Religious Freedom

It is strange that Australia has an inquiry into the need to protect religious freedom and religious expression. We will see what the report is like when it is handed down by Philip Ruddock.

I say “strange” because I thought there would never be a need for it in Australia. This freedom has existed for many years as it is part of our inheritance from Great Britain and guaranteed in our laws.

This is obviously no longer the case, otherwise it would not be necessary. Things socially are ever so different to the 50s and 60s, even the 70s. The younger generation, say from the 80s, have little understanding how it has changed.

When we say “religious freedom” we are in reality meaning Christian freedoms. Christianity was brought to our national shores in 1788 and to Tasmania in 1803. Britain of course, has been home to Christianity for 1300 years, longer elsewhere in Europe. It has been a part of our culture and heritage.

It was Alfred the Great who codified much from the Old Testament into English law and down the ages we have inherited The Magna Carter, the 1689 Bill of Rights, English Common Law, trial by Jury and Habeas Corpus all resulting from a country with a Christian background. In Australia we have our own Constitution, which states in its beginning paragraph “relying on the blessings of Almighty God”. This part was added by the insistence of the Churches of the day, excluding the Seventh Day Adventist Church which took the view that if such a wording was added it would force Sunday worship upon them rather than Saturday. This obviously did not happened

Whereas “almighty…God” was neutral in its emphasis it was clearly to mean at the time, the God of Christians.

Down through the centuries it has influence dramatically our ethics, morality, modesty, principles,art and consciousness. There is no denying there are faults; any Institutions developed by imperfect man will fail to some degree. Over all it worked very well with many leading charitable organisations and acts emanating from Christian belief, not just here in Australia, but world-wide and many examples can be cited.

Australia since settlement has not been a strong church-going community, unlike say the United States. Even in the hey-day attendance percentage-wise would not have been more than fifty percent of the population. Yet, the influence was there and people though nominally Christian did respect its Institutions and certainly used it for Sunday School, Christenings, Confirmations, Weddings and funerals. During WWI ninety per cent of our soldiers declared themselves Christian.

Today by recent statistics only about fifty per cent of the population now give the title “Christian”.

In the 50s it was all so different and it was just taken as the norm that what was will continue. I remember all too clearly when on Christmas Day, all radio stations (and later in the early days of television) played religious music as they did at Easter. Sundays was indeed a day of rest, with most businesses, sports and entertainment taking a break. It was a day for church, going on picnics, visiting or being visited. Today of course Sunday is very different, our roads are full of traffic, sport is the new religion, shops are open and while our communication has expanded technologically, we communicate less with each other including families.

All what was has gone and I really do not think for the better. Society must believe in something and that “something” will determine how we view things and our attitude to situations. It appears that we are still searching for Christianity’s replacement. There is no such thing as a vacuum as people crave for something. To some it appears to be socialism, environmentalism, militant atheism, science and even hedonism – whatever.

To some extent the fault does lie with the Churches themselves. It is apparent such institutions have not fulfilled many people’s spiritual requirements. One naturally has to refer to the appalling publicity which many, particularly of the established mainstream churches, have been subject to. This has disillusioned many of faith. Herein lays the problem, because people have placed their faith on man-made institutions and church leaders, rather than the faith itself. Yet that is an easy statement to make. It must be very difficult for those ‘good’ and ‘sincere’ members of the cloth who are now under unfair suspicion.

We do live in a post Christian where the religion and Christians can be subject to criticism, attacks, mockery and even abuse which would not be allowed if the target was another religion or of a particular ethnic group.

I am yet to be convinced we are a better and happier society without Christianity. We seem to have more problems than a one armed fan dancer. Australia now is divided sometimes aggressively and it seems permanently on race, religion, culture, gender and sexuality. We are beset with numerous and it seems unsolvable social problems. All this has developed and coincided with the demise of the Church’s influence.

American Independence Day – Tasmania Australia

July 4th is American Independence Day or as it is termed over there, The fourth of July. It is the day in 1776 when the thirteen America colonies declared their independence from the mother country, Great Britain.

