And once again we are veering across to the right wing of politics, with the Australian Liberty Alliance, who have kindly put this statement up front and centre so we can see what they stand for.
Our Australia stands for individual liberty, small government, Western values, social fairness and an integrated multi-ethnic society. Our Australia has no place for big government, racism, moral relativism, divisive multiculturalism or tolerance for the intolerant. Migrants do not dream of a new life in Australia because we are a Socialist, Islamic or tribal society. Migrants come for the freedom, justice and prosperity only Western civilisation creates.
You know, that’s actually a pretty decent mission statement. I don’t agree with very much of it, but they have done a first class job of stating right there on their front page what they stand for, and everything else you will read is going to follow from that. And at first glance, they don’t appear to be attempting to halt all immigration and kick out everyone who wasn’t born here, so already they are doing better than the Australia First Party in my book. They evidently don’t like Muslims, but on the other hand, they do not seem to be white supremacists, so… yay? (I will note, though, that their candidates are all white. And if you are in New South Wales, you can even vote for Angry Anderson!)
They are also disappointingly non-hilarious in their headlines. I’m trying to decide whether I prefer my scary right wing parties to be well-spoken or clearly unhinged. I think the latter – the former are far more likely to achieve their goals…
Let’s see how this translates to policy…
There are so many policies that it’s hard to know where to start here! The ALA is clearly trying to position itself as a major party, not a single-issue one. What’s interesting is that they do seem to be centrist in the sense that some of their policies are similar to those of Labor and others to those of the Coalition. They are big on the Judaeo-Christian heritage, which I wish people would retire as a phrase because it’s actually not very meaningful except in the sense of conveying mistrust of Islam – Christianity and Judaism actually have fairly different heritages. And yes, they really are worried about Islam. When making their case for a new political movement, they note that:
…while volunteering our time to inform about the impact of Islam on Australia, we conceded that major parties are not prepared to discuss the divisiveness of multiculturalism and the de-construction of Western civilisation.
I sort of love the ‘while volunteering our time’ bit. It sounds so socially minded and kindly and calm, and not at all like protesting loudly about mosques being built in Bendigo. They want an ‘integrated multi-ethnic society’ and one of their core policies is to ‘Stop the Islamisation of Australia’.
Islam does not accept the separation of religion from state, but seeks dominance over all aspects of human life and society. Whereas we see religion as part of life, Islam sees life as part of the religion. This is not ‘Islamism’ or a minority view by extremists, this is basic Islamic doctrine. While only a small number of Muslims actively pursue this agenda, Islam’s divine law makes it the duty of all Muslims to contribute to this effort according to their abilities. No other religious ideology in our time has both the doctrinal aspiration as well as the economic and demographic muscle to impose itself globally.
This is not what my Muslim friends and colleagues say. But I imagine that the ALA would reply that they are just lying to me to lull me into a false sense of security and advance their Islamist agenda… This is an impossible argument, because it then becomes two people arguing about what a third person is secretly thinking.
(Incidentally, that last line about no other religious ideology having the aspiration and muscle to impose itself is an interesting one to me, because I read a lot of theology blogs and a lot of political blogs, and there is a significant Christian Dominionist movement in the US, at least, with a number of republicans, including Ted Cruz, being linked to the movement. So I’m not actually convinced that Islam is the only, or even the biggest, threat on this count.)
On a purely factual level, I really don’t understand this paranoia about the Islamisation of Australia. I can sort of see why people get worried about terrorists, because you only need a few unhinged folk with a religious grudge to achieve that, but Islamisation implies that the Muslims are coming here in droves and taking over, when in fact the Muslim population in Australia in 2011 was only a few hundred thousand – 2.2% of the population, according to the ABS.
I think I might deal with the ALA’s policies around Islam and multiculturalism first, linking in also with foreign policy, because while I have no doubt that they feel strongly about all of their policies, this seems to have been the impetus for founding the party. I will note once again that they still have a number of policies that remain to be written, because they are a new party and we are still early in the election campaign, so if you want to know more, check back at their page closer to the election.
So, they have a paper with Practical Steps to Stop Islamisation, which I have to say is wildly insulting to Islam as a religion, and which characterises Muslims as demanding separate facilities, separate food, separate schools, etc. They are also worried about Muslim airlines “funded by petro-dollars and overseen by sharia boards, which are aggressively driving non-Islamic competition out of the market.” This is certainly a complaint I haven’t seen before! They also seem angry about Etihad stadium. They claim that the spiritual elements of Islam are just fine with them – but since they have already said that all Muslims are trying to take over the state, this seems inconsistent.
They want a double-tiered taxation scheme for religious organisations, with Muslim organisations needing to sign a “Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding” in order to be eligible for tax breaks. They want all signage or materials displayed in a public space to be written in English, with foreign language text being at least one third smaller in size, and they want to charge for interpreters for people who have been here long enough to know English. I have a big issue with this last one, because interpreters are often used in healthcare provision, where the terminology is a lot more technical – one could be pretty fluent in English and still not understand medical terminology, so this law would potentially risk access to healthcare. (Also, I know that in dementia, people often lose the languages that they learned later in life, even if they learned those languages well – how would we serve them?)
