Alex Hawke, the 27 year old president of the national young liberals, has come out attacking the wets (also known as the moderates) in the Liberal Party, and telling them to go to the Democrats, Labor or the Greens. At 27, he ought to be past such immaturity, but I suppose sometimes maturity doesn't come with age. I can understand to some extent where he is coming from - I once held radical views such as the ones he is now espousing, but then I grew up.
Unfortunately I am not sure his attitude is limited to the Young Liberals. There are certainly echoes of it in the top office of the land, and Peter Costello is reported to be constantly frustrated by the Prime Minister's ill-informed and reactionary-right views to the extent of wanting to explode and tell the PM to "get a life".
Here is what Hawke had to say:
I take the view that in the state Liberal Party... we don't have a clear, ideological cut-out. Federally, we've done it. Nobody can argue that we're not tough on [illegal] refugees, or that we don't take a tough-on-drugs approach, whereas at State level we try to be in a lot of places at once. We haven't carved out our own niche...Nobody joins the Liberal Party to be left-wing. If you stand for compulsory student unionism, drug-injecting rooms and lowering the [homosexual] age of consent, you can choose the Greens, Labor or the Democrats
So there you have it - if you don't support the religious right, Hawke wants you out of the party. That's some change from the past attitude, where Liberals have always claimed their party is a "broad church" prepared to accept a wide range of views. When I was working a polling booth during the election, one of the Liberal workers made an effort to impress on me that they were such a broad church, and that my views were well within what would be accepted there.
Yet according to Hawke, the party is only a broad political church for those who belong to a narrow, bigoted and intolerant religious one.
Hawke's list of the offences of the right demonstrates an attitude centred not on an ideology in the general sense, but on blind dogma founded in nothing other than ignorance. For example, opposing compulsory student unionism arises largely from a belief that student unions are analogous to trade unions, or that their primary role is to express a political point of view. Neither is true, although a student union will have some role in raising political issues that relate to students because they are students - such as taking positions against increased fees. Such a political position is entirely appropriate, and student unions have taken up such issues against both Liberal and Labor governments, albeit with limited effectiveness due largely to lack of understanding of effective lobbying practices. Yet the primary role of student unions is to provide services on campus that, although not forming part of the core teaching mission of the university, are nevertheless necessary and appropriate support functions.
Opposition to lowering the age of consent for homosexual males is a position for which I am entirely unaware of any objective, secular argument. If we limit ourselves to rational argument without an appeal to a deity for validation, then we must come to the conclusion that either a person of age 16 is competent to make decisions about what they will do - or allow to be done - to their own body, or they are not. The sex of the person to whom they give consent is an entirely irrelevant on an objective and secular level.
Taking a harsh stance around injection rooms - and other new approaches to dealing with the problems of illicit drugs - may win Hawke acclaim in the corridors of the religious right, but it hardly makes objective, rational sense. Harsh prohibition against the users has been the policy for over 70 years now, but it does not seem to have worked. It is often said that insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result, but to try the same thing for 70 years and continue to expect some different result has to be the pinnacle of idiocy. If you are more concerned about punishing people who make a poor choice, then continued and even harsher prohibition against drug users may make sense, but some of us would prefer to actually reduce drug abuse and work towards eliminating it entirely. This requires exploring new approaches to the problem, not mindlessly following a policy set out three generations ago.
But in that attitude is a clue to the real problem of the religious right. The problem is not that they hold certain beliefs - the problem is that they require others to act according to their religious beliefs, and if others fail to do so then they must be punished severely. Their beliefs are simply not subject to challenge, because they stem from a divine source that is absolutely correct, and it is a heresy to question them. The problem is, they are incapable of recognising the absurdity of forcing those beliefs on others when others hold with equal strength incompatible beliefs stemming from a competing divine source, or in the case of secular humanism, a source based on a theory of logic. How are we supposed to choose between competing beliefs of this strength? The religious right will say "you choose us because we are right and we can prove it". But in that they are no different from competing religions, who are equally certain the Christian religion is wrong and equally certain they can prove it.
Do not misinterpret my comments as a condemnation of religion - in fact the Gospels teach in the clearest possible terms that you should not force your sense of morality on others who do not share it, and that doing so is one of the greatest sins of all - my comments are a condemnation of those who seek to impose a set of morals stemming from their religious beliefs on others who do not share them.
The use of the coercive power of the State is an entirely inappropriate tool for advocating religious morality. It is wrong to force somebody to adhere to a set of moral rules (and I continue to distinguish between moral rules and ethical ones) that they do not share.
Alex Hawke's comments deserve the strongest possible condemnation. A quick glance at clause 2 of the Constitution of the Liberal Party of Australia shows that the party was founded with principles including "dedicated to the freedom and dignity of man" (cl. 2(a)), "in which intelligent, free and liberal Australian democracy shall be maintained by" (cl. 2(d)) "freedom of speech, religion and association" (cl. 2(d)(iii)) and "freedom of citizens to choose their own way of living and of life, subject to the rights of others" (cl. 2(d)(iv)).
Hawke's tirade against homosexuals and condemnation of drug users is entirely incompatible with that. In fact his religious right view offends against many of the core principles of the Liberal Party as embodied in clause 2 of its Constitution. If anybody should be departing the Liberal Party, it should be those in the bigoted and intolerant religious right, with Alex Hawke leading the exodus. Hawke's comments do not represent the values that lie at the core of Liberal Party values, but rather represent the rants of a small minded person who lacks the maturity that ought to come with his years.