Over the time, the connection between America and Australia/Tasmania has been strong, often friendly and certainly those who settled here from the USA have been fascinating and purposeful. Yet initially it was not so. Indeed the Americans had plans to invade the British colony of Sydney.

The idea was formulated in 1801 with the help of the French, the arch enemy of Great Britain. Sydney, settled in 1788 was an easy target for invasion from anyone. At that time, it was a struggling, small colony. Hints of invading Sydney was formulated after the exhibition to the colony by Frenchman Nicolas Baudin.

It was to take several years before anything substantial occurred. In 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, an able and humane man, was Governor of NSW and also of Van Diemen’s Land. We were then administered directly from Sydney with local Commanders in charge while a new Lieutenant Governor arrived which was to be Colonel Thomas Davey.

The planned invasion of Sydney was discovered by adventurer, Jorgen Jorgenson who learnt it from a French prisoner held in Tothill Fields Prison in England. Jorgenson informed the British authorities, who thought it was rather “amusing” and did not take it seriously, judging it to be wild and unlikely.

However, the French with their American allies were quite serious and indeed two French warships were to be sent to the new nation of America to tee up with two American vessels to invade Sydney. The French part of the invading plan was not successful. Their two ships were wrecked off the coast of Spain near Cadiz as the result of a violent storm.

The Americans continued their plan to invade, sailing for Sydney. While doing so they attacked British non-naval vessels, primarily whaling ships and by all accounts destroyed a considerable number of them.

Even so, without the French warships not accompany them, the desire of the two American ships started to wane especially when a British man-of-war was seen by them. The experience sent them scampering thus ending the planned invasion of Australia by America.

Jorgenson eventually came to Van Diemen’s Land as an explorer, editor, navigator and colonial constable.

Fortunately since the debacle of the invasion most visitations were generally peaceful and helpful, although it does depend which side you were on. Colonial Americans were one of the main agitators during the Eureka Stockade incident and in 1840 a number of Americans were sent to our island as political convicts after the disastrous Canadian revolt in which many south of the border participated.

Whilst here their treatment was brutal, but fortunately for them they received a pardon by Queen Victoria and left our shores for good, happy to go.

A few years later there were further political prisoners, this time Irish. One, Thomas Francis Meagher, fought in the American Civil War with the Unionists as Brigadier-General, after escaping from Tasmania. His colleague, John Mitchel also was involved in the war, by supporting the Southern States, becoming the editor of the Richmond newspaper in Virginia,

Mitchel like Meagher spent some time in Tasmania with Mitchel enjoying the company of his family. A son of his with whom he lived in Bothwell, followed his father to America after he had escaped from his prisoner home. Interestingly enough this young man, John Jnr, who once lived amongst us was the person to fire the first shot heralding the start of the American Civil War. He was a Commander of a regiment who fired a canon volley on Fort Sumpter thereby opening the war.

In reference to the American Civil War, three American war veterans are buried here, they being Francis Waters (Cornelian Bay), Henry Wells (Somerset) and Charles Baker (Beaconsfield).

As a matter of interest actor Edwin Booth, brother of John Booth who assassinated President Abe Lincoln, played at one time at the Theatre Royal in Hobart while Hobart also enjoyed a visit from author Mark Twain who spent a very brief spell of only several weeks with the Confederate Army, arriving in Tasmania 2nd November 1895. Twain described Hobart as “one of the tidiest cities in the world”.

Another connection is with John P. Mikesell who superintended the construction of Tasmania’s original telegraph line in the 1870s. Mikesell was born in Virginia in the 1830s and participated in the Californian gold rush in the late 1840s and 50s. He enlisted in the Union Army in November 1861 and resigned as Captain in 1863. When gold was found in Australia shortly afterwards, he sailed for our shores. After completing his services as a superintendent to our telegraph construction, he left Australia and returned permanently to America.

The connection between our country, state and America goes back many years and is quite substantial.

Has Australia become politically intolerant

The subject of freedom of expression has has come to the fore of late. There are calls to, if not abolish 18c of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act, then at least amend it. On a State level there has been moves by Legislative Councillor Tania Rattray to remove the terms, “offence” and “insult” from the Anti-Discrimination Act Section 17.

