Read Tony Abbott’s comments here.
Watch the video here.
Hello – My name is John Roskam – I am the Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.
I’m speaking to you today on Australia Day – the 26th of January 2021 because I believe we should recognise and celebrate Australia’s success as a great democracy.
Australia is still the best country in the world and there is nowhere else where I would rather live and bring up my family.
We should understand that despite what we are sometimes told – the vast majority of Australians also believe today is a day for celebration.
The suggestion that we should hold our nation in contempt and that we should be ashamed of our history is dangerous for many reasons – not the least because it makes us ashamed of ourselves.
A community that hates itself cannot succeed.
We CAN overcome the challenges of the future – and there are many – if we are optimistic about the future and we build on our success. That is what Australians do.
There is no better day than today, to talk about the Australian Way of Life.
Since we were founded in 1943 the Institute of Public Affairs has had as a key objective – ‘to maintain and enhance the Australian Way of Life’.
Today the Australian Way of Life is under threat.
In the 1940s and 50s the IPA led the debate for our political freedoms in the midst of the Cold War.
In the 1980s the IPA led the debate for our economic freedoms.
Today Australia’s challenges are not only political and economic – they are fundamentally cultural.
Indeed some have said Australia is now in a ‘Cultural Cold War’.
We once assumed Australia would always be a free, egalitarian, and democratic nation and that our institutions would reflect the views of mainstream Australians.
But now mainstream Australians have no voice.
Nearly every single major institution and organisation in Australia:
- Schools and universities
- the media
- the public service
- government organisations
- churches and religious groups
- big business
- the professions and trade unions,
- and sporting codes.
have adopted the cultural agenda of the left.
Perhaps most alarming is how our education system denigrates Western Civilisation and its freedoms.
We should not face a future where the views of mainstream Australians are shut out from society – where our speech is controlled, our religious beliefs mocked – or even prohibited, and our jobs threatened.
For too long Australians who who believe in freedom have ignored what is happening to our culture.
We have relied on politics and politicians to secure our way of life – and frankly, they have failed. It is up to us.
Mainstream Australians reject the cultural agenda of the left.
The political parties of the left have lost 8 of the last 10 federal elections in this country – yet it is the cultural agenda of the political left that is ascendant in Australia.
Why is that ?
Partly because of our neglect – and partly because of the success of of the project of the left to divide us according to the resentment of identity politics.
We took it for granted that ideals such as freedom of speech, equality before the law, and respect of people as individuals – not as members of a group – would always prevail – but they haven’t.
Everything has changed – and is changing quickly. But it is also true that what’s occurring has been a long-time coming.
It was 25 years ago the Commonwealth Parliament passed a law that made it unlawful to offend or insult someone.
Now today – it is not the Chinese Communist Party handcuffing and arresting a pregnant mother in her home in front of her children because she exercised her right to freedom of speech to express an opinion about government policy – it is the Victoria Police.
What is happening has no place in Australia – but it is happening.
We have learned no success is permanent and nothing is inevitable.
We should make no mistake – the Australian Way of Life is under threat.
Which is why I’m pleased to announce that Tony Abbott, Australia’s 28th prime minister is joining the Institute of Public Affairs as a Distinguished Fellow.
He will join the fight with the Institute of Public Affairs for the Australian Way of Life.
Today the Institute of Public Affairs is releasing a major research report – entitled ‘ The Fair Go – Going, Gone’.
It analyses 25 key measures of the what’s special about the Australian Way of Life – things like home ownership, participation in the dignity of work, and community involvement – and how they’ve changed over the last 20 years.
Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly the quality of life in Australia has declined.
In fact, as we’ve measured it, the quality in Australia has fallen by around 30% over that time.
Tony Abbott understands what is at stake.
His election as prime minister in 2013 was a watershed in Australian history – it was the triumph of mainstream Australians. His election was a precursor to what was later to happen in the Britain and the United States.
