How our freedoms can be maintained

It was Winston Churchhill who said, “Never waste a good crisis” and certainly governments of all persuasions and levels in the democratic world have taken advantage of the existing situation. The current corona-virus has seen all sorts of previously freedoms erased from the public arena adding that “this new norm”.  George Orwell said, “Once freedom is taken away they will not be given back”.

Quite apart from the current restrictions (and at places draconian) on freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of action and even freedom of thought (Nigel Forage, social commentator from the UK was told by the police he will have to “rethink”) many, many people have been arrested for even questioning such abuses of power. We are not talking about Communist China, Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but western democracies.

There have even been attempts of late to control the media.  Without a free media and an independent judiciary, freedom cannot be guaranteed. Spirited debate between the ABC and sections of Sky News is as it should be, providing an array of opinion. 

There are, however, other proven ways to give the people power which may not be in the interest of governments, who now seem to think they know what is best for us all.

In California at the moment, the Governor, Gavin Newsom, may be sacked by the people.  That is because they have, what is termed, the Power of Recall, as do other US States. Recall is a procedure where an elected official can be removed from office before the election by the consent of the majority of the electorate.

Do we need something similar in Australia?  Indeed there are two other methods that can be used that gives great decision making to the electorate, much to the chagrin of government.  These methods help to ensure the gross abuse of power by those who rule us contained.  These are Citizens Imitated Referenda (CIR) and Voters’ Veto VV).

CIR is termed direct democracy, giving power to the people.  It works extra well and has done since 1891, in Switzerland. There, citizens can launch a popular initiative to demand a change to the constitution. Any eligible voter can participate. In Switzerland (population in excess of 8 million) when 100,000 valid signatures are in favour of a proposal within a period of 18 months, can initiate a referendum.  This allows all eligible citizens to participate in decision-making. The beauty of the system is that the central government cannot refuse the Will of the People; they are obliged to accept the people’s decision.  People also have the right to reject certain international treaties.  As stated, it works well and despite critics, there is no election chaos.  It is well ordered and a referendum can be held at the same time of the local or federal elections.

The other is Voters’ Veto. This gives, again, power to the people. After collecting enough signatures, poorly worded legislation or legislation that is not in the interest of the people can be vetoed.  The government then would have the opportunity to put its case forward, but if again if rejected, the government is obligated to honour the People’s Will.

In 1991, Neil Robson, who was in the Tasmanian Parliament from 1976-1992, came close to having Voters’ Veto passed by the Tasmanian Government.  He was not successful.  I worked with Neil on this project as I saw that if passed, it would give power to the people and stop in some measure the intrigues of party politics. 

Each state in the Australian Commonwealth needs CIR and VV although there is a case if we had CIR we would not need VV. 

We have to recognise that governments do not necessarily work in the interest of the people; often they work in their own interests.  Freedom does not come from governments, nor will (and there are exceptions) politicians go battling for the freedom of citizens. They will do what their Party will tell them to do.  Freedom is a powerful urge. People have fought for freedom since we have walked the earth.  We have seen countless tyrants over the thousands of year come and go, but go they did. Freedom is not given; it has to be won and once won it has to be safeguarded.  Our inherited freedoms such as the Magna Carter, the 1688 Bill of Rights, which sets out basic civil rights, Common Law, our own Australian Constitution and the International Charter of Human Rights  – and I dare say many more – have been ignored and abused with many of the people accepting without question that those in charge have our best interest at heart.  I can only add what ex-President of the United States Ronald Reagan warned.  “The most terrifying words in the English language are, Í am here from the government and I’m here to help you”. The growth of government over our lives is frightening.  We, the People, must have ways to control this intrusion.

Dealing with the Media

As one who at the time of writing has had more than fifty years of experience with the media in all its forms, printed, television, radio and video, I would like to pass on to you some experiences and knowledge how the media works.  In your time during your chosen career, your life outside of your profession and perhaps beyond, it is important for you to know how to deal with the media.

