Debate on anti-terrorism and IR reform laws hit a new low last night.
This occurred in Melbourne during the Stephen Murray-Smith Memorial
Lecture by former PM, Malcolm Fraser. It was so bad that the current PM
might be sorely tempted to quietly buy Kim Beazley a beer after work on
Friday and, with a collegiate clasp of the shoulder and a deep sigh of
empathy, say something like “what are we to do with these former
leaders of ours?”

We are not suggesting that Malcolm Fraser is in the same league as Mark
Latham as a political suicide bomber. But Henry’s interest was piqued
by a couple of passages from the lecture. We think that the former PM
could well have crystallised a very important point or two. In his
speech last night, as he does in today’s opinion piece in The Age,
Malcolm Fraser made the astute observation in relation to the
anti-terrorism laws that they play to an emerging but impermanent
conservative streak in Australians. We are starting to adopt a siege
mentality with regard to nasty outsiders who would do us harm.

“It may be brilliant politics, but will such laws make Australia
secure? By its actions, the Government has long abandoned and lost the
middle ground. The rule of law and ‘due process’ has been set aside.”

Big Mal’s “losing the middle ground” comment might end up being
prophetic. There is also a lot of disquiet over IR reforms. Together
these developments have the potential to hand back a lot of ground to
the ALP if a few things go right – or wrong – depending on the colour
of your blood. Australian punters don’t like being taken for a ride,
and tend to judge those in the drivers seat pretty harshly when the
tipping point is finally reached and the collective judgement is that
enough is enough. Just ask Jeff Kennett.

Australia needs both IR reform and sensible anti-terrorism laws.
We are certainly not trying to set ourselves up to say “I told you so”
if this ends up doing serious damage to the Coalition. But we will be
watching the Roy Morgan Research poll results particularly closely in
coming months.

Read more here.

Peter Fray

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