February 9th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Running on nearly empty: fool's gamble with fuel reserves

EDITORIAL The challenges are really hitting home in 2019

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coalition's female deficit is more apparent than real

ENERGY 200,000 Victorians left powerless in heatwave

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Migration, instability and the erosion of conscience

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Still time to reach a deal on Brexit

LIFE ISSUES 'Viability' argument is wearing a bit thin

NATIONAL AFFAIRS The strategic silence of the secularists

THE RUDDOCK REVIEW The chimera of freedom of religion in Australia

LITERATURE Tolkien's lost epilogue: tying up loose ends

CULTURE AND POLITICS China exhibits its latest assault on human dignity

HUMOUR BMC-Bitzumishi to release musical wallpaper

MUSIC Cuba on the jazz map: Gonzalo Rubalcaba

CINEMA Glass: Gifts of brokenness

BOOK REVIEW Heroism from a crushed nation

BOOK REVIEW Comprehensively corrects the record

CHILDREN'S CLASSIC A breath of fresh air and innocence



WATER POLICY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

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The challenges are really hitting home in 2019

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, February 9, 2019

Australia faces a broad range of challenges in 2019 and beyond. The political challenges reflect deeper conflicts fracturing the nation’s cultural cohesion.

The federal election will dominate politics in the first half of the year. After three years of divisions in the Liberals, the Labor Party is riding high in the polls. GetUp has announced plans to target Coalition MPs who defend family, faith and freedoms.

As about 25 per cent of Australians no longer vote for a major party, the government will depend on a mixture of minor parties to get their legislation through the Senate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened a Pandora’s box during the 2017 Wentworth by-election with his proposal to remove exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) for faith-based schools.

Only later was it realised that this proposal would mean that, just as with state schools now, girls in faith-based schools would be obliged to allow boys who identify as girls into their private safe spaces and sports. Teachers could face discrimination charges, loss of professional accreditation and employment for non-compliance with the SDA (that is, for no more than exercising their duty of care for girls). While this issue has been put off to the next government, the Labor Party has made it clear that it will remove the exemptions in question.

In 2013, when Labor pushed through changes to make a person’s “gender identity” a protected attribute in the SDA, it created momentum for changes to state and territory laws. Currently there are proposals for “gender fluid” birth certificates in Tasmania and Western Australian, and similar legislation is probably imminent in other states. The Northern Territory proposes aligning its anti- discrimination laws with the federal SDA, while the ACT has already done so.

All these changes impinge on the freedoms of speech and religion. The 2018 Ruddock Religious Freedom Review has been palmed off to the Australian Law Reform Commission. The Commission is to report later this year. Regardless of the Ruddock Review recommendations, there is a major push to restrict, rather than to protect, religious freedoms.

This comes at a time when liberal theology has divided and weakened many Christian churches that are also demoralised over failures to deal with child sexual abuse and other scandals.

More government interference in the family can be expected in some states, along with a push to legalise medical marijuana (as a prelude to legalising the recreational use of marijuana), commercial surrogacy and euthanasia.

An economic slowdown is predicted. Already, 25 per cent of people are unemployed, underemployed or have left the labour force. Many young people struggle in the “gig economy” – holding down several temporary jobs. For the average young person expecting to have five changes in career over their working lives, it is difficult to find the economic stability to plan for marriage and family.

As industry suffers from sharply rising power prices and summer power cuts become common, radical environmental groups are blocking sensible energy policies.

The family is the foundation of society. Australia needs to recognise that and forge new economic policies that will enable a family to buy a home, edu­cate their children, afford health care, accumulate superannuation and to be in a position eventually to contribute – including financially – to voluntary organisations (the mediating structures between the family and the state).

The object should be to make families and voluntary associations as independent as possible of the state.

The signing of memorandums of understanding with China’s belt and road project by Victoria and Western Australia puts at risk Australia’s national security at a time when Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is pursuing an aggressive foreign policy. To ensure its economic and political sovereignty, Australia needs a national development bank to finance the nation’s infrastructure building, for reconstructing agriculture and other industries, and to make the country as independent as possible of Beijing and the international financial markets.

Many of the issues outlined above are symptoms of the undermining of our cultural cohesion by the libertarian idea that a person has “the right to do as they please”. This radical secularist philosophy frames the attacks on family (culturally and economically), faith and freedoms.

The economic backlash against eco­nomic libertarianism is already apparent. The 25 per cent of struggling or unemployed workers corresponds to the 25 per cent who no longer vote for a major party. Overseas, Trump and Brexit represent the backlash.

The greater challenge is in the culture. Radical secularists dominate in many institutions that once buffered the family from the corrosive secular state.

As hostility grows towards ordinary people trying to support and raise their families and freely express their beliefs, the solutions will require more than political responses.

Indeed, political solutions to many of these issues will only be possible once there is an educated and active force of people to challenge the libertarian ascendency in the institutions. That is the great challenge of our time.

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm