John Anderson (right) in conversation with Jordan Peterson and US talk-show host Dave Rubin,
Sydney, February 2019 (Screenshot from video)
It is a growing crisis we can’t ignore: free speech has been taking a battering in our Western countries recently. Political correctness is being prioritized over the individual’s right to disagree with the script of values and beliefs that authorities (mainly of left-wing bent) would like us to adhere to.
In Australia attempts to quash free speech have become more prevalent in the last few months. Perhaps the most notable are these:
Firstly, the sacking of physics professor Peter Ridd by James Cook University for voicing skepticism that climate change is devastating the Great Barrier Reef.
Secondly, the widespread call to block therapist and speaker Bettina Arndt from university campuses around the country – because the title of her talk is “The Fake Rape Crisis on Campus”.
Thirdly and most famously, the termination of rugby star Israel Folau’s $4 million contract with Rugby Australia over quoting Scripture on social media calling sinners, including homosexuals, to repent.
In the light of these high-profile cases it is encouraging to know that, here in Australia, there are public figures defending the right of Ridd, Arndt, Folau and others to say things others find offensive. And no-one appears to be doing that better than retired deputy prime minister John Anderson.
A sixth-generation farmer and grazier (he still runs his farm) Anderson also spent 19 years in Australian government. Now in his “retirement” he has created an online think tank where he discusses ideas, ranging from the conservative to the controversial, with all kinds of people.
He has interviewed national figures like retired prime minister John Howard and advocate for women and girls Melinda Tankard Reist; global speakers like journalist Peter Hitchens (older brother of the late renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens), Canadian psychologyist and author Jordan Peterson and American talk show host David Rubin.
Anderson’s fundamental motive is distilled an axiom found on his website: I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Most, if not all of his interviews return to this basic concern.
What’s striking about Anderson is his hope. Unlike many on either side of the political spectrum, he appeals continuously to the good in people, whatever their stance. He conveys his belief that ultimately, the moral fabric of our society will be saved by the generosity and curiosity of individuals.
A true countryman, Anderson loves his Aussie-isms. He believes in “a fair go for all,” “mateship,” and “rubbing along with people who have different views.” A man proud of his country and grateful for our Western heritage, he proclaims:
“We are extraordinarily fortunate in Australia to enjoy freedom to the extent that we do. However, we must till the soil in which our freedoms were grown, and upon which they depend, to ensure their continued flourishing.”
It’s great to know we still have a marketplace for ideas that is not bogged down in political correctness and ring-fenced by social justice warriors. To visit his website, click here.
Veronika Winkels is a freelance writer who lives in Melbourne and is married with three young children.