The media is never on your side.  Never make the mistake thinking that they are.  Never make the mistake believing you can use the media to your advantage.  You never can.  The media will do what it wants to do.  Always keep this in mind.  The media is not your friend.  On occasions it may appear they are, but that is only because they are getting a story or a comment from you, which is to their advantage, not to yours.  It may be true that you can also gain from the publicity, but publicity can work both ways, it can be helpful and/or it can be unhelpful.

Always be in charge of your acceptance of the media remembering they are there to use you. It is true you can use them as well, but do not make the mistake you are controlling them. You will not. They are not your friend.  They are not there to further your career.  It may be true that they can help your career, but keep in mind if it is in their interest they will turn against you and the result will be not what you were hoping it to be.

When being interviewed by the media, stay on the subject, do not stray.  Be careful what you say; saying the wrong thing can be disastrous for you.  Anything controversial said by you, they will latch on to.  That is why I say, be careful what you and stay on the subject.  If you can, think and rehearse what you are going to say beforehand.  I repeat, do not say outlandish things or controversial, for those comments will be what will be aired. Be careful. Remember too and this is very important and many in the limelight foolishly do not seem to consider it; everyone now has a camera, especially with phone cameras and security cameras.  Knowing this be sure you are on your good behaviour at all times.  Do not let them catch you out.  Speak and behave sensibly.  Anyone nowadays think they can have their five minutes of fame, by catching one on a camera in a compromising situation. Most people do not have personal responsibility when it comes to other people; they think only of their selves and what they can get out of it whether it is financial or their moment of brief fame – or it could be a combination of both.

I cannot emphasise your personal responsibility to yourself in this regard and to your family. Be aware of the media and be aware that everyone is now watching, because of the proliferations of cameras. Also too in this age of political correctness, the media is just hoping you will say the wrong thing and run with it. This is what I mean, when I say stay on the subject and speak sensibly.

I repeat, the media is NOT your friend, even though it may give an impression that it is.  Never, ever, give a comment “off the cuff” because that is what they will hone in on.

Be upstanding, be diplomatic and as said, keep to the subject and give sensible and authoritive comments.  Never criticise a colleague, be loyal to your friends and to those who depend upon you.  The media can be there to help you in your career, but also remember they can destroy your career.  Too many immature people in this regard have destroyed themselves.

Beware of the media; do not think you can use them to your advantage and that they are on your side.  Be careful in what you say to them.  By all means appear on the media, but manage your appearances wisely.  In time, experience will show you this and until then, be wary. They are not there to deliberately promote your career, even though they may say so or give that impression.  They are there to get a story and it means destroying you, they will.  Always be wise to them…at times it may be best to refrain from saying anything.  Always be polite to them because if they feel you are treating them poorly they have the power to give you bad publicity even though it would be unjustified. They are human beings and they can hold a grudge.

I cannot overly state too much, learn all about the media and their tactics. I can tell you knowing many in the media (and yes there have been some good ones) very few of them have scruples especially when on the scent of a good story.  They will manipulate the result they want, even though it is far from the truth, without any conscience. This is human nature and the media is no different.

Remember if you go “live” anything you say cannot be edited. Be extra careful in what you say.  On the other hand if it is pre-recorded they can edit it to their advantage, so again be careful in what you say.  Never relax your alertness.  Speak with confidence and speak with authority. At times it may be necessary to be fully honest and simply say something like, I really know how much about that subject or of those matters. Always be honest, never make up stories, exaggerate or lie, because it will be found out and you will have to answer for it.

When in public always behave like a gentleman; never show off or behave in an unruly manner, because you are on show.  People are watching you.  Many will be waiting for you to make a mistake and cause harm to your personal reputation or bring your club into dishonour.  Remember, we live in political correct times, so never give the media the story they want or would like.

Too many religious leaders, sportsmen, politicians, pop stars and movie stars believe in their own publicity.  They come to believe they are mini gods.  They are fools. Invariably their puffed-up pride is their downfall.  Remember the old proverb – the bigger they are, the bigger they fall.

I have survived all these years, simply because I knew how far I could go and how much I could and should say.

I can only give advice, the future is in your hands, but learn from one who knows.

You may consider that I have repeated myself on occasions.  I have done this deliberately so that it will sink it.

Reflection on Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020.  We finally got here, despite the traumas which we have experienced during the year.  Christmas survives. It is a different Christmas to last year and certainty a very different Christmas to past years.

