In April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australians that Australia’s period of time spent in Afghanistan was worth it, because “freedom is always worth it.”
But despite this comment, Australians are currently experiencing the most restrictions on their freedoms ever. We are currently imprisoned three times over; in our houses, in our respective states, and in our own country.
In Sydney, the defence forces are being used against civilians to enforce house arrest. In Melbourne, unarmed citizens who took to the streets believing freedom was worth fighting for were shot at indiscriminately with nonlethal bullets and pepper-sprayed by riot police.
All Australians, no matter the position in society they currently occupy, must be reminded that each and every one of us is a direct beneficiary of hard-won freedoms.
In the fledgling days of the penal colony, Captain Arthur Philip envisioned that if a future colony were to become a successful society, it would enjoy “British-style freedoms.”
Over the course of two hundred years, Australians fought tooth and nail to be free people who were able to take control over their own lives and govern themselves.
They fought for the freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. They fought for freedom to move, freedom to protest, and protection from state tyranny and governmental overreach—which was primarily achieved thanks to the Magna Carta of 1215.
In 1854, Peter Lalor led the men and women on the goldfields of Eureka against exorbitantly priced mining licenses, which the then-government responded to by sending troops—many of whom were taken out of prison and put into uniform—to ensure compliance. They took the oath and meant it, “We swear by the Southern Cross, to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”
In the 20th century, thousands of Australians volunteered to give up their lives for these freedoms in two world wars. They understood the grave threat facing democratic countries around the world and were prepared to die defending them. They are immortalised in the Byzantine dome of the Australian War Memorial, which was designed to evoke the “renewal of life’s forces and celebrates the immortality of those who believed in freedom and ultimately died to defend it.”
Just 75 years later, we have arrived at a time in the history of this country when Australians who value freedom have found themselves in the strange position of having to justify why freedom is good.
Worse still, those who believe in freedom are demonised by politicians, the media, and their fellow citizens as enemies of the state.
The speed with which many Australians have trustingly handed over their freedoms to the state has been astonishing, and the willingness of citizens to report on others, even more so.
Australia is a country in which the majority of the population do what they are told. As a result, Australians have assumed that the government has their best interests at heart and have enormous trust in the democratic institution.
This makes sense because, by and large, Australia has been governed reasonably well.
However, in the last 18 months, Australians now have excellent reasons to mistrust our state and federal governments, as they have exhibited the same tendency towards Australians.
We know, for example, that there is little trust in the populace to the point that now phones can be used to track and monitor whether individuals are dumping rubbish illegally.
The problem now is that having lost trust in the government, every Australian citizen has to decide what action to take. If they choose to exercise their democratic right to protest, they risk being arrested or shot with non-lethal bullets.
As such, the only way we will restore our freedoms is to use one of the few democratic institutions we have left, democracy itself, to elect politicians who will give us our freedoms back.