He and his government faced unremitting hostility from those institutions and organisations I’ve just described because he spoke for mainstream Australians and the Australian Way of Life.
There is no-one better in Australia to fight for our way of life than Tony Abbott.
At the beginning of my remarks I spoke about the mission of the Institute of Public Affairs as to maintain and enhance the Australian Way of Life.
My parents came to Australia for a better life.
Our great country, our great democracy has provided a better life to millions of people from all around the world – and we should celebrate that and be proud of it.
The Australian Way of Life is for all of us – no matter for how many generations we have been here.
Today I am on Australia Day 2021 I am reaffirming the 78 year commitment of the Institute of Public Affairs to fight to fight for our values and our culture.
I look forward to sharing with you in the coming months our exciting plans on how together we will save the Australian Way of Life.
I now invite you to hear from Tony Abbott, Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs.
I’m very pleased to be speaking today as a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs, because for nearly 80 years now, the IPA has been striving to preserve and extend the freedoms we enjoy as Australians.
And what better time to be joining such a body than this?
When we reflect on what it means to be an Australian.
And of course, the first part of any self-appraisal should be to count one’s blessings. So it’s only fitting on this, our national day, to affirm that anyone with the right to reside in Australia has truly won the lottery of life.
Within a mere lifetime of the First Fleet’s landing at Sydney Cove, a prison colony had become an advanced democracy with what’s thought to have been the world’s highest standard of living.
Our nationhood was achieved not by war or revolution, but through a series of constitutional conventions and people’s votes.
Twice in the 20th century, Australians volunteered in the epic struggles for human freedom and our soldiers’ sacrifice made the world a better place.
And especially over the past 70 years, we’ve welcomed migrants from all around the globe and been the stronger and the better for it, because each one of them has chosen Australia.
Of course, we’re not perfect, so should shun cheerleading. Even on Australia day.
Indigenous disadvantage remains the most grievous blot on our national record.
Still, successive generations of Australians have produced a nation that’s as free, as fair and as prosperous as any.
And that’s been uniquely shaped by an Indigenous heritage, a British foundation, and an immigrant character.
We have so much to be proud of.
Our challenge is to keep it that way, because who we are and how we live is under more stress than we’d like to admit.
And here is a small, but I think telling, example: Along with calling everyone by their first name and expecting everyone, even national leaders, to be in the stands with the general public at the footy, it was almost the mark of an Australian to sit beside the driver in the front seat of a taxi because here in this country, no-one’s better than anyone else.
But like so much – that is currently against the rules, along with singing, dancing, and having too many friends and family around for a barbecue.
Thanks to the pandemic, we’re now told to form orderly and socially distanced queues as if we were English.
For our own good, of course, as no one ever makes rules without a reason. It’s just that if we’re not careful freedom and self-reliance can evaporate.
Now, sure – for the past year, we’ve been coping with a potentially deadly disease. But it takes a fair dose of virus hysteria and health despotism for Australians to be barred from Victoria without first getting a visa.
And to be barred all together from Western Australia, due to just a few cases of disease with an infection fatality rate for people under 50 of less than one in 5,000.
Better than almost any other country in this pandemic, we’ve certainly saved lives. So let’s be grateful.
But in the process we’ve damaged them too. The old people who’ve spent their last days in forced isolation from family and friends. The families separated by capricious border closures. The businesses ruined and the jobs lost in a stop-start economy.
And the psychological cost of living under rules that were rarely explained or justified and often seemed contradictory, even absurd – like having to wear a face mask while driving alone.
So, while grateful that the pandemic has not been worse, let’s not underestimate the damage that’s been done, even in doing good.
Now with vaccines coming, the virus threat should pass. But what won’t ever pass is the ongoing need to keep our country safe, our economy strong and our people together, in the Prime Minister’s words.
Indeed, that will only get harder to the extent that we’ve become conditioned to have experts give us all the answers and to have governments then tell us exactly what to do.
