By most measures and standards, Australia is a beacon of freedom – a state where any citizen can espouse and prosecute whatever idea they see fit. Some will agree with you, many will not. Unlike most states, so long as you don’t threaten the Prime Minister, you can pretty much say whatever you like to their face and the worst that can happen is you’ll end up as a meme. The fact we have this power is a strength, not a curse, and one of our nation’s important bulwarks against the threat of tyranny.
Earlier this month, I was endorsed as an independent candidate for the Hunter District in the upcoming Federal Election on May 22. Before the election had been officially called and the writs issued, my Facebook page was censored in Australia. This followed a ‘legal request’ notice from the Australian Electoral Commission. It was no doubt off the back of a compliant by someone or some party who stood to lose from my posts claiming my candidate page was not ‘authorised’.
Despite the fact I hadn’t broken any regulation or law, as the election was not called yet, I was silenced and censored by Facebook on the internet’s largest public square. A few ruffled feathers, emails, and calls later – my campaign rectified the issue and the page was uncensored. Someone with a lesser public profile would not have been as lucky, and probably turned off the idea of running again.
I am not a luddite. Social media and the internet have done wonders for the free flow of information and spread of ideas in the 21st century. The real issue is the line between government and internet is becoming blurrier by the day. It is not hard to imagine an Orwellian surveillance state complete with internet censorship forming in Australia anymore. This is exactly what was going on while our politicians had Covid emergency powers. It’s clear now they were protecting themselves more than they were protecting us.
Most citizens can accept and understand a certain level surveillance. Censorship is necessary at a national level. For instance, it is unwise to give state secrets to hostile nations, and I’m okay with our front-line police force investigating legitimate threats to public safety. Staging a protest or saying something mean on Facebook is not one of them. The police bureaucracy will always come up with threats and crises in asking for more money and powers of government. Most of the time, our government rolls over and does it, not wanting to look ‘soft on crime’ or as though they are jeopardising ‘public safety’.
The internet and social media tend to skew left of centre, whatever that means today. It is also dangerously preferencing authoritarianism. That’s bad news for a candidate like me, because I harbour some ‘dangerous’ and ‘controversial’ views.
I think Net Zero policy should be abandoned in full because it will neither save the environment nor create more jobs than the coal industry. I didn’t think the world was coming to an end with Covid. I think senior bureaucrats and party politicians are a protected species – stuck in an echo chamber with too much power. And equally, I believe a different set of rules, customs, and policymaking needs to be applied to regional areas as opposed to capital cities.
Most importantly, I think whatever your ideas, views, or thoughts on a topic or political representative, you deserve the right to the free expression of said ideas – even if I don’t agree with you.
We are slowly becoming subject to the rule of nobody.
Rather than being able to pull up your local MP or Minister in the street or their office, and give them a serving, they are carefully and methodically moving away from face-to-face interaction and going online. This keeps politicians increasingly ignorant and protected from the needs and pains of ordinary Australians.
The only thing stopping them is Parliament, or more to the point, libertarian-minded politicians. There are very few of these left in the major political parties. Freedom is not popular in politics now. Freedom comes with it responsibility for your own thoughts, actions, and ideas. Parliament was originally designed to be civil war without the guns. Not an echo chamber, but a boiling point of sharp debate. Close your eyes and listen to the words of any major party politician following Howard and Keating. I don’t think most Australians would be able to say whether it’s Labor or Coalition.
Both parties are equally committed to increased state surveillance, online censorship, and the suppression of independent and minor party competition. In a weird way, I have more in common with the Greens on these issues than the others.
Unlike our cousins in America or the United Kingdom, Aussies don’t take ourselves too seriously. And nor should we let our politicians take themselves too seriously. Our irreverence is our strength. We cannot let ourselves become like other Western nations with an increasing amount of state surveillance, Big Brother platforms, or spinless representatives who buy, threaten, and silence citizens into submission.
You can choose to be uninterested in politics, but you cannot choose to be unaffected – so you may as well be interested and engaged. Major party politicians will keep you in the dark, tell you what’s good for you, and paint themselves as more competent than they are. They are not. As a former penal colony, I can understand the historical grounding of censorship initiatives in Australia policies. Remember though, today it may be my views censored, tomorrow it’ll be yours.
Our laws should protect the vulnerable, marginalised, and minority – not the rich and powerful. Major party politicians are slowly becoming the aristocrats on the hill, protected from scrutiny, looking down upon us plebs, with nothing in common other than our nationality. Instead of politicians and institutions telling us we need to build back trust in them, how about they become more trustworthy? Until then, get out of people’s lives, have open debate and stop the stage-managed circus.
Authorised by Independent candidate Stuart Bonds, Mirannie
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.