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Oct 11, 2017

Political dark horse David Leyonhjelm launches his book for freedom-lovers

David Leyonhjelm may have accidentally been elected, but that doesn't mean he can't use his platform to talk about cats (and other notes from the launch of Freedom's Salesman)

Margot Saville — <em>Crikey</em> Sydney reporter

Margot Saville

Crikey Sydney reporter

There’s a big difference between New South Wales Senator David Leyonhjelm and his fellow political outliers. While One Nation members Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts are wilfully ignorant, the Accidental Senator is in fact well-educated and articulate. Talking to him, it’s easy to forget some of his more outrageous statements: did he really say last year that Australia’s tough gun control laws were an “emotional reaction” to the Port Arthur Massacre? And was he actually behind the controversial push to relax the ban on the seven-round Adler lever-action shotgun, saying there was “no compelling reason” for the weapon to be illegal? (Yes to both.)

He’s also in favour of arming the population, saying last night, “How then is it possible to keep the government in check if the only people with guns are those in government uniforms?”

The issue with the former vet and agribusiness consultant, who also has a law degree and an MBA, is that unlike most politicians, he doesn’t care what you think of him or even whether you agree. What he is interested in is talking about his particular brand of libertarianism, which he says is based on John Stuart Mill’s harm principle: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

Last night he launched the book of his collected writings, Freedom’s Salesman in Sydney. In it, he tries to tell Australians that their “lives would be more prosperous, more fulfilling and happier if they did more for themselves and the government did less”.

The launch was held, appropriately, in a room at Sydney’s City Tattersall’s Club, surrounded by the pinging noise of hundreds of poker machines. If the role of government is to allow its citizens to pour their money into gambling, and then tax the promoters’ profits, a registered club is a perfect backdrop. If the NSW government was any more wedded to gambling revenue, state Parliament would be held in a casino.

Leyonhjelm crashed onto the political stage in the 2013 federal election when he won the political lottery and gained the first position on the ballot for his political party, the Liberal Democrats. A direct beneficiary of the donkey vote plus the people who thought they were voting for the Liberal party, he scored 3.91% of the primary vote — the ABC’s Annabel Crabb said he was elected by “Liberal voters who can’t spell.” Since then, due to his role on the crossbench, he has become very powerful.

Economically, he believes in cutting “red tape”, and lowering taxes.

“Intervening in markets is a form of coercion. Market failure is a consequence of government intervention, not a justification for intervention. And of course, taking our money from us, in the form of taxation, and using it to do something that we could do for ourselves, is a serious coercion.”

Several people have given endorsements for the book: Malcolm Turnbull said that Leyonhjelm was a “fierce advocate for freedom”. Last night, the competitive pistol shooter said that he liked the PM and had “a friendly relationship with him. And I have a video of him claiming that he is a libertarian. Before he became Prime Minister, he used to tell me he is the second most libertarian person in Parliament.”

“Andrew Bolt and Cory Bernardi are economic libertarians. They agree the government should get out of our pockets, but don’t oppose the government having a say over our social lives. We tend to apply the word conservative to describe people like Andrew and Cory, although that’s not an historically accurate use of the term.”

The Greens’ Scott Ludlam says on the back cover, “I think I even voted with this guy once.” Leyonhjelm said last night that “the Greens find me difficult. They support freedom sometimes, which is why Ludlum and I worked together to try to protect some fundamental rights in the context of counter-terrorism legislation. But then, way too often, they revert to complete control freaks.”

The book was launched by former Business Council of Australia head Tony Shepherd, who basically believes in small everything.

Shepherd said that, “Free trade is vital to a small country of 24 million with only two industries left which are globally competitive — the demonised resources sector and agriculture. We were also good at minerals processing but governments made sure they killed that off through their crazy short-sighted energy policies.

“We survived the GFC and prospered … from the massive and unprecedented investment in the commodity boom. Now coal, iron ore and gas exporters are the devil incarnate despite the obvious fact that through taxes, royalties, jobs and huge investment in infrastructure they are keeping us afloat.”

The main issue I have with people like the 73-year-old Shepherd and all the other old, white men in the room (I counted four walking sticks and about eight women) is that they will all be dead and buried before climate change renders much of the planet uninhabitable. And by that stage, it will be too late.  

Although the Senator and I disagree on guns, we are both cat-lovers (although I don’t refer to mine as a “fur-child”). He and his wife used to have four felines (sadly, now three) and he was often photographed stroking a fluffy white Persian, making him look exactly like Bond villain Ernst Blofeld.

Two years ago, he wrote an article for The Guardian, saying that:

“Cats are natural libertarians. I’m managed by four of them, and I speak from experience. They are all individuals and refuse to identify with groups … I’ve always liked Winston Churchill’s quip to the effect that dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, while pigs treat us as equals … But when George Orwell wrote in his novel Animal Farm that ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’, he could just as easily have had cats in mind instead of pigs. Cats will accept being equal, but nothing less is acceptable. It’s very libertarian of them.”