As for staying safe, we can’t take it for granted that our region will remain peaceful, especially if China tries to take Taiwan by force. But how ready are we to join our allies to stop any attempt to crush a free people – and like our forebears to put lives on the line in a good cause?
As for staying prosperous, just because the Reserve Bank can create vast amounts of credit now, doesn’t mean that bubble won’t some time burst. And aside from Snowy Hydro building new baseload power that doesn’t require intergovernmental agreement or legislative change, what economic reforms are even possible now? With a Senate where governments can almost never count on a majority and a Federation where, as we’ve seen, states still hold the whip hand.
And as for staying together, will future generations be proud of Australia, if so much of our educational establishment isn’t? Yet alongside the Indigenous, sustainability and Asian perspectives now embedded in every element of our national school curriculum, where’s the push to put James Cook and Arthur Phillip up and people like Sir John Monash and Lord Florey – to name just a few of our heroes- where’s the push to put them on their well-deserved pedestals?
So after a lost year, it is time for a reset. But not the politically-correct woke reset that seems to be brewing.
Remembering who we are and what we stand for and all the great things we’ve achieved and our own distinctive contribution to the English-speaking version of Western Civilisation. That’s what’s needed for our continued success. Because self-confidence is as important for countries as it is for individuals.
That’s why the work of the IPA is so important and why it’s timely to be part of it.
You know, when I was growing up, there was plenty of argument about the best way to take Australia forward, but there was no lack of faith in Australia itself.
There was endless dispute about what constituted progress, but no questioning whether progress was even possible.
Yet how can there be anything fundamentally wrong with a country that is admired and even envied all around the world?
And that attracts millions of migrants every decade, because of the welcome we give.
It’s this welcome that’s characteristic of a country that gives everyone a fair go.
And the flip side of giving everyone a fair go is expecting people to do their best, to have a go too. And that’s the issue.
These days, there’s more of the former and less of the latter. And the pandemic is making it worse. For a full year, we’ve let a virus dominate our lives and, in the process, put safety before freedom, prudence before courage and avoiding danger before accepting risk. Even though courage, conviction and character remain vital to our success as a people and as a nation.
With its research on Australian values, the IPA will help nurture that great tradition of the fair go and encourage that equally Australian tradition to have a go. Because you won’t get a fair go if you’re not prepared to give one too.
Now, one of our best historians. Sir Keith Hancock, once wrote for the IPA it is right for Australians to feel proud of their good management and grateful for their good luck. But complacency, he said, could do as much damage now as it did during the 1920s.
Today, he said, in the nation’s economic, political, and social life, there are some headaches which, failing the right remedies, could become dangerous. Dangerous illnesses.
It was economic protectionism, not health protectionism that Hancock was referring to when he said that it would be ignominious – yes, ignominious – if Australians were to make a second surrender to the propaganda for protection all round.
But isn’t the pursuit of safety-first as much a mirage now as it was back in the very different context of the 1960s, when Hancock was speaking?
The IPA’s consideration of the Australian way of life won’t just be policy-focused like the rest of its work, what we were, what we are and what we should be are the questions I will be helping to ponder. The cultural issues that are upstream of politics, but that shape it over time.
If we are disappointed or frustrated with our politics at different times – most of us are – what’s needed is to rebuild and to strengthen our culture and to renew our sense of what’s Australia’s best self.
Now, that won’t come from deconstructing our history or our heroes, or by imported fads like sports stars taking the knee.
Because if there are to be better ways of dealing with a virus than hiding under the doona whenever there’s a new cluster or locking out the world for the duration, all those Australians who’ve ever turned adversity into opportunity will inspire us to find them.
These are the stories we need to recall to steel us, to keep calm and to carry on in the face of any future peril.
This lucky country of ours has only really succeeded because enough of us have made the most of all our blessings.
We don’t know whether our luck will hold. We do know that come what may, the braver we are the better our future will be.
I’m looking forward to you joining me and the IPA to preserve and defend the Australian way of life that has meant so much to us.