Christmas has changed over the decades in regards to its traditional meaning and its observance. Commercialism, secularism and political correctness have taken its toll. As an example of the latter, for some it is “happy holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas”.  This was highlighted with the Obama American Presidency, when he sent out cards with similar words.

Tasmania has seen great changes as well.

For the vast majority of Christians, including of those who are nominal, it heralds the birth of Jesus Christ and provides a Message of Hope for mankind. For the staunch Christian fundamentalist, Christmas is not honoured as they believe December 25th was observed by early European pagans who celebrated the changing of the seasons on that day. Later the Church put a Christmas meaning to it. Various sects contend that it not scriptural, so the day should be ignored.  

Historically, the first Christmas was not observed until more than three hundred years after the birth of Christ. Therefore, originally, there was no Christmas.  For Tasmania, the first Christmas came with Lt John Bowen RN who settled at Risdon Cove.  He held the first one, December 25, 1803. The following year came Colonel David Collins and with him the Rev Robert (Bobby) Knopwood and the first Christmas in Hobart was held December 25, 1804.

In the north of the State, Colonel William Paterson arrived in 1804 with 181 settlers and although I cannot find any documentation of the observance of Christmas, I have no doubt it was held.

In Australia the first ever recorded Christmas (referred to as Yuletide) took place in Governor’s Phillip’s modest residence at Sydney Cove, December 25, 1788,

Christmas 2020 will again be a day of family visiting, wonderful meals, gifts, watching the delights of children, picnics and for some, religious observances. Yet there will also be businesses operating and mass entertainment aired as though it was is just another day.

It was very different once – and not so long ago.  When black and white television was introduced into Tasmania for a number of years on this special day, only religious programmes were presented.  It was the same for the wireless (radio) until a certain hour in the evening, only religious and Christmas music was aired.  Businesses were closed for the day.  Everyone enjoyed themselves, rested and had the time to catch up with family. Churches were full with many who rarely went to church making this day a particular reason to attend.

In short there was more reverence, more respect and a more relaxed day. Christmas has always been commercial, but the sense and belief that it had a spiritual significance was recognised.

We live in a very secular society. The meaning of Christmas may be still there, but it has faded into the back ground. It is now no longer fully acknowledged.  Perhaps we have become too embarrassed over its meaning?  After all, don’t we live in a multi-cultural society, one of many faiths and cultures?  We certainly do not want to offend anyone. Yet in all my years (and I am now matured) I have never, ever, met a person (outside Ebenezer Scrooge) who wanted Christmas or even its meaning, banned.  I stress no atheist have I met, agnostic or those of a different faith or culture have expressed a desire to do so. They are content to enjoy Christmas Day in their own way and while they may not observe its religious significance, they are not the ones complaining.  Are we being therefore, socially manipulated and non-Christians being used as an excuse?

I personally think we have lost some of the quality of Christmas.  For me I thoroughly enjoy the carols, Christmas cards, the lights, the goodwill, the food, the fun, the family, the visiting.  Perhaps we should regain some of that something that made Christmas a day of uniqueness, specialness with a spiritual meaning. A child-like expectation.

Times are grim enough and those who wish to see the end of Christmas, I say “Bah Humbug”. Let’s continue to enjoy ourselves and observe Christmas for many years to come.  And yes,

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

Our inherited freedoms and the concept of fear

Australia has changed.  It is not the Australia I knew.  As a mature man I can compare what was to what is.  Our freedoms are something which I took for granted.  I was under the illusion that those in authority would protect and honour our inherit freedoms, but we have seen those very same identities who should be in the forefront in defending our freedoms, only too willingly to erase them. Not only that, but to persecute those who stand up for freedom backed by a police force which, in instances, has become an instrument of the government and not the servant of the people. I never, ever, thought I would see things happening in this land of ours under the banner of “we are doing it for your own good

The late US President Regan said that the ten most feared words of the English language are “I am from the government, I am here to help” (2nd August 1988). Yet even before the present virus outbreak, our freedoms were being eroded and this current situation has provided an excuse to erode them even further.  Democracy we have seen is not a guarantee for freedom.  We have witnessed dreadful laws enacted and enforced throughout Australia, especially in Victoria and Queensland that would make some less worthy nations envious.

