January 25: Australia Day? Almost

“The First Fleet in Sydney Cove, January 27, 1788”, by John Allcott

On this day, 251 years ago, Great Britain established its first settlement in the Falkland Islands, at Port Egmont. If not for the weather, the 25th of January would also be known as Australia Day.

Precisely 23 years after the Port Egmont settlement, a British fleet was in the process of establishing another settlement, this time in New South Wales. Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in Botany Bay on the 18th January, but having found the conditions unsuitable, looked elsewhere.

Sydney Cove was selected by Phillip as the place of settlement, and on the 25th January immediately prepared to make the journey.

While Phillip arrived that evening on the HMS Supply, Captain John Hunter, who was following in the transports, was irrevocably delayed. The wind was blowing too strong for them leave the bay, leaving the transports to arrive on the following evening instead.

There, the British flag was unfurled, toasts were drunk and volleys of musketry fired. Meanwhile, Australia’s destiny was forever changed.

The First Fleet brought with them British institutions of justice, the rule of law, and constitutional government. With these foundations, later generations would federate the Australian colonies into one of the most successful, stable continuous democracies in the world. This is why we rightly celebrate Australia Day on the 26th January.

And it appears Australians overwhelmingly agree. A new poll conducted by Research Now found that 91 per cent of respondents are “proud to be Australian”, while 85 per cent believe that “Australia Day is a day for celebrating”. (My colleague James Paterson has more here).

While Australia is by no means perfect, we get a lot right – and the world is a much better place for Australia being a part of it.

There will much distress from predictable quarters on what Australia Day means: Ignore this elitist agitation. Be unashamed in celebrating our heritage, and for that matter, don’t let bad winds from 228 years ago stop you from doing it a day “early”.


Who said the Magna Carta was irrelevant?


Despite being 800 years old, the Great Charter is still powerful enough to unsettle the communist authorities in China:

A 1217 version of the Magna Carta was supposed to go on view this week in Beijing’s Renmin University. But Chinese authorities apparently blocked its appearance there; the document went on display instead in the house of the British ambassador to a very limited number of guests.

An official with the British foreign office said the decision was made “based on administrative and logistical practicalities.”

Observers have immediately seen the decision in the wider context of China’s authoritarian politics. The country is is in the midst of an ongoing crackdown on activists and civil society groups. Communist party diktat specifically rejects reference to “constitutional democracy” or universal values — principles that the Magna Carta is credited with having, to a certain extent, enshrined.

In a country where the rule of law is not practiced, the symbolism of the Magna Carta can be powerful indeed.


WATCH: Leyonhjelm on the true history of the Nanny State

In parliament this week, NSW senator and chairman of the Inquiry into Personal Choice and Community Impacts, David Leyonhjelm, defined the ‘Nanny State’, and explained how the phrase came about. Watch the senator’s remarks below:

For more, see the IPA’s Chris Berg’s opening statement to the Senate’s Nanny State inquiry last week, here, while the IPA’s submission to the inquiry can be found here.


Email: Greenpeace attacks IPA for being too successful


Last week, it was announced that the Institute of Public Affairs was in the running to win the prestigious international Templeton Freedom Award in Washington for its role in repealing the carbon tax.


The IPA is one of six finallists for the $US100,000 prize, granted by the American non-profit organisation the Atlas Network. The Guardian reported:

A glowing description of the IPA’s campaign strategy against the carbon tax – which was passed under the Gillard government in 2011 and repealed by the Abbott government in 2014 – is detailed on the Atlas Network website.

The report lauded the IPA’s influence in the Australian media landscape. “Starting from the day the tax was announced, the IPA took an active role in the mainstream media to counter the misinformation that advocates of the carbon tax were peddling,” the report reads.

“The IPA’s research and analysis of the economics underpinning the case for the carbon tax appeared in print media outlets 209 times between Jan 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014.

“IPA research scholars also featured on radio and television stations around Australia, with 363 radio appearances between 2008 and 2013 and 261 television appearances in the same time frame.”

But not everyone is happy. As reported in The Australian last Friday, Greenpeace Australia has called on the IPA to donate any prize money to – wait for it – a climate change charity:

“We are calling on them to donate the prize money in full, should they be successful, to a charity that is helping poorer nations to deal with the impact of climate change.”

IPA deputy executive director James Paterson said that wouldn’t be happening.

“Environmental organisations like Greenpeace campaign for higher taxes, more regulation and bigger government and that goes against the philosophy of the foundation that’s handing out this award,” he said.

Mr Paterson didn’t want to assume his organisation would win the prize.

“It’s a pretty impressive field. The Venezuelan entrants are literally putting their lives on the line with the things they do,” he said.

Senate Inquiry submission continues the IPA’s fight against the Nanny State

Nanny_state submission

On Monday, the IPA lodged a submission with the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into personal choice and community impacts.

The submission includes a collection of excerpts from published IPA works on the economics, philosophy, and practicalities of paternalism generally, and as applied to a wide range of particular policy areas.

There are a number of reasons to reject Nanny State policies, and our submission highlights the key arguments against paternalism. One of the most powerful is the anti-democratic argument:

Paternalism violates one of the core ethical constructs at the heart of our liberal democracy: the claim that we are each capable of exercising rational and self-regarding decision making, and have the right to make such decisions at the ballot box. If we believe that claim holds true for voting, why do we not believe it holds true for market choice? It is important that policymakers understand the full significance of their assertion that individuals are unable to make decisions on their own behalf, and that they require the assistance of higher authorities. This is in fact a radical anti-democratic argument which elevates policy-makers above the station of those from whom they derive their political legitimacy.

