The LNP-ONP coalition

After the election results came in, I posted about the implications for the Turnbull government of dealing with One Nation as if it were a normal and legitimate political party.

It seems likely, however, that Turnbull is going to treat One Nation, for the first time in Australia, as a normal political party, and to negotiate with Hanson as an equal. That would be a new low for him, and for Australia. And, sooner or later, it will come back to bit him and the LNP. For an object lesson in the dangers of courting racist votes while maintaining a claim to be non-racist, he need only look at the US Republican party,

It is already clear that this analysis fell far short of the mark. Far from being “just another minor party”, One Nation has become a semi-formal member of the LNP Coalition and part of the dominant rightwing grouping within that coalition. The two most striking developments, among many, are
* The decision of the Queensland LNP to preference One Nation ahead of Labor . This is unusual in itself, given that no election is in prospect any time soon and a radical reversal of the pre-election position of putting One Nation last[1]
* The alliance between One Nation and the LNP right to promote a change to hate speech laws, allowing racial speech that “offends” or “insults” the target.
I remain convinced that this will prove a path to disaster for the LNP in the long run, but it could do a great deal of damage to Australia while the LNP-ONP coalition remains in office.

The 18C issue a whole post to itself, but the central point here is that this move does not reflect any general commitment to free speech, along the (apocryphal) Voltairian line that “I disagree with what you say, but defend to the death your right to say it”. The backers of this proposal are people who want to exercise the freedom to make offensive and insulting racial attacks.

Of course, it’s important to avoid the ad hominem fallacy here. The claim that “people have a right to be bigots” isn’t invalidated by the fact that most of its proponents (though not, I think George Brandis) are bigots themselves. But the simple political fact is that racists are now viewed as acceptable by the LNP, and are already a substantial, if not dominant faction within that party. Most of this faction has no interest in free speech for anyone but themselves.

If any change to laws governing public speech is to be addressed by this Parliament, it should not take the form of an escape clause specifically designed for bigots. Rather we should be looking at a general guarantee of free speech, something that does not currently exist in Australia.

Finally, I’ll repeat in sharper form a question I’ve raised before. If rightwing LNP backbenchers have a consequence-free right to vote against party policy on hate speech, why don’t supporters of equal marriage have the same right? The most obvious target of this question is former IPA official Tim Wilson, who has vigorously attacked 18C while toeing the party line on equal marriage, despite his stated support.

fn1. Some reported equivocation on this point by Queensland union official Ros McLennan is unhelpful to put it mildly, but it appears to be a News Ltd beatup of waffle on McLennan’s part.

52 thoughts on “The LNP-ONP coalition

  1. @jrkrideau

    I can’t remember what life was like before the internet and google, which is strange because for most of my life it wasn’t there but it must have been frustrating for me not to be able to find out things I want to know.

  2. @Julie Thomas
    Your #51

    Interestingly, King O’Malley, like jrkrideau, was a Canadian (born in Quebec), so obviously O’Malley’s plug for “American” spelling is amusing. However, that’s what we get for living in the nation I used to call Englerica for rather obvious reasons – like when young, before I reached my teens, I used to listen to a lot of radio (public and private) and a few of the shows were American (eg “The Shadow Knows”). So I used to use words at school – eg “lush” – that my contemporaries had never heard. And yes, they thought I was either weird or pretentious.

    But GBS was, as usual, a nutter. The whole “phonetic spelling” movement came to nothing because living languages change their pronunciations continuously. So basically, if you insist on phonetic spelling, you have to reprint all your books, and re-edit all your digital stuff, every 50 or so years. Unless you want to end up trying to read Chaucer in the “original”. And of course we all remember the English “Great Vowel Shift” (qv, Google, of course) don’t we.

    But really, truly, Julie, we did have a pre-web-Google source of information: it was called “libraries” and you could go along to one, and look up indexes and catalogues and consult living human librarians and read things in books and magazines. A bit slower, and a lot less focussed than web-Google, I grant you, but there were always lots of other, incidental but usually fascinating, things you could learn along the way whilst searching for the thing(s) you actually wanted to know.

    But considering the web, if you have any interest in scifi at all, you’d probably enjoy Isaaac Asimov’s short story, The Jokester.

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