Conservative politicians and commentators calling for the sacking of Ms Yassmin Abdel-Magied from her remunerated jobs at the ABC and Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) are doing themselves a disservice and, far worse, assaulting the values of a liberal-democratic nation. They would be better advised to point out the flaws in Ms Abdel-Magied’s arguments and hold her statements up to the ridicule they deserve.
But they should not be calling for her sacking or silencing — not if they simultaneously support the repeal of Section 18c, as no doubt most do.
Before I am accused of being an apologist for Islam or a pseudo-conservative, let me state from the outset that, like many conservatives, I am sceptical of claims by Islamic apologists that the creed in any way resembles a religion of peace and tolerance. Further, I believe the level of Muslim immigration, particularly from the Middle East, needs to be reined in as it poses a significant threat to the culture and values of this nation. But those are arguments best left to another day.
Back to Abdel-Magied: some conservatives are arguing that, as her roles with the ABC and the Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) are funded by the Australian taxpayer, she should be fired for a Facebook post she shared with the world on Anzac Day. Her critics claim the post – “Lest we forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)” – undermined the meaning of Australia’s most sacrosanct day by politicising it. Further, they noted that the infamous post hijacked and prostituted the memory of Australian men and women who have served our nation, including many who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Let there be no doubt that I agree with the criticisms of her post, which was both ill-informed and ill-advised — an attack on the national ethos, on Australians’ sense that we are a nation baptised in blood on the beaches at Gallipoli, as it were. It is beyond all doubt our most sacred day.
Like many of Ms Abdel-Magied’s comments on programs like the ABC’s Q&A, her post was risible and invited ridicule. (Remember when she claimed Islam was the “most feminist religion”?)
OK, let’s say that Ms Abdel-Magied craves the limelight, that she seldom shrinks from demonstrating a lack of judgment and understanding of Australian culture. Poor judgment and not understanding one’s audience might be sacking offences for a journalist at any reputable media organisation. But Abdel-Magied’s detractors are not calling for her sacking on those grounds. Those should be a matter for the ABC’s producers, editors and managers. Let’s leave her work performance in their (in)competent Left hands.
Similarly, Ms Abdel-Magied’s future with CAAR should come down to a question of what value she adds, if any, to the Council’s purpose. It would be nice to think Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is currently ploughing through the Council’s mission statement and constitution to determine if gross public stupidity detracts from the CAAR’s stated purpose. And that’s the nub: Ms Abdel-Magied’s views and the exercise of her right to free speech should be a consideration only if they undermine the purpose of the Council, whatever that might be.
The simple fact is that many of Ms Abdel-Magied’s critics want her sacked for what she said. This is where I part company with them, and any thinking conservative must come with me because those calling for her sacking are treading a very dangerous path.
A cornerstone of liberal democracy, of Australia’s political values, is freedom of speech. Every conservative I know has railed against attempts by the Left and so-called progressives to silence our side on a range of issues, from Muslim immigration to same-sex marriage. It is therefore hypocritical to call for Ms Abdel-Magied’s sacking because they don’t like what she says. Not surprisingly those demanding she be axed are now finding themselves the subject of ridicule in the Fairfax press, the ABC and other bastions of Leftist lockstep thought.
Are we the obverse image of our opponents, similarly eager to apply the gag when we don’t like what we are hearing?
There is a scene from Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons that conservatives would do well to recall:
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
If we can call for Ms Abdel-Magied’s sacking today, the Left could one day call for any of us to be sacked for our conservative views. Actually, the Left does that already. Just ask Piers Akerman, who was bounced from the ABC’s Insiders for daring to utter in public, and in the context of that episode’s particular conversation, widespread rumours about the love life of Julia Gillard.
Either we believe in the principle of free speech, or we do not. We cannot be pick-and-choose conservatives on this matter or any other.
Of course another (perhaps less noble) reason for us to protect Ms Abdel-Magied’s right to speak her mind is that every time she opens her mouth, Ms Abdel-Magied does tremendous damage to the Left’s cause. Like few others she highlight the true hollowness and absurdity of the progressivist agenda.
Bravo, Ms Abdel-Magied! Bravo! Please keep that big mouth flapping.
Rather than seeing the ABC take Ms Abdel-Magied off the air, I pray the national broadcaster creates another program just for her. Long live free speech and her stream of nonsenses. Her every word is an example and indictment of the Left’s embrace of identity politics and its elevation of idiocy to a virtue.
Alistair Nicholas is a Sydney-based public affairs executive who has served as a Coalition adviser and an Australian diplomat.