In Crikey yesterday Guy Rundle pointed out that the IPA has been the leading critic of nanny state proposals that try to tell Australians what to eat, drink and smoke. And we’re proud of it.
But to argue that our defence of individual liberty ends there requires a myopia of which I wouldn’t even accuse Rundle.
For instance, Rundle suggests we have been missing in action on the Victorian government’s anti-swearing laws. He must have missed ABCs Q&A on June 20, when I labelled the laws “a disgrace” or Tim Wilson’s recent appearance on Jon Faine’s 774 program, where he spent many minutes attacking the laws as ridiculous.
The accusation that the IPA has somehow gone along with the surveillance state is also incredibly lazy. If Rundle really did “look in vain” on our website for articles criticising the creeping use of CCTV to monitor citizens, can I humbly suggest his computer might be overdue for a check-up? Because a cursory search would turn up nearly a dozen articles by Chris Berg alone defending individual rights against increased police powers, restrictive anti-terrorism legislation and even knife-search laws. He must have also missed our executive director John Roskam’s ongoing public criticisms of the use of suppression orders to stifle court reporting, and his call for a royal commission into the excessive use of bugging by Victoria Police.
And which major IPA donors does Rundle imagine inspired Berg’s column yesterday in support of gay marriage? Or my advocacy, again on Q&A, for the government to get out of the business of marriage recognition and let any two people who wish to marry do so? The IPA’s Wilson hasn’t exactly been silent on this issue either. My attack on Republicans for failing to support the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell doesn’t exactly accord with Rundle’s critique, either.
Guy Rundle probably didn’t read his own publisher, Crikey, on November 30, 2009, when the IPA’s Sinclair Davidson wrote an article entitled: “Enough of the hysteria … refugees are good for us”.
Or how about the free movement of people across borders, a quintessentially “individual” freedom? Berg has frequently been published on the topic.
Berg supports drug decriminalisation and hailed Desmond Manderson’s From Mr Sin to Mr Big: A History of Australian Drug Laws, as one of the “100 Great Books of Liberty”.
And of course the IPA was one of many critics of proposals to censor the internet.
The truth is that the IPA has been the leading advocate for the centre-right in Australia to be more libertarian, in both economic and social spheres. We genuinely believe that individuals are best placed to make decisions about their personal and economic affairs. We’re deeply sceptical of government power in all its forms, whether it is socialist planning from the left or social-engineering from the right.
*James Paterson is the associate editor of the Institute of Public Affairs’ Review