Freedom of speech: stand tall, or fall

Over the weekend the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities held forums at Kawana and Northlakes.

Importantly, these forums were not just about ‘raising awareness’, although they certainly did that. But they also provided local residents with an opportunity to join an organisation that is also acting to keep a beautiful part of Queensland safe. This is far more beneficial.

I am proud to support the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities. The text of my address regarding the attack on free speech is below. You can download the associated Powerpoint presentation by clicking here.

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Introduction

Thank you.

It’s always great pleasure to support the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities.

This is an organisation that is achieving great things. In particular, it should be congratulated for recently lodging a petition in the Queensland parliament expressing concern about Sharia law.

This petition was signed by over 10,000 people and was the largest petition before the Queensland parliament when it was lodged last week.

So out of all the groups in Queensland, the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities is the one raising the issues that Queenslanders are most concerned about.

Well done.

The Member for Buderim, Steve Dickson, should also be recognised for his courage sponsoring this petition.

Unfortunately, many of his colleagues on both sides of politics would not have the courage to do so. Instead, they are even dismissive of the concern ordinary Queenslanders have about Sharia law.

So we have a lot of work to do yet before we can feel safe in our own communities.

Now, the work of the Sunshine Coast Safe Communities rests on one fundamental principle: freedom of speech. Without this freedom, we will never be able to express our concerns and therefore we will not be safe.

And let me tell you, today, in Australia and much of the Western world, freedom of speech rests on very shaky ground indeed. It is under direct attack.

 

Freedom of speech

[Slide]

Before I get into the details of this attack, it is important first to understand what freedom of speech is all about.

Freedom of speech is a phrase that is greatly misunderstood.

This misunderstanding stems primarily from a bad idea that freedom of speech itself is an absolute good. It is not.

The idea that people can say whatever they like without consequence is an absolutely bad idea.

However, it is just as bad an idea to claim that the government has the natural authority or the infallibility that would be required to police speech justly.

Further, there is an absolute necessity for free and open debate in a civil society because it is the only means by which the real rights and responsibilities that people have can be met.

And here I am talking about the right to seek the truth and the responsibility to accept the truth.

[Slide]

Laws that unjustly prohibit freedom of speech are laws that necessarily prohibit the freedom to seek the truth.

They do this in two ways:

Firstly, they prevent people from actually speaking the truth and therefore they prevent others from learning the truth.

Secondly, they prevent debate and discussion about error. This is just as important. We all learn through mistakes and truth itself is clarified and becomes more discernible when errors are identified and rebutted.

[Slide]

In the context of community safety, freedom of speech is critical.

Without it, residents cannot express views about an important truth – the things in their community that cause them concern and worry for their safety. Without it, representatives cannot take action to either demonstrate why those worries have no foundation (if they are false), or they cannot take action to address the problems that have been raised (if they are true).

As a result, politically-correct societies that replace freedom of speech and debate with derogatory slurs one side and enforced silence on the other can never be safe. If concerns are valid, they will be ignored and the safety issue will be fostered and fester.

Even worse, if the concerns are not valid, a politically-correct society will still generate frustration, suspicion, distrust and ill-feeling because there is no debate and hence there is way of addressing false concerns with facts, reason and logic.

 

New is not always better

[Slide]

The approach any community will have to free speech and debate is shaped by its culture and its laws.

If a society respects the concept of truth, allows the expression of opinion and encourages debate, its culture and its laws will reflect this. Such a society is one in which you can call a spade a spade. The Australia I grew up in was such a society.

A society that does not respect truth, prevents the expressions of opinions and silences debate will also have laws and cultures that reflect this. Such a society is a politically-correct society. The truth becomes irrelevant and certain political opinions take precedence that become enshrined in law.

Unfortunately, this is the society in which Australians, and much of the Western world, live in today. It is a society where you can no longer even speak of a spade because it offends a protected minority.

I don’t think many Australians would say that this new society is better.

[Slide]

Perhaps the best example of this relationship between law and culture and free speech has been shown recently in Germany.

The German President (the chief lawmaker) met with the Facebook CEO (the owner of the world’s largest social media service) in late September. They were overheard discussing restricting Germans from expressing ‘radical’ or ‘extremist’ views about mass immigration. No one knows exactly what ‘radical’ or ‘extremist’ means, but these definitions always tend towards describing any negative views of uncontrolled mass immigration as objectionable or bigoted. Now a cultural group called the Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers is actually searching Facebook to dob in those who express unwanted views.

[Slide]

Since then, it has been reported that the German Bar Association is now suggesting that Germans may lose their jobs – and their children – for expressing discontent about the influx of millions of people from the Middle East.

Culturally, politically and legally Germany is no longer a free society. Instead, it is a politically-correct and increasingly totalitarian society that will bring in 1.5 million people this year from a region which has spawned the most totalitarian religion the world has ever known.