In defending to retain the legislation as it stands, proponents state any such change will harm many and that the laws are really there to prevent ‘hate’ being espoused.

Yet, are these laws actually doing what they claim to prevent? Are they actually being used to intimidate and threaten individuals and groups? Are those who advocate, “inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity” consistent when they also advocate with those with whom they have a differing opinion should be not only persecuted but also prosecuted? This is the dilemma; in endeavouring to protect sections of the community , it can be used to victimise others.

What is freedom of speech and expression? It is to be able to express one’s social, political and/or religious views without hindrance, especially if put in a civilised manner. Obviously if violent, then the current laws will deal with that. If libellous or defamatory, existing laws will handle that. An opinion given in a debate and stated in a peaceful manner which has been sincerely uttered must be tolerated. The supporters of Section 17 and 18C state the legislation is there to prevent “hate” speech. Yet, the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart’s pamphlet on traditional marriage was in no way a hateful document. It was interpreted as such by a political candidate. Although the charge was dropped, the Archbishop was subject to not only persecution, but possible prosecution. For simply voicing his Church’s policy on marriage? This had nothing to do with ‘hate’ but somebody taking an issue with his opinion. Well how many times in life are we offended? Personally I am offended many times a day. Being offended, however, can be a lesson in life; how to deal with it, how to meet its challenge and how to counter it with adult argument. Free speech can only exist if one has the right to offend.

On the Federal level with 18c we have seen unfair prosecutions regarding the late cartoonist, Bill Leak. Then there was journalist Andrew Bolt and the three young university students from Queensland. The latter had written inoffensive and true statements on their Facebook page, when they were subject to reverse discrimination (which is simply discrimination) because they were not aborigine. There would many more cases not making the news, because the person or person involved, just comply, not wanting to handle the stress and strain of the whole affair.

We have become despite the claims, an intolerant society. Even though we can watch the most offensive material when it comes to the entertainment industry, including filthy language (and that is what it is) on a political level, we are greatly censored. We have moved from being a debatable society to a society which promptly bans an opposing point of view.

Examples of this is the attacks on Coopers Brewery for organising a civilised debate on same sex marriage (Coopers collapsed like a pack of cards over the matter) to a Christian Lobby group on the mainland who had to cancel their conference on traditional marriage because of threats. Now we have seen the film “The Red Pill” about a Men’s Right Movement banned in Melbourne and Sydney because again, of threats. The young American female producer of the film stated on Sky News recently that Australia has far more political censorship than the USA. Organiser for the screening of the film (again a young lady) has been told by the Student Union from Sydney University they will not tolerate the showing of the film.

Then we have the young Somalian woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in the USA cannot come into Australia for lecturing as her security cannot be guaranteed. Her subject, of which she has had first hand experience, is female religious genital mutilation. Incidentally (19th April 2017) a doctor who undertook such a procedure in America has just been arrested.The first case ever in that country.

Overseas, the film “Vaxxed” produced by Robert de Niro was removed from the Cannes Film Festival because of outside pressure from big corporations. The public must not make up its own mind on a particular subject.

Senator Cory Barnardi’s office was recently trashed by a militant left wing group who did not agree with his views and saw it was their right to threaten his staff and destroy his place of work.

Just being offended because of the subject matter does not give anyone the right to prevent the opposing view being aired or the right to use legislation to ban it. This word “offended” can be used to stifle debate and freedom of expression.

The problem is that there is a complete lack of leadership on this issue from the Prime Minister downwards. Our governments and Parliamentarians (excluding the few) shy away from the subject. Our universities which should be in the forefront of defending differing points of view do nothing to counter this intolerance. Incidentally English comedian, John Cleese said recently he will no longer perform at universities because of their sensitivity and political correctness.

Is ANZAC Day on the attack list? I wonder what our diggers would think of the current repressive situation? To give their life so one cannot espouse an opinion because someone may be “offended”?

As one who has been involved with the media now for 49 years and has made much of my living from my interaction with it, I have seen the gradual erosion of freedom with speech and freedom of movement in Australia. This is a very dangerous trend.

The twentieth century saw freedom of speech advance in various Western democracies. Are we now in retreat? What makes a country a free country as opposed to an oppressive dictatorship is a free media and the guarantee of individual freedom together with the ability to be able to tolerate another’s point of view.