They want Halal certification to be user paid and clearly marked, and seem to have forgotten that we certify a lot food as Halal primarily so that we can sell it to our Asian neighbours. They want to ban the niqab in public. They also want to prosecute people who have forced children into underage marriages or who have promoted FGM. These things are already illegal and prosecuted, but never mind. Oh lord, and they want to make all sorts of laws about things that ARE NOT HAPPENING, like people trying to establish a theocratic government in Australia.
(Actually, I take it back – our current government has very close links to the Catholic church, and certainly seems to be influenced by church groups generally, even accepting invitations to speak at some very dubious religious-based conferences. Maybe we should be getting worried after all…)
They are worried about sharia finance and sharia courts in Australia.
They are big on freedom of speech as an absolute right, and want to repeal legislation like the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and the Racial Discrimination Act. They Are against hate speech laws ‘which in practice are religious blasphemy laws and the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. Such oppressive instruments only play into the hands of Islamists and professional ‘victimhood’ advocacy groups.’
I am speechless. Which is ironic.
They do have one decent principle in here, which is to remove sectarian religious education from schools, and take activities by imams or school chaplains and similar persons outside the curriculum, and make them voluntary and opt-in. But they also want to disallow changes to uniform policies for any reason other than health, and no halal food in the school cafeteria. I have a problem with the uniform policies in particular, because if you have the sorts of parents – or, indeed, children – who are adamant that women must be covered when outside the house, and the school does not allow this, the result tends to be not that girls are liberated from their oppressive religioon, but that girls are kept home from school and in fact further isolated.
The ALA wants to stop all immigration from Muslim countries, except for refugees who are persecuted non-Muslims. They aren’t about to deport everyone immediately, like the AFP, but they do want to abolish dual citizenship, and if you weren’t born here and committed a serious crime, they want to boot you out, too. They want to be thoroughly loathesome to refugees, which is not surprising at this point. They want out of the UN Charter on Refugees, offshore processing, which should be done ‘swiftly and without access to the Australian legal system’. And even recognised refugees only get tempoprary protection visas, and must be sent home as soon as possible. I’ve ranted about TPVs and the way that they give new Australians no incentive to buy into Australian culture before – but I suppose the ALA doesn’t want these people to be new Australians, just rather unwelcome visitors.
The ALA is anti apartheid:
We believe the only way to overcome disadvantages and racism in our society is to eliminate what divides us. True equality and genuine respect cannot come from different laws for different classes of people. Apartheid South Africa had different laws for different races. We do not want this in Australia.
For us, ‘affirmative action’ is another word for institutionalised racism and apartheid. Dividing people according to race or ethnic self-identification creates division, jealousy and hatred. However, Australian Liberty Alliance recognises that certain individuals or groups have circumstances that require specific interventions appropriate to their needs.
Australian Liberty Alliance will work towards an Australia where people are special because of what they know, what they achieve and what they do for each other, not because of the colour of their skin. We stand against apartheid and racism. We stand for an integrated multi-ethnic Australia that everyone can be proud to call home.
Hmm. I think they think they mean it, but I also think they don’t really understand what affirmative action is for. There seems to be a recognition of individual disadvantage, but not systemic disadvantage. That, or they are trying very hard to be anti-Islam without being racist. Or maybe it’s both!
The ALA also feels that foreign aid should only go to countries who are well behaved – “subscribed to the UN Charter on Human Rights and who guarantee gender equality and protection of religious minorities”. I wonder how this would work in real life? Because I suspect that this would mean we would be withholding aid from some of the neediest countries, and while I do, absolutely, feel that we need to promote gender equality (educating women seems to be the number one way to improve an entire country’s health and wellbeing), being simply punitive just means that there is no incentive to change or improve things – and it will be the women and minorities who suffer most. I think you need a carrot and stick approach here, and you need to work with people on the ground in these countries in order to figure out what will work best.
The ALA is pro-Israel, which they view as “the only liberal democracy in the Middle East today”, and appear to support their expansion into the Occupied Territories and possibly beyond (my middle eastern geography is shaky, but I’m pretty sure that once you start talking about Samaria and about Jerusalem being the undisputed capital of Israel, that’s where you are going).
The ALA supports our military, but really wants them to be primarily defensive. And there is this:
If we order our soldiers to risk their all, we must give them rules of engagement they can live with. Political, religious or gender sensitivities must never imperil Australia’s soldiers. Or fighting men and women perform a job like no other and we support the preservation of military traditions.
I’m pretty sure there is a dog-whistle here, referring to something specific, but it’s not one I’m familiar with.
Right, moving on a bit, the ALA sees no need to change the constitution. They mention that we don’t need a republic, or to change our flag or anthem, and I suspect they also see no need to recognise indigenous people in the Constitution either (this is a guess based on the fact that indigenous recognition seems to be the main conversation currently going on around the Constitution – and on the fact that they don’t like people to have special privileges based on race). They also want fixed terms for MPs and Senators, with penalties for arbitrary resignations mid-term.
They are cautious about foreign investment, and – wow, I actually like this policy – “propose that the right of foreigners to purchase real estate and other property must be fully reciprocal. Only nationals of a country, which allows Australians free access to its own property market, shall be permitted to own property in Australia”. That makes a lot of sense. They also want to be careful about trade agreements, so that we protect Australians while still reaping the benefits of overseas trade. They want a good balance between workers and employers, but seem a bit victim-blamey about unions:
Excessive union behaviour that leads to increased labour cost and sends jobs overseas must be banned.
This reminds me of the MRAs who are forced to quit their jobs because otherwise they will have to pay child support.
They also want anyone on unemployment should be either working for the dole or doing training, with younger people working more days per week than older people ‘establishing the habit of work’. Where, exactly, will young people find the time to jobhunt, then?
The ALA are small government and low taxes, with foreign companies paying their share. They also want to lower the GST-free threshold on overseas purchases, which is not a terrible idea in terms of protecting local producers.
They want better freedom of information, reject censorship of journalists – but want to privatise the SBS (can’t trust them furrin languages) and most of the ABC. Which is not only a terrible idea but would also have the effect of journalists being owned by private interests rather than public ones. This strikes me as being against their policy.
On education, they want a firm focus on general knowledge and traditional methods of education ‘and appreciation of Western civilisation’.
Translation: Let’s not talk too much about what happened to the Aborigines when we do Australian history, OK?
They want school vouchers, and more targeted HECS/HELP. Also “Many university departments will need to allow a broader range of opinions and freedom of speech.”
Translation: Reclaim our university system from the lefty feminist socialist liberals!
I do like that they want to give retirees the opportunity to attend university lectures, though.
On Health, they are actually pretty decent, if you ignore the bits about evil foreign nationals. They want to set up publicly funded day surgery clinics to remove pressure from the public hospital system by providing routine and straightforward surgeries (so that hospital only get the emergencies and complicated stuff). They want to disincentivise people who can afford private insurance from staying on public. The ALA definitely favours the stick over the carrot. And then they come up with sensible things like this:
Australian Liberty Alliance sees a particular need to strengthen health services for Australians in remote and Aboriginal communities. This is necessary to effectively combat mental health issues and substance abuse among young Australians, and improve mental health services for prisoners. We further see an urgent need for more effective intervention to prevent road trauma among young Australians, caused by substance abuse and inadequate driving skills.
They want to increase superannuation contributions, and fix our aged care system.
They want to tackle domestic violence. They want to be fair on homosexual couples, but that doesn’t include letting them marry, and we must not teach such unnatural things in schools. I thought they were against sectarianism, but this sounds rather sectarian to me.
They don’t like welfare mums and will “lower child benefit payments from the third child on, while providing a considerable income tax credit for one parent to ensure a young family on a single wage can cope with the cost of living.”
They are pro-mandatory health checks and immunisation, are very keen for children to have two parents (one of each gender flavour), and want to make adoption for natural families more accessible. (What does that mean?)
They feel that questions around abortion need a conscience vote, but personally feel that after three months there need to be exceptional circumstances. They are anti-euthanasia, but surprisingly poetic about it:
While we find an adult has every right to terminate his own life, we hold that another person’s immediate involvement in the act of ending a human life is legally not justifiable. To be asked to intentionally end a loved one’s life is for most an unbearable thought. Likewise, in some cases the motivation to end a life may not always be that of selflessness and compassion.
Therefore, we think it is best that active participation in ending a human life shall remain punishable as a crime of murder to ensure fundamental values and legal boundaries remain intact.
This final phase of our life is best left in the hands of well-trained palliative care workers and compassionate doctors, not those of politicians and judges.
Finally, the ALA is surprisingly good on the environment, warning that “Life as we know it ends without reliable access to affordable, clean, safe energy and a healthy environment.”
Ooh, wait on a minute, no, they want nuclear energy and are ‘neither believers nor deniers when it comes to climate change’!
But they do worry about polliution, toxic waste, and the accumulation of rubbish in ocean and landfill, so they could be a lot worse.
They are against the Murray-Darling Basin plan, they think Snowy Hydro is a top example of infrastructure, they want new dams, more hydroelectrics, better water grids, and more dams, more dams, more dams. And increased water recycling.
Overall, the ALA is kinder, calmer and a lot more rational than the AFP, but they really are pretty awful about Muslims, and not always internally consistent. Even setting aside their fear of Muslims and refugees, I wouldn’t be voting for them, because they are way too far to the right on economics and human issues generally, and not that good on the environment. I think they are positioning themselves to be a less religious alternative to Family First,in fact.
Definitely not my party of choice.