Freedoms do not come easy; they are not given; they are fought for and won. We must be eternally vigilant otherwise they will be taken away.  We are familiar with those who went to war to ensure that our way of life and freedoms are protected from a brutal enemy.  Freedom, however, has to also be won through the corridors of powers, such as our parliaments and institutions. We cannot be free unless we have freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of thought. We must have a free media. We must be protected by unbiased laws, but we have seen Australia governed by the executive and not by parliament.

The freedoms which we have enjoyed have been inherited from Great Britain.  Millions have been attracted to our shores because of the freedom we offered and once enjoyed. Long before the Norman Conquest, King Alfred, (the only British king to be called “Great”) implemented laws which laid foundation of the rights of the common man.  He was a studious law giver, a man who promoted literacy and was concerned with the weak and the dependent. He based his laws on earlier worthy codes and the bible. He was a learned man who was full of compassion.

Then in 1215 we had the Magna Carta when King John was forced to sign the charter forcing the King to be subject to the same laws as any other person. It influenced the United States Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Both these latter peoples’ right were also influence by the British Bill of Rights of 1688 which set out the basic laws of parliamentary rule and rights of the common man, while putting a break on the powers of the Monarch, the then government.

Then we have the Australian Constitution, with sections 92 and 117 guaranteeing the freedom of movement backed up by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, with Article 13 guaranteeing the free movement in and out of a country, with Article 20 guaranteeing the right for peaceful assembly and association.  Australia signed this, but what is the point of signing something which we are NOT going to honour?  What is the point of an Australian Constitution if State Governments do not honour it? Or a federal government too weak to do anything about it? We have a High Court for the Federal Government to show these States that they are simply acting illegal.

We also operate under English Common Law and among other aspects, states that we are innocent until we are proven guilty, not the other way around.  Governments exist to serve the people, we the people are not here to serve governments.

We have seen State Governments act in a dictatorial way, again especially in Victoria. There, the police do terrible things to their own citizens and there have been multiple breeches of human rights in this regard.  When Premier Daniel Andrews were questioned on this during a media conference, he replied “THIS IS NOT ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS”. His own words. We are in trouble. We, the people, must protect our rights, because it has been shown that the political elite will not do so on our behalf while the various Oppositions have proven to be weak and hopeless including that in Tasmania. Our governments have been bereft of compassion.

But how come we have got to this stage?  Simply out of fear. Fear is feeling overwhelmed.  Fear will make people submissive. Fear creates the belief that is it enduring and because of fear we believe life can be reduced to a set of rules and the more rules we create the more habit-bound we become. We lose innocence and spontaneity, we forget the light and vitality of life and we end up living in the shadows.

Hence, because of fear, we allow ourselves to be under house arrest, putting our trust in governments that not only tell us what to do, but supplies all our needs. Government then becomes not only our mother and father, but god.  When the true God is rejected all we have is Big Government. Again to quote the late President Regan, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem”. (Jan 29 1981).

We have a brain, an intelligent and hopefully enough wisdom because of experience to be able to judge for ourselves.  We are individuals, not sheep.  Too many of our people have accepted what is being told and the message is one of fear giving predictions that simply have not happened.  We cannot every time a new virus appears shut down society, imprison its citizens and destroy its economy.

The one fear I have, come January next year (2021) we will truly see the horrific hardship of this shut down fully occur, which a leading QC, Michael Wyles, has stated is illegal. It has not only destroyed the economic life of people, but too, their mental and social life.  The rate of suicide is far higher than the death rate of this current virus, much of which could have been avoided if the vulnerable were instantly protected and those who had the virus were adequately quarantined which governments failed to do. We also must take note that 99 per cent of those who contract the virus will survive and that most will only have a mild case of it.

A certain percentage (and it is quite high) of people like to be told what to do. It brings security and they don’t have to make decisions for themselves. I have been staggered how easy and how quickly we have been willing to give our freedoms away and let us not be fooled, governments have learnt from this.

