In Western Australia, citizens are watching basic freedoms of speech, assembly, conscience, political belief, religious practice, and opinion unravel before their very eyes.
In March, leaning on minimal COVID cases as a result of border closures and the short, sharp slogan “We’re working hard to keep Western Australia safe and strong,” Premier Mark McGowan and his Labor government claimed an historic landslide second-term victory.
Believing themselves to represent the minds and the hearts of the majority on every conceivable topic, within two days after victory McGowan and his Labor Government passed a disturbing ruling. They declared that state-funded facilities owned by taxpayers were to ban hosting events “where the content of the event does not represent the views of the West Australian government or the vast majority of Western Australians”.
In brief, an Australian state government had declared within hours of victory that should citizens not kowtow to its views, they will be banned from using facilities that they as citizens own and pay to upkeep.
And so, citizens’ cultural engagement is cancelled by their own so-called “democratic” government.
The law was little known until the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was blocked from hiring publicly owned entertainment venues such as the Albany Entertainment Centre and Perth Concert Hall for its “The Truth of It” live show hosted by ACL’s managing director Martyn Iles.
The Perth Theatre Trust, which oversees the use of public buildings, told the ACL it could not hire specified venues because of its “politically motivated objectives” – even though the ruling Labor Party had hired the same requested venues during the months leading up to the 2021 State election.
Western Australia is rapidly diminishing as a democracy if views which do not accord with the ruling party are cancelled.
If we were discussing venue hire in Beijing or Pyongyang, then this outcome would not surprise us. But to experience this response in an Australian State takes the concept of “cancel culture” to a whole new level.
Western Australians can only assume that not only does their government wish to silence any critique of the Communist Chinese government, but that their ruling government believes these are the views of “the vast majority of Western Australians” – which they certainly are not.
What is further worrying is that the ACL are not the only ones having bookings rejected by an increasingly tyrannical government. An outright ban on other organisations “identifying with countries whose political status is unclear or in dispute” from booking venues is also included. The ban also extends to any keynote speaker who is known to promote animosity towards particular groups. It seems obvious, say academics, that this is kowtowing to China by cancelling events which promote Taiwan, the Uyghurs, and Tibet.
Martyn Iles has frequently discussed LGBTQ+ issues on many occasions online, so it is not surprising that the Perth Theatre Trust’s decision was applauded by LGBTQ+ groups.
Pride WA president Curtis Ward said, “Whilst people think there is a right to freedom of speech, there is also a right to basic human rights. When there is speech that takes away others’ human rights, we need to weigh up whose rights take priority.”
What McGowan’s government fails repeatedly to realise, or to accept, is that small pockets of noisy LGBTQ+ groups do not represent the minds and ideals of every same-sex attracted or gender dysphoric person across Western Australia. And yes, there are many who intensely dislike the Trans-tail which wags the LBGQ+ dog that barks and snarls at anyone and everything which fails to celebrate and applaud LGBTQ+ ideology.
The ongoing question is: “whose rights should actually take priority?”
Freedom of speech expert Professor Katharine Gelber, from the University of Queensland, said that the trust had the “wrong wording entirely”.
“It should not matter whether the content represents the views of the government – to require compliance with governmental views is potentially authoritarian in nature (although I do not believe they intended it that way),” said Gelber.
“Nor should human rights’ protection rest on whether a majority of Western Australians support human rights or not – human rights are universal and inherent, even when a community doesn’t support them.”
The trust’s decision has also displeased the mayor of the City of Albany, Dennis Wellington, who has shared how the city budgeted about $400,000 for its entertainment centre every year, the city’s bottom line being gravely impacted whenever an event was cancelled.
“If someone makes a decision not to take money and doesn’t bother to consult their economic partner, which is us, I have a serious problem with that,” he said.
This isn’t about political leanings or even whom a person votes for. It is a deeper issue about safeguarding every Australian’s basic freedoms to think, to believe, to associate, even to speak out their opinion.
Keeping the soul of Western Australia safe and strong, Premier McGowan? Not anymore. And certainly not while treating freedom of religion and belief with such disdain and contempt.