Flat White


6 November 2019

5:00 AM

6 November 2019

5:00 AM

The late British-American historian Robert Conquest is attributed with a truism that only gets truer with the passing of time: any organisation that is not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

We have seen this in the woke-ification of organisations like universities, Amnesty International and the ABC. Now, as the saying goes, even corporations are selling stuff by pretending to care about social justice to consumers who pretend to hate capitalism.

The saying I would like to popularise — Limbrick’s Law — is that if you have to ask who is paying for something, then you are paying. But I digress.

The most disturbing recent manifestation of Conquest’s Law in Australia appears to come from none other than the department that co-ordinates policy for the First Law Officer of Australia, the Attorney General’s Department.

But first, I need to supply a little background.

The former attorney general George Brandis was the man behind the Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme Act 2018. This legislation was reportedly a response to Sam Dastyari’s dalliances with policies favoured by the Chinese Government.

At the time, then Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm told the parliament:

Under the original bill, the foreign minister and the shadow foreign minister would have done nothing but fill in forms — and, of course, they would have had to have paid a fee for the privilege. Frankly, I think the people responsible for the original bill should be purged from the public service and sent to count pencils and paperclips. They are a threat to our way of life.

Thank goodness the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has done its job and got rid of most of that nonsense. Just imagine if it hadn’t. But the question is: did it get them all? Did it find all the landmines—all the infringements on free speech and on the rights of Australians to advocate for their causes, to speak to people in other countries and to push the case for other countries? I doubt very much that it did.

Leyonhjelm has been proven right.

We understand that the very first application of this law by the Attorney General’s Department was against Andrew Cooper, the organiser of the Conservative Political Action Conference Australia and, coincidentally, the national president of the Liberal Democratic Party of Australia.

You might remember that this was the conference held in Sydney this year involving Nigel Farage and a range of other speakers. Kristina Keneally made a fuss about it in the media, helping ensure it became a raging success. In fact, the organisers were so pleased with her efforts that they inaugurated a trophy in her honour recognising the best effort promoting the conference.

CPAC was a place where ideas were freely exchanged. I spoke there on the subject of drug law reform, which is a challenging topic for many conservatives.

It was certainly not an echo chamber, and if people from overseas have ideas, we should encourage them to deliver them without having bureaucrat with delusions of importance interrogate them.

Only a few days after Keneally complained to the media about conservatives and libertarians being allowed to speak in public, the Attorney General’s Department made their move.

The result is that Andrew Cooper has been sent a blizzard of paperwork to fill out within 14 days at the threat of imprisonment.

A number of speakers — those who are not members of parliament — have also been sent paperwork and asked to try and prove they are not members of foreign influence. Now, this is where it gets bizarre.

One of those people who has been compelled to try and prove he is not an agent of foreign influence is former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In addition, a government department is now threatening to jail the national president of a political party. All of this is the kind of government over-reach you might expect from the East German Stasi.

The question now arises – why did the Attorney General’s Department wait for CPAC to apply this law and not, say, the Living Marxism conference held each year in Melbourne? Is it Conquest’s Law in action?

It is not too late for the current Attorney General, Christian Porter, to concede that the legislation is not working. He should hit the pause button on this, and launch an urgent investigation to find out exactly what’s wrong in his department.

David Limbrick is the Liberal Democrats MP for Victoria’s South East Metropolitan region. He Tweets at @_davidlimbrick and is available on Facebook at @davidlimbrickldp.

Illustration: National Library of Australia.

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