Update - Free Speech Victoria has sent me a response to my letter suggesting that they should ask Julian Burnside to return his Voltaire award. I'm a little busy until monday I will post it then.
Update - Julian Burnside has commented again on things I publish his comment below.
You think I am trying to suppress expression of honestly held opinions. I am not.It is time to take action against dishonest politicians, and it would not be difficult.Most members of the public see honesty as a core value in our society. In personal dealings, dishonesty on matters of any significance is rightly regarded as an unacceptable breach of standards. In commerce, section 52 of the Trade Practices Act prohibits companies from engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct.Politicians fill a vital role in our society. Why should the behaviour of politicians fall short of the standards Parliament has set for business, and which we all set for ourselves? There are many different ways of lying. Notoriously, telling only part of the truth is a way of misleading the unwary. It is the way generally favoured by politicians, because it is less easily exposed than a direct falsehood. In Parliament, politicians are not allowed to mislead the house. They should not be allowed to mislead the public â€“ they are the servants of the public, paid from the public purse, and representing the public interest.Most people believe politicians lie. Some politicians lie more than others. It is not a trivial problem. Every time politicians lie to us, they betray the public in a fundamentally important way. But honesty in politicians is important for another reason. Politiciansâ€™ vision for the future generally does not extend past the next election. Anything over that magic horizon is put aside for another time, unless it is worth some votes. If politicians could be punished for misleading and deceptive conduct, they would have to confront long-term problems much sooner.Global warming is a recent, although possibly a contentious, example. The science concerning global warming has been clear at least since the Independent Panel on Climate Change Report of 1995. Politicians confronted with the scientific evidence have a future choices: they can say they believe it is true and that there is a problem; they can say they do not believe it is true, and that there is not a problem; or they can say that they do not know or do not care. But if the opinion they express is not an opinion they truly hold, then they mislead us. If politicians were forced to express an honest opinion â€“ that is to say an opinion they honestly hold â€“ rather than one peddled by vested interests or lobbyists, we may have begun the conversation about global warming a decade ago. Enforcing honesty in politicians would help extend the policy horizon beyond the next election.Several commentators have dismissed the idea of a law which would punish politicians for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct. Laurie Oakes suggested that it should be judged and dealt with at elections. Unfortunately, this is no solution at all. It has been shown repeatedly that it does not work. The reason is simple. A vote at an election is dictated by many things, only one of which is an assessment of the candidateâ€™s honesty. Generally speaking, a candidate whose dishonesty has been exposed will nevertheless be supported in the election if he or she offers a sufficient inducement â€“ lower interest rates, higher Centrelink benefits, or whatever. By contrast, Courts have vast experience in judging whether a person has engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct. It is a question which courts can abnd should decide. One thing is certain: if it is possible for a politician to be jailed for misleading the public, we will hear a lot more truth from them. That has to be a good thing.
I still haven't had time to do much with FSV's response but I publish it here. I will comment on it in detail in a day or so, but one thing I will say is - FSV defends Burnsides comments as being said in jest, I can't see anything of that defence in Julians response to me. I reckon FSV is just intellectually corrupt and desperately looking for excuses for the words of their favourites.
We thank Mr. Williams for his letter; though it was addressed to me (The Treasurer) I am certain that I will reflect the views of my fellow committee members in my reply.
It is not our role to define, identify or defend the political affiliations or views of our
‘Voltaire Award’ recipients nor for that matter our members.
As for our award recipients I doubt if Stephen Mayne and Allen Fels would fall under Mr Williams’ definition of “left wing”. We don’t think Andrew Wilkie was left wing until the government made him so. In fact he is specific in his book about being politically conservative.
Mr. Williams agrees with us in the fact that governments both Labour and Liberal may in turn “restrict freedom of speech and freedom of information” .We suggest that free speech issues often are directed toward the ruling government of the day – so what ever personal persuasions we may be of, we will be concerned with any legislative diminution to the right to free speech of the current government.
Mr. Malcolm Frazer and Pauline Hanson attest that criticism of government policy is not the exclusive prerogative of the left.
I believe for Mr. Williams to suggest we are overtly bias is naïve, if not totally unjustified, our guest speakers at our annual meetings are proof of the opposite.
In regard to Mr. Williams’s opinion on Julian Burnside being a worthwhile recipient of the Voltaire award we can only strongly disagree.
It is of no consequence but Mr. Julian Burnside has publicly declared he once voted for John Howard.
Our system of the secret ballot prevents us from knowing if he still does.
I suspect when Julian Burnside recommended the incarceration of politicians who lie
he did so in wry humour, in the glorious tradition of ‘Rumpole of the Baily’.
As to Julian Burnside’s view on climate change, we understand this to be a topic of open and at times controversial debate. Mr. Williams may be persuaded that
Mr. Burnside is lying. We have no opinion on Mr.Burnside’s views on this particular issue nor that of Mr. Williams’ other than recommending the continuation of an open debate.
It is hardly the basis of a valid criticism of Free Speech Victoria or a test of our credibility.
Perhaps if every one who lied were forced to drive on the Monash freeway at eight o’clock in the morning there would be a traffic jam.
Mr. Williams praises our contribution to Victoria but refuses to be a member; his prediction of our “slow death” might be seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is hardly a genuine statement of support.
We thank him for contacting us
Hon Treasurer .
More to come soon.
P.S. Seeing as Mr Burnside is using his name, I feel I should do the same. I am Stephen Williams I doubt whether any of you have ever heard of me. I have little education and have to work things out using my common sense and thinking as well as I can. Which leaves me a little handicapped compared to those who I discuss.