. I laughed and told him it wasn't the Gay Mardi Gras but Mardi Grass as in cannabis, pot, weed etc. There was a long pause followed by a “No way”. He hung up the phone and never forwarded his resume - I guess having decided I was doing the work of the devil and trying to lead him astray.

You might go to Nimbin Mardi Grass expecting a libertarian paradise of free love, hash cookies and laughter but no – you will instead find a Police Open Day with the many faces of law enforcement on display – riot police, licensing police, mounted police, drug detection dogs, random breath tests, drug tests and many more flavours of cop all intent on making life as miserable as possible for festival goers. And it works – the event has been in steady decline since the police crashed the party about seven years ago . And cannabis is still illegal.

On my return to the normal world I find there is a new sheriff in the tourist resort town of Byron Bay promising to “clean up Byron” which is cop for for “shut down the night-life in Byron Bay”. Short of stature and chewing gum constantly - he was last seen photographing the cheery crowd of young people outside the Great Northern Hotel on a Saturday night while commenting darkly that “this was no good”. God help us.

Meanwhile in light of recent homicidal attacks on innocent people by various flavours of dick-headed loser in Australia and around the world – politicians and pundits are talking censorship again. Frustrated by their inability to to combat the message of evil they turn their attention to the medium - inferring that some of that evil has rubbed off on it.

Perhaps the time has come to censor the Internet, they gravely intone, and al-Jazeera while we are at it.

While the Prime Minister claims to not understand how a terrorist can be given parole when he knows well the answer - the terrorist in question wasn't one, as he had never actually carried out an act of terror. Turnbull knows this – he was once a lawyer.

As the law-mongers talk minimum sentences and Federal control over State parole boards, the State of NSW hands out M4 assault rifles to riot police and gives all police a licence to kill criminals before they are a threat to others. Both will come in handy next year in Nimbin, or at schoolies in November.

And in Western Australia, a man faces the Supreme Court for the heinous crime of growing too many potatoes.

With no bill of rights to constrain them, Australian politicians will make whatever laws they can get away with to be tough on crime - as being tough on crime, or at least appearing to be, is crucial to winning the next election and keeping their jobs.

With every new law, regardless of its merits, the police and other bureaucrats become more powerful and can intrude further into our lives. We constantly hear of Police being given new powers – we never hear of old ones being taken away.

Instead we hear the sound of our rights being chipped away. For the only right we have in this country is to do that which is not prohibited by laws.

So be suspicious of all new laws, I say. Be suspicious as you would of a lawyer who cannot comprehend the law, a riot cop with an M4, or a man in black from the Potato Marketing Corporation.

And the disgusted security guard I mentioned earlier? Be not suspicious of him. He understands liberty and exercises his freedom to choose where he works and who he works for. His right to be disgusted and express such disgust for anyone, anything and anytime.

He remembers he is free – help keep him that way.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

It's Christians vs Lions (and the Marriage Act be damned)

John Stuart Mill's great essay On Liberty is required reading for libertarians and a good place to start for anyone interested in the politics and philosophy of freedom. What may surprise the reader is how little has changed since 1859 with regard to the way individuals may be oppressed by their own society.

Mill's concept of liberty in its simplest form is comprised of: freedom of thought and expression of those thoughts, freedom of action to live according to our own tastes, and freedom to associate with others for any reason other than to do harm.

On Liberty is about the struggle between liberty and authority. Before the Enlightenment swept through Europe in the middle of the 17th century this struggle was between classes, between the rulers and the ruled.

Though freed from the tyranny of church and kings, of feudal despots and warlords armies, liberal democracy was and is still subject to a tyranny from within, that is, from public opinion and condemnation rather than legislative or executive action.

“Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

Yikes. Sound familiar to you? It might to anyone who has experienced a social justice warrior attack over a poorly judged tweet. Or has been banned, boycotted, blocked, trolled or ridiculed online by an enraged mob. Or who modifies their speech or any other form of expression to avoid persecution by such a mob.

But whose mandates are right? Whose can be considered wrong?

Mob rule is enabled by the notion that the opinion and feelings of the mob are the prevailing ones - what Mills calls the “tyranny of the majority”.

“The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority; the people, consequently may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power.”

In a democratic society the majority has the right to rule by electing its leaders - so we are conditioned to accept its authority. Note above, however “those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority” are included here. Outside of a polling booth it is not necessary to actually have the numbers - just that they believe they have them and/or can convince others to accept the prominence of their views as prevalence.

You could say that such people wish to exercise power over others that is illegitimate - a minority seeking to oppress others through the false impression of a majority.

These days this process is aided and abetted by social media. Secure in our own echo chambers we surround ourselves with like-minded people we call friends but who are mostly acquaintances with opinions similar to our own. We cherry pick our news from an infinite number of sources and denounce that which offends us as fake, biased or bigoted.

In this environment we can easily convince ourselves that our opinions are the most prevalent - that our feelings are shared by the majority and that it is the others who seek minority rule.

For example,

Same-sex marriage in Australia has turned into a pie-throwing beer-spilling Sunday school brawl of competing narratives of majority.

Those to my left claim that the vast majority of Australians approve of marriage equality but are thwarted by a small group of deplorable religious conservatives from the Lib/Nat coalition who just happen to be in power at this moment.

Those to my right insist that they speak for the “silent majority” of everyday normal people who have no desire to change marriage in any way and are being bullied by a vocal minority of attention seeking virtue signallers.

So far the nays have it. But do they really have the numbers?

The left had its chance to legislate in favour of gay marriage when Labour Prime Minister and Christian conservative Kevin Rudd left power and was replaced by unmarried childless atheist Julia Gillard. But her minority government was too weak to tackle such a divisive issue unnecessarily and Julia was a fairly conservative individual. Same-sex marriage was not on her agenda - full stop.

Same-sex marriage reared it's divisive head big time when another Christian conservative came to power. It was used as a weapon against Liberal PM Tony Abbot to make him appear to be out of touch with the progressive majority and has been used against current PM Malcolm Turnbull to drive a wedge between factions in the Liberal Party.

The crunch came recently when the Turnbull government agreed to a referendum on the issue to find out once and for all who actually had the numbers. Fair enough we thought let's get on with it - but no. The Greens and Labour refused to play the ball, left the field and went home leaving a disappointed crowd to yell abuse and throw pies at each other.

The narrative of the left was well and truly busted that day, my friends. Obviously the only reason you would not want a vote is if you were fairly certain that you would lose and therefore lose acceptance as the majority.

For without a vote the show can go on ! And it does. The vocal minority has become louder and angrier while the silent majority starts to speak up and fight back. Things are getting ugly now it's Christians vs. lions. Who knows what ugliness tomorrow will bring?

But a referendum is not a perfect solution either as its effect is a tyranny of the majority also. Thus the libertarian proposition is that marriage is not the business of government or society, and should just be a contract between two consenting adults that is recognised as legal by government and no more. Society will come around in its own good time, it always does.

If it is not possible to change the Marriage Act to suit everyone - then abolish the damn thing and start afresh.

And remember u r free