This will not lead to safety.

 

From good culture and laws to bad culture and laws

[Slide]

Unfortunately, Australia is headed in the same direction.

Australia used to have a good culture that allowed debate and it had correspondingly good laws that protected truth and public order. This was a society that was safe.

Some laws protected sensitive truths, such as laws regarding national security and privileged relationships. Other laws protected truth and prohibited false and defamatory statements. Further laws protected public order by prohibiting threatening speech and conduct.

[Slide]

These laws still exist but now we have new laws as well that enforce our new politically-correct culture. These laws override the old laws. And where these laws do not yet have legal power, politically-correct self-censorship steps in to fill the void.

These new laws are called anti-discrimination laws. And they represent a society that is increasingly unsafe and that also makes it unsafe to say so.

Anti-discrimination laws are manifestly bad laws for many reasons as I will go into shortly, but in the main they are bad because:

  1. Anti-discrimination laws limit speech without having any regard to truth, or protecting truth, or imposing just restrictions on speech that is untrue. Anti-discrimination laws have nothing to do with truth and everything to do with the emotions and sensibilities of privileged classes.
  1. As a result, anti-discrimination laws also limit debate and discussion about errors and, consequently, these laws actually protect error at the expense of truth.

 

The effects of the attack on freedom of speech

[Slide]

The results of laws and culture that protect error at the expense of truth because of some emotional sensibility of a privileged class should be easily foreseeable. The four main results or effects are:

  1. Existing law is undermined because equality before the law disappears.
  1. The privileged classes will end up silencing the unprivileged classes because unequal laws are passed that only protect certain groups.
  1. Political freedom is denied and laws are used to silence political opinions that are labelled bigoted.
  1. Society will be divided. The majority will be lectured into respecting the minority – even when the minority is linked to terrorism and violence.

 

Political correctness – a barrier to safety

I hope you can see the problems with a politically correct society: the way it attacks truth, prevents debate, destroys democracy and creates privileged classes by undermining equality before the law.

I now want to focus on how this is also a barrier to the creation of safe communities.

And if you are to take anything away from my speech today, I hope it is an understanding of this.

I am going to speak of three examples:

  1. The reporting of the Reclaim Australia rallies and the actual reality of what occurred.
  1. My own experience as an intelligence officer in the Australian Defence Force.
  1. The attack on local government councillors.

 

Reclaim Australia

[Slide]

Freedom of speech requires good culture and laws. It also requires an ethical media that does not run an agenda but reports what actually happens.

You only have to scratch the surface of the Reclaim Australia Rallies to understand that our media is not ethical. Instead, it is imposing a politically correct view that protects the violent.

There have now been two Reclaim Australia Rallies held in the capital cities and numerous other regional cities across Australia. Whatever one might think about these rallies, two things were obvious:

  1. They represent a large, spontaneous and grass-roots movement of ordinary Australians, the likes of which is rarely seen in this country.
  1. The rallies expressed concerns of Australians about the threat to their community safety and cohesion from Islam, while the narrative from our politically-correct society in the media, the government and cultural institutions is that Islam is no threat at all.

Clearly, there is a disconnect between the story pushed by the institutions of society and the views that ordinary members of society hold regarding Islam.

However, the media did not report on that, which is the real story of Reclaim Australia.

[Slide]

Instead the media reported on the violence. This may well have been warranted, but the reporting was done so in a way that made it seem like Reclaim Australia was violent, that the rallies promoted violence and that those who attended did so to cause violence.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I attended both rallies as a speaker. I spoke at the Gold Coast. There was no violence there. There was no counter protest there. There were snags for sale and bookstands and parents with prams and a vibrant community atmosphere. But this was not reported, even on the Gold Coast.

Instead, the newspapers and news channels reported on the events in Sydney and Melbourne and the violence that occurred in those places. And all the reports left the impression that the violence was instigated by those attending the Reclaim Australia rallies.

But the truth is that the violence was not caused by those attending Reclaim Australia rallies. It was caused by those who turned up to prevent the free expression of views.

The counter-protestors turned up armed for a fight.

[Slide]

Here is a photo. It was up on the Triple J webpage and was posted by a Triple J reporter who went ‘behind the scenes’ in Melbourne. It shows the ‘medic station’ at the counter-Reclaim rally. Now I ask you, if one group turns up to a rally with cartloads of milk to treat capsicum spray, can it really be argued that they were intending to protest peacefully?

milk rally

No, the truth is that they were looking for violence, they were prepared to start it and they caused it.

This is part of one report from a man who attended the rally in Melbourne:

I followed another gentleman, in his sixties, who had an Australian flag protruding from his pocket. We both turned the corner, into little Bourke Street, where there were barriers, and quite a mob of the so called ‘anti racists’.

Milk was flowing down the gutters, and further up was a stockpile of milk crates, with several people marked as ‘medics’ treating activists the police had just sprayed with capsicum spray.

