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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 205

Senator BERNARDI (12:24 PM) —There are many ways in which people can judge a government. Some will consider flowery rhetoric as sufficient substitute for meaningful policy. Others will see the appearance of action through reviews, committees and endless paper-shuffling as indications of actually moving forward. Still others will only look at the government’s spend to determine whether the government is doing enough.

Senator Feeney interjecting—

Senator BERNARDI —Strangely, this third group, which Senator Feeney clearly endorses, never seems to consider that the government is actually doing too much, and yet if a government has ever done too much it was the previous government, because the ALP government have made a complete mess of everything they have touched.

However, all of these assessments are subjective. Any criticisms of government on such a basis are easily deflected through political spin and the sheer power of the government PR machine. In considering the agenda of the Gillard government and its previous incarnation as the Rudd-Gillard government, I would prefer to assess its approach and impact on what I would consider to be the foundation pillars of our nation, our first principles, if you will, the values that have shaped our nation and provided us with stability, security and prosperity. These principles can be summarised, I believe, into four key areas.

The first of these is faith. Our nation was established upon the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Our laws have codified these ancient texts and the tenets of the Ten Commandments, and our societal expectations are based around the golden rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.

The second of our foundation pillars, I consider, is respect for our flag and what it represents. It is a representation of our sovereignty, our history, our commitment to Federation, our independence and our Constitution, which places clear limits on the power of government, and the encouragement and fostering of the national identity. Indeed it was our founding fathers that sought to encourage patriotism and independence and a national identity for Australians. Alfred Deakin, speaking at the Constitutional Conference in 1890, acknowledged the importance of fostering our national patriotism when he said:

This sentiment of our nationality is one which, I believe, we shall see increasing in its intensity year by year, and it will count for much more than it does now when the people of these colonies have become a people sprung from the soil, a people the vast majority of whom will know no other home than the soil of Australia. I believe that this passion of nationality will widen and deepen and strengthen its tides until they will far more than suffice to float all the burdens that may be placed upon their bosom.

The third of the great pillars of our foundation is family. Strong families build a stronger Australia, and through countless generations the traditional family unit of a father and mother bonded through a commitment to their marriage and to the welfare of their children has proved to be the best and most enduring of all our social institutions. Evidence supports the notion that children raised in strong families go on to be more successful by every measure and also making a strong contribution to the strength of their communities.

The fourth pillar of our foundation is that of free enterprise. Through the commitment to property rights, and through reward for effort and acceptance of the consequence of failure, we have established a nation rich in ideas, effort and innovation. We can no more afford to stifle that enterprise and expect enduring wealth creation than cease to breathe and expect to stay alive. These four pillars represent the foundation of modern Australia. Without an ongoing commitment to their preservation, the freedom of our citizens and the future of our nation are at risk.

It is in these key areas that the Gillard government’s policy agenda is left wanting, devoid of any commitment to the things that matter, preferring instead to deal in an ideological agenda more suited to Cold War central planning than to a free, vibrant and modern nation. While it may be unfashionable in some quarters, I believe that as leaders in our community we have a responsibility not only to foster a strong national economy but also to protect and defend our culture and our national identity.

As I mentioned earlier, a great deal of this cultural identity arises from the Judeo-Christian tradition that lies at the very heart of our nation. While we are a secular country, our laws, our customs and our societal expectations arise from this great tradition and the wise boundaries it places on the human condition. I regret that the Gillard government threatens to undermine this tradition. I am not referring to a lack of personal religious belief by the Prime Minister, although I do make a personal observation that the absence of belief in a greater being is generally replaced by something less than beneficent.

The threat that the Gillard government poses to Christian tradition is in the opening of the door to sharia or Islamic law in Australia. The government and its representatives have repeatedly stated their intention to change the regulations to ensure that there is no restriction or disadvantage to sharia-compliant finance being conducted in Australia. Minister Sherry even launched the demystifying Islamic finance booklet in May this year. During the launch Senator Sherry maintained:

This is not about special treatment but about a fair and level playing field that is not prejudiced against the provision of Shariah compliant products.

Minister, I would suggest we already have a fair and level playing field for all Australians based on our laws and traditions, which are not built on sharia law. Whilst the proposals put forward by the government may not at first glance seem to be truly significant, should they be allowed, the process of legitimising a fundamentalist sharia law as an alternative legal or business system in this country would commence. I believe this simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Whatever the advocates may say, followers cannot simply pick and choose the parts of sharia law that they want to follow. If followers are prepared to ignore some of the less palatable aspects of sharia then certainly they should be expected to ignore the more innocuous ones too. But if the advocates of sharia law truly believe it is the path of righteousness, then the introductory changes like concessions of sharia finance are simply a stepping stone to a greater embrace of this archaic system. That is why we should not entertain any thought of introducing any aspect of sharia law into Australia. At best it is unnecessary; at worst it is a step in a direction that is incompatible with western life and values.

