Well, that was another depressingly terrible week for free speech in this country as political correctness and identity politics stayed on their winning rolls. There were two big items in the news. First off, there was the government’s capitulation on trying to do something about 18C. Basically, as soon as the Senate refused to pass what were in all honesty pretty emasculated proposals for change (weak that is by the standards of any of us who care about free speech, so that rules out upwards of half of the Coalition party room), Team Turnbull capitulated. They gave up. Matthias Corman said that the Coalition ‘gave it our best shot’.
Compare that to when Tony Abbott took on the carbon tax. Just about every commentator and otherwise said he had no hope of repealing this. The ABC went after him full out. The opinionistas were adamant it wasn’t worth the effort. But it was a point of principle. So Abbott sold the public on why repeal was necessary – for which he has never been forgiven in Ultimo Land. Tony even went to an election on it. He displayed a bit of principle and value-based commitment. And he won. Of course, you can only win if you look like you really care, and if you go out and argue for what you want to do.
With free speech the Libs are nothing like that, indeed they’re completely hopeless. A sizeable chunk of the party room simply does not want any changes to 18C at all. This is the Julian Leeser wing of Team Turnbull. If you care about free speech and one of these Libs is your member, then don’t vote for him or her. It’s as simple as that. Only that will counteract the identity politics genuflecting before minority groups. If minority groups won’t vote for you if you do change 18C (a doubtful claim) we sure as heck won’t vote for you if you don’t (and that needs to be made plain).
Anyway, as everyone knew the Senate would block this the real test of Team Turnbull’s commitment to free speech, and to the memory of Bill Leak, and to being a party of action rather than of virtue-signalling cheap talk, was what happened next. Did the Coalition put it to the Senate and make Labor, the Greens and the feral independents vote it down so they could treat it as a possible future trigger for a worthwhile double dissolution election? Nope. Rather they banked a bit of tinkering with the Human Rights Commission as though that was sufficient for the time being. In effect, every other bit of their already insipid proposal they gave up on. Because, apparently, they’d given it their best shot!
Alas, with this bunch of uninspiring Coalition MPs, that may well be an accurate statement. And before Niki Savva writes her next vitriolic anti-Abbott rant, let me concede that Abbott gave up on 18C reform. But it’s now clear that a main cause of that pusillanimity was Herr Turnbull arguing full out against changes to 18C in Cabinet. So how hard did you ever think a party led by Malcolm would push for big free speech changes to 18C? To ask is to answer. At least ‘they gave it their best shot’. I certainly don’t see this as a government going all in for free speech. Do you?
And that takes me to Mark Latham’s firing from Sky TV. This was a disgrace in my view. Of course it is true that a private company is perfectly free to set whatever standards it wishes and if it doesn’t like the words one of its presenters utters – or the tone and sarcasm he employs – then that company can fire him. But let’s at least be clear here that what happened is that Sky just caved in to the usual crowd who don’t like blunt and forthright talking. You’ll notice that the complainers aren’t pointing to things Latham supposedly got factually wrong, but to the (for them) mean and overly blunt way he said them.
Are all those corporate and government ‘diversity big wigs’ indeed all white women of remarkably similar appearance? Yep. Is it pathetic that the Reserve Bank Governor takes hiring advice, affirmative action hiring advice, from his 15 year-old daughter? Yep. Has Kristina Keneally come back and argued that Mark was wrong when he claimed that she is a Yank? Or that Eddie Obeid helped get her the numbers to become Premier? Because if he’s not wrong then it might be a better idea for someone who is a supposedly robust TV personality to ‘suck it up Princess’ rather than running off to complain to management. Ditto for Wendy Harmer who threatened legal action against Latham.
At any rate Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos decided to fire Latham. Why? Was it the threatened legal action? Was it one or more of the big corporate advertisers who quietly put some pressure on Sky because they didn’t like their moronic corporate ‘diversity’ programs – paid for with shareholder money – being ridiculed on camera? Was it that Frangopoulos didn’t want Latham’s bitingly entertaining style on his network, because Sky didn’t seem to have a problem watching Latham’s Outsiders show become its second most highly rated? Maybe the network didn’t like Latham’s bagging of Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law and the US Studies Centre where he works? Or maybe it was for using ‘gay’ instead of ‘LGBTI’, though I thought it was totally okay these days to be gay.
Look, I’m no TV executive but whatever the ultimate reason for Latham’s firing it seems a pretty poor network strategy to me to drink the Mark Textor cool aid and aim to position your network a millimetre to the right of the ABC. I doubt many of us tune in to Sky to watch PVO or Keneally or indeed the various other soft-lefties, cuz I sure don’t. And I know the petition to get Latham back on Sky already has more than 11,000 signatures. It won’t work. But it will show the network that blunt, forthright mockery of the PC identity politics crowd has a big potential audience.
So all in all this was a second big loss for free speech. Add that to a feral Senate, the democratic world’s highest energy costs, almost highest minimum wage, almost highest corporate taxes, most complex tax system, public policy disasters with the NBN and RET, oh and a ballooning debt and it’s not all that easy to be an optimist these days.