Click here to download and read the IPA’s submission.

The not-so-secular origin of the Australian common law

It is frequently said that the Australian legal and political system is – and must be – free from any hint of religiosity. As an illustration of this, the Victorian state government recently confirmed that it would be dropping religious education from schools, with the AEU saying such a programme “was at odds with Victoria’s secular education system.”

Extraordinarily, state schools are to make space for ‘world histories, cultures, faiths and ethics’, as well as the ‘inclusion of respectful relationships education’ that will ‘help address gender stereotypes and discrimination’.

Behind the shallow calls of a separation of church and state (a deeply misused phrase) rests an undeniable truth that religion, and in particular Christianity, was a fundamental building block of Australian society.

For more, read Dr Augusto Zimmermann’s article on FreedomWatch last week ‘The not-so-secular foundations of Australia’s legal-political institutions‘.

3 articles from this week you must read

  • A rare victory for common sense! Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian on the rejection of confected outrage in favour of old-fashioned law and reason ($).
  • Don’t like Trump? You can blame his popularity on political correctness, as SE Cupp does in Townhall this week.
  • And in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, IPA Executive Director John Roskam revealed which important group of Australians was left out of the National Reform Summit.

Some other recent highlights from FreedomWatch

Kindest regards,

Morgan Begg
Editor of FreedomWatch – Institute of Public Affairs


The not-so-secular foundations of Australia’s legal-political institutions


While the Australian legal-political tradition cannot lay claim to the historical depth of America and the United Kingdom, it too was built on solid foundations—starting with the first British fleet departing for Australia in 1787, when Captain Arthur Phillip was instructed to take such steps as were necessary for the celebration of public worship.

At the time of British settlement in Australia, Christianity formed an integral part of the theory of English law and civil government. In his seminal work, A History of English Law, Sir William Holdsworth expressed the traditional view of the close relationship between Christianity and the common law:

Christianity is part and parcel of the common law of England, and therefore is to be protected by it; now whatever strikes at the very root of Christianity tends manifestly to dissolution of civil government.

While the penal colony of New South Wales was established in 1788, English law was not recognised until the passage of the Australian Courts Act 1828 (Imp.). This Act determined that all laws and statutes in force in England at that time were to be, as far as it was possible, applied in the courts of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.

When the English common law was transplanted to Australia, the supreme courts of the colonies were empowered to decide which English laws were applicable to Australia. It was at that moment that Christianity was included in the law of the land.

The place of Christianity in the common law was not only acknowledged, but unconditionally adopted by the Supreme Court of NSW in the case of Ex Parte Thackeray (1874). The reception of these principles was perhaps best encapsulated in that case by Justice Hargrave, who famously commented that:

We, the colonists of New South Wales, “bring out with us” … this first great common law maxim distinctly handed down by [Sir Edward] Coke and [Sir William] Blackstone and every other English Judge long before any of our colonies were in existence or even thought of, that ‘Christianity is part and parcel of our general laws’; and that all the revealed or divine law, so far as enacted by the Holy Scripture to be of universal obligation, is part of our colonial law….

It has been said that a people without historical memory can be easily deceived by false and destructive philosophies. Although undeniably diminished and rarely acknowledged, the Christian religion has an enduring role in the Australian legal-political system. In these days of political correctness and cultural relativism, it is always good to be reminded of our Christian heritage, which still permeates most of the present laws and socio-political institutions of this democratic nation. To state this obvious fact is not to be ‘intolerant’ but to simply stress an undeniable truth.


The French revolutionaries’ ‘commitment’ to freedom of speech


On this day in 1789, French National Constituent Assembly adopted the very short-lived Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Included in the declaration were two articles which sought to protect the expression of opinions, and that the ‘free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man’.

Indeed, the French Revolutionaries presented free speech and freedom of the press as foundations of their society. It was short-lived because the revolution was not actually inspired by a devotion to natural rights, and these principles were completely discarded by the time of the Reign of Terror in 1793-94.

The articles which protected freedom of speech (articles 10 and 11) came with prominent caveats which left them exposed to the inevitable efforts to restrain those freedoms. Moreover, the revolutionaries’ were never really committed to natural rights such as freedom of speech. As Chris Berg wrote in his 2012 book, In Defence of Freedom of Speech:

The Marquis de Lafayette – veteran of the American revolution – drafted one of the first proposed declarations for consideration. Drawing on bills of rights in the American state constitutions, Lafayette’s proposal was unequivocal. Rights were ‘inalienable’, and freedom of conscience and the press were to be protected absolutely. There were no caveats in Lafayette’s proposed declarations.

Yet Lafayette was in the minority… There was no significant constituency in the Assembly for an absolute statement on freedom of the press. And there was no consensus that that free expression of ides was a core ideal of the revolution…

This may, perhaps, seem incongruous. The French Revolution was presented as a revolution driven and inspired by natural rights… Yet as Alexis de Tocqueville argued, political freedom was a late-comer to the ideals of the revolution. It was the last philosophy to be adopted, and the first to be abandoned. The philosophes had first in mind a program of government reform. The ideals of ‘freedom’, when they were adopted on the eve of the revolution, often clashed with that program, and it was freedom that lost out…

Abbé Sieyès, a Catholic clergyman… proposed a general law on sedition and criminal libel to the National Committee in January 1790 – just a few months after the Declaration had been adopted. By 1793, even calling for the dissolution of the revolutionary government was punishable by death. The Terror demanded the elimination of seditious speech.

There had never been a consensus on freedom of speech, as a close reading of the clumsily worded Declaration reveals. But whatever promise  the revolution did offer to liberals like Lafayette, it had well and truly disappeared by the Terror.


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