The government’s record and future agenda also threatens to concentrate power in Canberra, while outsourcing aspects of our national sovereignty to unaccountable foreign organisations like the United Nations. This was highlighted by the government’s commitment to a climate change treaty prior to the Copenhagen conference in December last year, which would have seen billions of dollars of Australian taxpayer funds disappear into that fiscal black hole of bureaucracy known as the United Nations.

Our part-time foreign minister—our part-time United Nations climate change advocate and former Prime Minister—is central to the belief that a grand global plan is better than defending our national interest. The Gillard government continues in this vein because it also has plans to concentrate power in Canberra, at the expense of the states, contravening the essence of our Federation that is enshrined in our Constitution and its wise advocacy for the separation of powers.

While I have a personal and philosophical aversion to such a concentration of power, one may be able to apply some justification if the government demonstrated competence in any area of its administration. Regrettably for the Australian people, this is not the case. Yet such a record of failure does not discourage the government from trying to interfere in the lives of more Australians. While the government professes support for the family, its rhetoric simply does not match its practice. Rather than offer practical measures that would strengthen families—like income-tax splitting or incentives for one parent to stay at home with their children for the preschool years—the government is giving incentives for institutionalised child care and undermining the traditional family unit.

It is alarming that the government’s alliance partners, the Greens, have already introduced motions to undermine traditional marriage and further erode the culture of life that should logically elevate humans above all other species. To the Greens, humans are just another one species among many. Their beliefs see their adherents advocating human rights for orangutans but not for unborn children—a clear indication that their moral compass is lost in a Bermuda Triangle of policy extremism. The government’s formal alliance with advocates of such a policy agenda reflects very poorly on it and, unfortunately, legitimises such extremism in our parliament.

The government’s policies will also have a very poor impact on the purses of every family. Not satisfied with blowing the national accounts with excessive spending and imprudent policy formulation and implementation, it now wants to blow the budget of Australian families. Its promise to break its election promise and introduce a carbon tax will see the price of everything rise. Utilities will dramatically increase in cost. Transport costs will rise. The cost of construction materials will rise. In fact, virtually everything we need will increase in price—thanks to a massive new tax.

What makes it worse is that this approach is completely unnecessary. It is based on flawed science and a religious-like fervour that carbon dioxide is somehow the new Lucifer. As I mentioned earlier, the absence of God in one’s life is often replaced by something less beneficial. There can scarcely be any clearer example than the cult-like worship of the Earth Mother practised by the advocates of this great green tax with all its negative implications for our nation.

Unfortunately, the negative consequences for our nation continue with the government’s commitment to undermine free enterprise and a competitive market place. Its punitive mining tax—which was the result of a secretive negotiation excluding 99 per cent of resource companies—changes the game for many Australian mining enterprises and reduces the attractiveness of investing in Australia. It further undermines the rights of our state governments, who actually own the resources, to profit from their extraction and invest the proceeds as they see fit, accountable to their own electorates.

The government’s decision to reinstate a nationalised telecommunications monopoly in the form of the National Broadband Network—a $43 billion expenditure without a business plan—is an example of the reckless misuse of taxpayer funds. There are clear alternatives to the government’s plan that could be implemented more quickly, provide a comparable service and cost a great deal less. Yet Labor persists with a solution that exceeds the requirements of most of us. Of course, such trifling issues as the estimated $5,000 per household connection cost are not as important to Labor and the government as having a big plan that will cost a whole lot of taxpayers’ money—no matter how flawed the cost-benefit analysis.

Like many Australians, I am concerned about the direction that this government is taking. It has a track record of reckless spending and record debt. It cares little for our traditions and enduring values. It cares little for our constitutional protections, national interest and Australian sovereignty. It cares little for strengthening the family culture of life and traditional marriage. It cares little for defending property rights and state rights and fostering a competitive economy built on free enterprise. In short, the government cares little for the pillars that have forged such a great nation—and one can only conclude that it cares little for the people of Australia. And I say to the government that the people will tender their verdict—when they are given the opportunity to do so in the not too distant future—on how little this government cares about the founding principles of our nation.