What has happened to Voltaire’s “I disagree with every word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” On his death a banner proclaimed, “He gave wings to the human mind. He prepared us to be free.”

Prince Charles – the man and his achievements

Simon Weston joined the Welsh Guard while a young man. Leaving his home and family in Wales, he underwent his training and almost immediately was despatched to Berlin, West Germany. He was a well adjusted man, who loved and played rugby and was to marry when only 19 years of age. “Berlin was a wonderful and rich city,” he said, “But it could be very claustrophobic in those days, encircled entirely by Russians”. While in Berlin he did Spandau guard duty and actually saw Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy who was incarcerated in the prison after the war. Weston left Berlin in 1979 and was posted to the war torn country of Northern Ireland. There he did dangerous patrol work and it where he met Sue whom he married. He then was sent to Kenya for further training, and back to Northern Ireland.

In early April 1982 Argentinian troops successfully invaded the Falklands Islands. He was sent to the war zone and after arriving was placed aboard the vessel Sir Galahad to await disembarkation. Aboard was the Prince of Wales Company. While on the vessel, Weston stated later they were never briefed in air-raid drill. The Sir Galahad was attacked by Argentinian planes and someone shouted “Get down! Get Down!” One of the bombs a 2,000 pounder landed where Weston was taking shelter. A fireball erupted, forcing shrapnel and ricochets whizzing past his head. It was a horrific scene, one from hell. In the short of it all, the twenty three year old Simon Weston, who wanted to enjoy life to the full, was horrifically burnt. Eventually he was sent back to Great Britain where the long hard painful road of constant treatment began. I need not tell you the ordeal that this young man had to go through, which coincided with great bouts of depression, he not wanting to leave him home, but with help from his mates, family and the army he became active with the Guards Association and eventually came to Australia. From Australia in 1986 he flew back to Britain, where he received an invitation to go to New Zealand to join Operation Raleigh, a young people’s international adventure and aid organisation.

He was to write, “Later on in the venture I discovered that I was on the same plane as Colonel John Blashford-Snell, the creator of Operation Raleigh.

“I never did find out who nominated me,” he said to the Colonel.

“You didn’t?” replied the Colonel. “Well, I shouldn’t really tell you this, but I’ll give you a clue.  It is someone very closely associated with your part of the world, who has followed your progress with a lot of interest and concern.”

“My mam?” He asked.  “My gran?”

“No.  As a matter of fact it was the Prince of Wales.”

I highlight this true story to convey all the work behind the scenes that Charles, the Prince of Wales, does.  He had met Simon Weston at the London Victory Parade after the Falklands War and as the Colonel said, “followed your progress with a lot of interest and concern,” so much so he personally nominated this badly injured man and by nominating it means, he paid for his involvement.  There was no publicity about this nor did the Prince seek it nor should he. There is a verse in the Holy Bible which states, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “(Matt 6:3) In other words, “don’t make a big show of it”.  One always sees a number of celebrities being photographed, say in Africa with children.  Most of it is for publicity purposes.  They fly in, have a photo shoot and fly out again. They do it, arranged by their publicity agents, for the entire world to see.  Truly they have received their reward. Prince Charles does not do that;  all the good work he does, he does so, silently, behind the scenes, secretly, most of which, if not all, has not received public attention or acknowledgement.  This, however, is the way he wants it; that is how he operates.

Prince Charles, the future King of Australia gets bad press. Very little of the true work he does, the true character of the man gets through. Rather, the concerted attacks against him portray him as a man out of touch, strange and immoral. After all, he talks to trees doesn’t he? Well, I use to talk to my dog all the time, so perhaps that makes me strange too. If so, I am in good company. True there were those terrible days during the 90s for the Queen as well, where there were those scandals, the burning of the Queen’s residence, the death of Diana and one thought would all this not end? The republicans and sensationalists had a field day and the Monarchy took a beating; there is no doubt. The Queen was criticised for lacking compassion after the death of Diana, but you know – the Monarchy survived and Constitutional Monarchy is even stronger than ever before. Charles has married Camilla and of course she has come under huge personal attacks by self-righteous individuals who have nothing to be self righteous about. Even recently ex Prime Minister Paul Keating at the release of his book with sarcasms and rudeness attacked the Royal Family and our system of government, as did ex Liberal Senator Amanda Vanderstone. But who are they to moralise?,