The gentleman with the flag in his pocket was suddenly accosted by some of the mob. He was hopelessly outnumbered and was being pushed around. The mob were trying to steal his flag, and eventually were successful, after assaulting him by punching and kicking him. Once they had the flag, they proceeded to tear it, throwing it on the ground and stomping on it.

As he was trying to escape, the mob were surrounding him screaming obscenities and pushing and shoving him.

It is important to note that while the Reclaim Australia Rally was primarily expressing concern about Islamic ideology, the counter-protestors were not Muslim. They were radical left-wing anarchists who hate Australia’s culture and heritage and who see Islam as an ally in their goal of imposing a totalitarian state. In order to do this, they are intent on silencing debate – even with the use of force.

The media reporting of these rallies has done great damage to the concept of a safe community.

Those who engaged in violence have been protected, while ordinary Australians who wished to express their concerns and worries about an ideology that is violent have been vilified. And there remains today just as much ignorance in Australia about the teachings of Islam as ever, while the media, the radical activists and the increasingly left-leaning political class are all cooperating to implement a cone of silence about Islam, whether it be enshrined in law, or just imposed by fear to shape cultural attitudes so that self-censorship becomes the norm.

No community can hope to remain free and safe in such circumstances.

 

Australian Defence Force

[Slide]

I now want to move on to my time in the Australian Defence Force.

I served from 1997 until 2014. I served as an intelligence officer and I served overseas in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan.

In 2013, in my private capacity, I made a statement that Islam was linked to the violent actions of the enemy we fight. I also said that we should not allow people with the same views as the Taliban to settle in Australia.

As a result, I was charged by the Army with service offences and of bringing the military into disrepute. An investigation was launched into my ‘racist’ conduct. And even though I beat the charges and was cleared by the investigation, I still lost my commission as an officer.

I was sacked for saying that we should respect Australia’s heritage and culture over that held by our battlefield enemies.

Now, ten years ago this situation would have been laughable and incomprehensible. But now our military is imposing a culture where intelligence officers are not allowed to express negative views of Islam. I know from my experience that this culture is shared across all Defence, intelligence and security agencies.

Given that we have had three terrorist attacks in Australia over the past year, dozens of arrests for planned attacks and a steady stream of Australian recruits heading off to fight for the Islamic State, it is simply impossible for a community to take realistic action to protect itself when Islam is protected from debate. The religion of our enemies is treated with more respect that our own Christian heritage.

 

Local government

[Slide]

However, while all that sounds bad enough, I hold even greater concerns about the efforts taken at the local government level to destroy freedom of speech.

After all, local government is the command centre for a safe community. Local governments are the bodies that approve or reject applications for all sorts of things, some of which lead to inherently unsafe communities, whether that be through the objectification of women, the establishment of precincts with high rates of illegal drug use, or the permission to build ‘places of worship’ for ideologies that promote violence.

Unfortunately, local governments in Australia are being infiltrated heavily by people who hold the same worldview as those who instigated violence at the Reclaim Australia rallies against ordinary Australians.

And in the process, those councillors who are brave enough to speak up in a politically-correct society about the threat to safety in their communities are being targeted and hit with sanctions. This is heading in a clear direction: eventually we are going to see councillors in this country sacked for expressing politically-incorrect view about Islam and other issues.

In the last year, councillors in Penrith, Bendigo, La Trobe and Casey in Victoria have all come under fire for raising concerns about Islam. The weapon of choice against councillors who speak up about the concerns of the residents they represent is called the code of conduct.

It is symptomatic of a bureaucratic, politically-correct society that a councillor can be hauled before a conduct hearing for expressing concerns about female genital mutilation, while that hearing itself hears no evidence about the actual issued raised, and instead focuses on whether the statements made by the councillor offended minority groups.

It will simply be impossible to build and maintain safe communities if community representatives are not allowed to even express concern about community safety issues – that is the direction Australia is headed in.

I could speak for much longer about these issues. The examples of political correctness jeopardising freedom and safety abound.

However, time is short.

But it would be remiss of me to finish without offering some hope and some solutions.

 

What can we do

[Slide]

Well, already you have done a great deal today just by attending this forum. It sends a message.

But I encourage all of you not to voluntarily submit to political correctness. If you have concerns, speak up. If you disagree, let your representatives know. And don’t let labels silence you.

As an elector, it is not just your right to vote, but it is your duty to make your opinions known.

Political correctness thrives in silence and fear. It is imposed by bullies and the only way to deal with bullies is to confront them. I tell you this as well. I have had my battles and they are ongoing. But there is a great deal of support from ordinary Australians for those who do stand up. Don’t be afraid to do so and don’t ever think that you are alone.

I know, from personal experience, that there are many, many people who think the things that you will have the courage to say. Surprise yourselves, inspire your community, hold your ground and stand up and speak.

 

Author: Bernard Gaynor

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