Apr 5, 2013

Tony Abbott talks God and Western values behind closed doors

Tony Abbott delivers a sermon on the importance of Christian values, and the need to give more recognition to Australia's Western heritage, in a speech to a gala IPA dinner in Melbourne. Crikey obtained the audio of the speech.

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has vigorously re-entered the "culture wars" debate by decrying the lack of recognition of Australia's Western heritage and Christian principles in our national conversation. Crikey has obtained the audio of Abbott's speech to a sold-out gala dinner in Melbourne last night celebrating the 70th anniversary of the libertarian Institute of Public Affairs, with Rupert Murdoch as guest of honour. Unlike most of Abbott's recent public appearances -- in which he sticks closely to Coalition talking points -- his speech was heavy on philosophy and laden with religious imagery:
"In contemporary Australia we have well and truly, and rightly, left behind the old cult of forgetfulness about our indigenous heritage. Alas, there is a new version of the great Australian silence -- this time about the Western canon, the literature, the poetry, the music, the history and above all the faith without which our culture and our civilisation is unimaginable."
The term "great Australian silence" was coined by anthropologist W.E.H Stanner in 1968 to describe how Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders had been all but erased from Australian history and consciousness. He continued:
"'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is the foundation of our justice. 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself' is the foundation of our mercy. Faith has weakened but not, I'm pleased to say, this high-mindedness which faith helps us form and which the IPA now helps to protect and to promote."
Abbott thanked the think tank for its work defending "Western civilisation":
"In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve believed they could do almost as they pleased. But freedom has its limits and its abuses as this foundational story makes only too clear. And yet without freedom we can hardly be human, hardly be worthy of creation in the image of God."
Abbott said the IPA had been "freedom's discerning friend" in Australia and had supported "capitalism with a conscience". He said the think tank had played an extremely influential role in blocking Labor's attempts to introduce a bill of rights, tougher anti-discrimination laws, and a Public Interest Media Advocate:
"Your campaign against the bill of rights caused a bad government to capitulate. You campaigned against the bill of rights because you understood that a democratic parliament, an incorruptible judiciary and a free press -- rather than mere law itself -- were the best guarantors of human rights. You campaigned against the legislative prohibition against giving offence and I'm pleased to say the author of those draft laws [Nicola Roxon] is now leaving the Parliament."
In an aside to IPA executive director John Roskam, Abbott joked: "John, you’ve done very well with just 20 staff -- remember what Jesus of Nazareth did with 12. And one of them turned out to be a rat." Abbott then went on to praise Murdoch, describing him as one of three Australians who have "most shaped the world" (the others being WWI military commander John Monash and penicillin developer Howard Florey):
"His publications have borne his ideals but never his fingerprints. They have been sceptical, stoical, curious, adventurous, opinionated but broadminded. He’s influenced them but he’s never dictated to them."
Abbott concluded his speech, which received hearty applause from the crowd, by saying:
"This is a night to renew our commitment, to renew our faith. In 100 years time all of us will be gone but, please God, not the ideals and the great causes for which we stand. May it be said of us that we have passed the torch of freedom to our successors -- which we do by supporting an organisation that’s bigger than any of us and that can outlive all."
Other Coalition MPs who attended the dinner, at Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria, included Greg Hunt, George Brandis, Bronwyn Bishop and Cory Bernardi. Sydney Catholic Archbishop George Pell attended as did News Limited boss Kim Williams. Listen to Tony Abbott's speech: [podcast][/podcast] NOTE: The full transcript of Tony Abbott's speech can now be read on his website.

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51 thoughts on “Tony Abbott talks God and Western values behind closed doors

  1. klewso

    Surely he’s more worried about the fact that other opinions are being heard, no matter how low their resonance?
    That and the fact that there’s votes in this?

  2. willy wonka


  3. MJPC

    It’s lucky my invite to that esteemed event was lost in the mail lest I would have bought up my meal of rubber chicken at Mr Abbott’s uttering of the words “capitalism with a conscience”. Is this what he envisages will be introduced here if he wins the September election, based on what is happening in the UK (and rumored for the plebs in Australia)? Was work choices Capilatlism with a conscience?
    If anything, the leader of the opposition is ever the supreme hypocrit.
    And, as for Murdoch being a great Australian, Did Gen. Monash and Dr Florey also change their nationality to chase the almighty dollar? I missed that in the history books.

  4. Niall Clugston

    Did he really say “cannon”?

  5. The Pav

    Quite rightly Abbott refers to a free press not an incoruptable press.

    He realises that given News Ltd’s phone hacking, bribery of police, the Melbourne Storm’s Salary cap rort & News Ltd owns voting structure on shares that to use the term incorruptable in the presence of Murdoch about the press would be offensive and he certainly wouldn’t do that.

    His hypocracy knows no bounds.

    This is scary stuff. At the risk of breaking Godwins Law my mind goes back to smokey cellars in Germany in the late 1920’s & early 30’s

  6. Eddie Eindhoven

    Also thought I saw Sophie Mirabella entering the venue with Bronwyn on Lateline’s footage last night.

  7. Daly

    TA has now revealed who he truly represents and aligns with: some of the world’s richest and most flakey right wingers!
    I hope this gets enough headlines to alert the other 99.5% of Australians with a vote to ensure he is never our PM

  8. Peter

    Which Western cannon is Tony referring to? Could it be the breechloading Armstrong? It certainly had a marked influence on Western culture. Perhaps he is alluding to Napoleon’s revolutionary use of cannons in batteries: that changed the face of warfare. On the other hand, he could have in mind the role of cannonry in keeping the duration of the Anglo-Zanzibar War down to twelve minutes.

  9. Blair Martin

    Pedants corner: That would be “canon” not “cannon”, though the way Mr Rabbit goes on and on, one would not be too sure he’s not unlike Kim Jong Un in spraying it around to get attention!

  10. Liz A

    Tony Abbott likened John Roskam to Jesus? Is this the holy church of the IPA, Pope John and Chris Berg as the Cardinal in chief?

    I suppose it could be a cult. Perhaps the Church of the latter IPA Saints, IPA-entology, IPA Shinrikyo?

    In Tony’s hierarchy is Murdoch therefore god?

    The mind truly boggles.

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