Let’s move on to something much more positive. His father, the Duke of Edinburgh, as a serving officer in the Navy, had seen something of Australia and been attracted by its people. It was arranged in 1965 that there would be exchange of students. Prince Charles would attend Mount Timbertop School at Geelong, while an Australian boy would attend Charles’s school, Gordonstound, which turned out to be a son of a farmer. This came under criticism; if Charles was coming to Australia why not have him attend an ordinary State high school. The school was chosen by the then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. Menzies did not want the young prince to be at school in the middle of a crowded city in Australia, where people would be gazing constantly at him. He wanted the young prince to mix happily with ordinary Australian boys. By this time he was a senior boy and thus his position was to maintain liaison between masters and junior boys. It was a Spartan school, where students came in direct confrontation with nature; they had to provide with their own welfare, in other words be self-reliant. The Prince surmounted the same hurdles as the other boys without claiming privilege. From Timbertop he visited missionary stations in Papua and New Guinea. That was his first visit to Australia.

But let’s get back to modern times. Much of course could be said of his early life. He is now a mature man, very well qualified, educated and experienced. He is intelligent and compassionate. He is a great believer, as I am, in natural therapy and the benefits of herbs. For more than 28 years, HRH has put his organic principles into practice in his ground-breaking garden at his property called Highgrove in the UK. He states that “the garden is an expression of what I hold dear – an essential harmony and connection with Nature, which is so important for the world today and for our descendants. We are planting to the future, so that those who come after us can reap the benefit of what has been planted before.” So what’s wrong with that? Is that the ravings of a mad man? He goes on to say, “The single most important factor in the success of an organic garden is the health of the soil.” Again, seems quite correct to me…”my advice to anyone who is thinking of gardening organically,” he states, “would be to make a start, be patient and take the rough with the smooth. If you encourage wildlife into your garden, you will find pests and diseases become less of an issue. Surprisingly, you will discover that you tend to have more success than failure with benefits to the environment and to your own well being.” Prince Charles has become the Patron of Plant Heritage, which conserves the diversity of our plants. He is very interested in the health of children. He is quoted as saying, “There are many imaginative campaigns designed to teach children to eat well and be healthy, such as the Food for Life Partnership led by the Soil Association, as well as groups, such as Garden Organic, which encourage children to plant seed, nurture plants and have their own produce. Local gardening groups need to encourage the same sort of thing.” The public can actually visit Highgrove, to experience what he describes as “harmony with Nature; that it warms the heart and feed the soul of those who visit and maybe for those who have never gardened, provides inspiration to show what can be done in a mere few decades.” Here, the Prince is setting an example to us all.

He has behind the Dumfries Housing Estate project in Scotland restoring a 18th century home and grounds for the benefit of the local and wider community. The historic estate will be preserved for the future, providing work for many young people who have had their lives turned around because of the opportunities presented to them.

He is a military man having spent time in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, commanding a mine hunter and flying aircraft. He is a great musician and watercolour artist of some talent.Lithograph copies of water colours by the prince are sought after all over the world and the rarest currently fetch up to 15 thousands pounds a piece at the London Gallery. His works are also available at his country estate Highgrove in Gloucestershire where the originals hang. Proceeds from sales of the copies, signed in pencil by the prince, have gone to his Charitable Foundation.

Of his paintings, Charles stated, “It transports me to another dimension which refreshes parts of the soul which other activities can’t reach.”

The Prince is known to attend services at several different Anglican churches near his home at Highgrove and in the year 2000 he was appointed as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He travels each year to Mount Athos to spend time in the Orthodox monasteries, demonstrating his interest in Orthodox Christianity. We must not forget that his father, the Duke was raised Greek Orthodox, before being converted when he married the future Queen Elizabeth II.