I thank you for your time.  We are a loving people, loving our family, our friends and our country.  Therefore, we are indeed concerned what is going on. Our national anthem says, “We are young and free” – well, we are no longer free.

Anzac Day 2020

Anzac Day.  On that day 105 years ago Australian and New Zealand troops went ashore at Gallipoli, hence the term embracing Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. Nearly 8,000 Australians died from the bullet, disease and sickness during that campaign which continued to the end of the year. There were another twenty six thousand casualties. Yet, it was not the first action Australians saw nor was the first fatalities for our nation recorded at Gallipoli. It was during an action against a German signal station in New Guinea which was then under German control.  It is called the Battle of Bita Paka (11/9/14). It was a successful Australian attack, navy and military, in which we incurred our first casualties. Seven Australians were killed.

Perhaps on this day, 25th April, we should remember Private Harry Hodgman, the first Tasmanian to die, perhaps the first Australian, on that fateful morning when he was being rowed ashore.  A Turkish sniper put an end to his young life. He was twenty three years old and is buried at Line Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli.

We should remember Nurse Elizabeth (Lizzy) Orr, later Sister Orr, and then Matron.  Lizzy hailed from near Hamilton and was Matron of the hospital ships that took the wounded and sick from Gallipoli, the Mediterranean and Salonika, over those many months.  What a responsibility. That was not her first military experience as she was a nurse during The Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. Like all nurses at that time, she paid her own way to get the front.

And we remember, General Sir John Gellibrand, born at Ouse, not far from where Lizzy was.  Gellibrand became Tasmania’s highest ranking officer during the war. Gellibrand, though always controversial, was a humane man and after the war started the Remembrance Club helping the veterans, widows and families. It became Legacy, a nation-wide organisation which still has the same principles commenced by Gellibrand.

From Gallipoli of course, men were evacuated to the Middle East, to be joined by many others, for recreation, re-training and to be sent to the battle fields of the Western Front, France and Belgium. Thousands of Australians remained in Palestine and Egypt as mounted infantry with the Australian Light Horse to fight the Ottoman Empire.

There were many battles and campaigns in the western front and Tasmanians were awarded eleven Victorian Crosses, one going to Henry William (Harry) Murray from Evandale, who became the highest decorated soldier in the British Commonwealth. Overall, 60,000 Australians died during WWI, including 3,000 Tasmanians and three as many, casualties.  In all, a quarter of million men from a small national population of under five million.

The war ended 11th hour, 11th November 1918 and the Versailles Treaty was signed the following year.  Just twenty years on, the scenario was repeated when on the 3rd of September 1939 WWII began. Australians served in all theatres of war, army, navy and air force and more than eight thousand died because of neglect, brutality and disease while POWs under the Japanese. The toll of our Air Force men was enormous, more than ten thousand.

In all, 14 Tasmanians have been awarded the Victorian Cross, our last in Afghanistan Corporal Stewart Cameron.  By my reckoning, that’s 14 per cent of the hundred awarded to the whole of Australia.  Yet, we make only up only 2 and half per cent of the national population.  A huge sacrifice and record.

Many memorials dot our hamlets, villages, towns and cities calling us to remember those who made the greatest of all sacrifice and those who served.  Post WWII saw Korea, Malayan Emergency, Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam and the latter military campaigns, including Afghanistan which rages still.

They fought for freedom.  Yet, freedom is not only won on the battlefield.  The freedoms which we have and have inherited go back thousands of years.  Freedom is not given; it is won by sacrifice backed by a hunger to treasure such a concept. War is not the only way to defend our freedoms.  We, as a people, must be forever vigilant to maintain those freedoms, such as freedom of movement, thought and expression.  Those treasured rights that our forefathers fought for – and won, are under severe threat, not by an enemy heading to our shores, but from our own legislators.

This year 2020 is a strange year in that our usual ANZAC services cannot be held.  This is a tragedy. Never before, in my now long life or anyone’s for that matter, has this occurred.  Still, we must not be deterred.  We must remember those whom we honour on this day and reflect on for what they fought.  They fought for their families, their community, Australia and their friends and our way of life. Let us reflect not only on their sacrifices, but also why they left our shores to do so.

Lest we forget.