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34 thoughts on “Political dark horse David Leyonhjelm launches his book for freedom-lovers

  1. pjp

    “the Accidental Senator is in fact well-educated and articulate”
    But one would hope that you, being a journalist, would also be aware of the definition of education given by Ambrose Pierce: “Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.”

    1. Zeke

      That’s Ambrose Bierce, not Pierce. I’m a fan of both Lovecraft and Bierce. Oh the Horror! The Horror!

      1. pjp

        I’m not going to apologise for a typographical error as your response illustrates Bierce’s maxim perfectly. A wise person would understand that there are many influences which could result in this somewhat embarrassing error – a fool just bangs away on the keyboard in a mild fit of anger.

    2. Margot Saville

      that is EXCELLENT

  2. old greybearded one

    Shepherd is full of crap. He believes in free trade till it bites his interests. We are also making nothing from gas and our minerals processing died because overseas companies were not interested (they owned the plants) and our transport infrastructure was crap. There can only be a free market if everyone has the same information, eg the village square. Otherwise as Adam Smith put it, the result is a contrivance to increase prices, which is what he said happened when businessmen got together. I lost all faith in Leyjonhelm due to his adolescent stupidity over the Adler gun where he defied all rational thought in saying that s seven shot gun is somehow safer than a 5 shot one (I am a former farmer and hunter).

    1. Woopwoop

      He also, as the head of the Commission of Audit, made an elementary mistake on basic fact:

    2. Margot Saville

      good observations

  3. mitch

    “Intervening in markets is a form of coercion. Market failure is a consequence of government intervention, not a justification for intervention. And of course, taking our money from us, in the form of taxation, and using it to do something that we could do for ourselves, is a serious coercion.”
    So who pays for the things that civil society expects provided? Will businesses begin to be responsible for negative externalites?

    1. Margot Saville

      I can’t see them paying for those

  4. Venise Alstergren

    ““We survived the GFC and prospered …”. I am happy for you Senator Leyonhjelm. However, my peace of mind is shattered every time I hear a budget. And see the vast amount of money given to religious institutions-and the tax free status they enjoy.

    1. Bill Hilliger

      +10 from me. The religious fairy tale industry practitioners should not enjoy tax free status nor should the government be able to steal our taxes and give the same to the religious entertainment industry.

      1. Peter Wileman

        Quite, but how to do it?

  5. Always Carefree

    Unrepresentative swill

  6. Dog's Breakfast

    A blathering simpleton, when well educated, becomes a well educated blathering simpleton.
    The internal contradictions are too vast to explore, but these stand out;
    “Market failure is a consequence of government intervention” – market failure is built into the very design, and when they fail that is excused by fools to tell us that that is what markets do.
    “We survived the GFC and prospered..” Directly, and only, because of government intervention.


    1. Norm

      You betcha Dog’s. HEFIs (sort of like heifers), highly educated fricking idiots.

  7. Rais

    Anyone who can look at the ongoing catastrophe of American gun violence and want Australia to emulate that has something seriously wrong with his reasoning.

    1. [email protected]

      We are not America. We don’t have the types that are running around shooting each other in Baltimore and South Chicago. And we probably wont in the future either. We are still a very young country and the world looks over upon us with similar sentiments. The Chinese think we are rough heads and are not sophisticated. The outcome of the initial climate change debate proved that once and for all!

    2. Margot Saville

      I agree with that

  8. Xoanon

    “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

    Sounds like a perfect justification for tough gun control laws.

    1. [email protected]

      But the gun didn’t do anything wrong. Do we blame the car or the driver in a car crash. Last I checked we blame the driver. If we followed your advice we will be banned from owning cars. This is one of Leyonhjelms quips. Fair call.

      1. pjp

        There is no validity in comparing cars and guns and your statements “the gun didn’t do anything wrong” and “do we blame the car?” are simply rhetorical tricks designed to cloud the issue.

    2. Margot Saville

      Great observation

  9. [email protected]

    Just love reading political stories. Firstly they are fairytales seanced in the party room. Then we get to see the ABC journos twisting the story to suit whatever lobby. So glad there are great Russian and Chinese media outlets to get the real story from. I love then comparing the stories with my adult kids and we laugh and laugh. Good entertainment and it teaches the individual that they are welcome to do the same in their lives…tell lies to public people just in case they may be aggravated by the truth. This is democracy 2017. Nothing much has changed since Platos time! I am impressed by the Russians and the Chinese. They tell their citizens a better version of the truth…you know, more believable. Thanks to alt media the old guard are being exposed!

  10. peter

    Sorry, but how you can even begin to take seriously anyone who regurgitates NRA drivel about armed citizens keeping government in check is beyond comprehension. This accidental representative of the donkey voter shouldn’t be taken seriously by any serious journalist. He’s a dangerous diversion, publicising his book, even when qualified, is irresponsible.

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