He has demonstrated a great interest in alternative medicine, a cause of which I am personally interested. Because of this he has been a subject of controversy and criticism. On one occasion he advocated that medical practiconers should offer herbal and other alternative treatments. One pious critic said, that many of the alternatives are “downright dangerous”, not to state of course prescribed drugs can be “downright dangerous”.

While his late wife Diana received great publicity regarding her charity work, little is known of Charles’s. He has founded the Prince’s Trust, establishing fifteen charitable organisations and serves as President of all of those. An alliance of charities is called The Prince’s Charities raises over 110 millions pounds annually. He is patron of 350 other charities and organisations and carries out duties related to these throughout the Commonwealth. He draws attention to youth, the disable, the environment, the arts, medicine the elderly, heritage conservation and education. A ex private secretary described the Prince as “a dissident who works against majority political opinions.” Isn’t that the type of person who we want to become King? A man in his own right.

He has frequently criticised modern architecture, (again) of which I totally agree. Most modern architecture, in my opinion, is simply ugly. He cares in his own words, “deeply about issues such as the environment, architecture, inner-city renewal and the quality of life.” And with courage, when only a young man in 1984 attacked the British architectural community in a speech given to the Royal Institute of British Architects. He wrote a book called “A Vision of Britain” in which he criticises modern architecture. And modern architecture needs criticising and may I say, in Hobart as well – one just has to look at our waterfront. The Prince, despite attacks has continued to put forward his views, together advocating the restoration of historic buildings.

There is so much we can say on Prince Charles, the Man and His Achievements, so much. His involvement with modern architecture has been described as “an abuse of power” especially when he criticised the developers of the Chelsea Barracks, suggesting that the design was “unsuitable” with the development being done by a royal Arab family. Those in the architectural community has described his “behind the scenes lobbying” as counteracting the “open and democratic planning process” which is a lot of rubbish really. If they believed in what I just quoted they would welcome his comments. Lately the Prince has been accused of using his charities to lobby ministers over politically sensitive issues such as VAT (or our GST) to promote his beliefs on topics including social development and the environment and has called directly on the Government to change policies. But as one correspondence to the Daily Mail (UK) pointed out, “As senior patron and head of these charities this is what is EXPECTED of him, by those charities”. Well said. And interestingly enough the amount collected in the UK by the VAT is the equivalent to the payments paid to the European Union, so one could say the VAT tax does not benefit the British people at all.

It is well worth adding that during the year 2015 at the age of 66 he had 380 engagements, which included 147 abroad. His sister, Princess Royal carried out a total of 544 engagements and Prince Edward 354. How many of us could be as dedicated as that?

Prince Charles one day will no doubt become King. He will be a good King. He is aware of his responsibilities and he is a humane man willing to speak his mind when he sees it is beneficial to his people and country, rather than to self centred arrogant governments and ambitious politicians. What more could we ask of our monarch? The true success of anyone I have observed is within their family. Prince Charles has reared two wonderful sons. It has been a dreadful time for them all with the loss of their mother in terrible circumstances, surrounded by controversy which still exists today. The pressure upon the family has been enormous, a weight which the majority of us I surmise would not be able to handle. But handle it they have and I can only admire their fortitude and “guts” to see it through.

Things have settled down a great deal over the years; the popularity of the Queen is outstanding and the appreciation of the system of government provided is high, including Australia with many republicans stating that for the time being it is a lost cause. They are hopeful that when Prince Charles becomes King, it will promote the republican cause, but I doubt it. As said, he will become a good King and will pass the mantle on in time to his son, William and Kate. I have entitled this article, Prince Charles the Man and His Achievements. His greatest achievement will be to be a King in every sense of the word. That challenge for him is yet to come. In this day and age it is probably more difficult than ever before to accept the burdens of being Monarch. Time will tell us what King he will be.

I just like to name some of the Prince’s charities – some of them…The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust; The Prince’s Drawing School; The Prince’s School of traditional Arts; the Prince’s teaching Institute; The Prince’s Regeneration Trust; The Prince’s Countryside Fund; Business in the Community; Scottish Business in the Community; and The Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

Her Majesty made Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on the 7th anniversary of her marriage to Charles, a Dame of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victoria Order. This shows the Queen’s approval of the role of her daughter-in-law and is her personal gift.