Tim Wilson, former director of climate change policy at the Institute of Public Affairs, is now Australia’s “freedom commissioner” in his new $332,000 taxpayer funded role at the Human Rights Commission.
Tim, and the IPA more generally, are quite good at mangling language and philosophical concepts to suit their agenda: basically, allowing business corporations to do whatever they please and to hell with the costs it imposes on others. Except, of course, when it comes to wind farms, where apparently these should be heavily restricted because they impose on other people’s rural views (well, at least the wealthy ones).
A few months ago Tim inspired me to write about about his rather flexible interpretation of the value of property rights. These are a great instrument of the free market when it applies to the intellectual property of Philip Morris’ cigarette packet branding, but a horribly burdensome regulatory impost when applied to pollution into our atmosphere.
Not content with mangling the concept of property rights, they would also like to corrupt the idea of freedom. It seems to Mr Wilson that the very pinnacle of freedom is for Andrew Bolt to insult others identifying themselves as aboriginal. This is closely followed by the freedom of corporations to pollute our atmosphere without restriction or penalty. And, of course, the freedom for us to blow our money on the pokies without specifying in advance how much we would like to spend. Or, to fill our bodies with cancercausing smoke which many of us have inadvertently become physically addicted to when we were children. Or, the freedom to not receive a warning that the food we are about to eat will make us unhealthy.
Now, these are all great things to be free to do. But when I worry about freedom what it evokes in my mind is a despotic state like Hitler’s Germany or Stalinist Russia or Pinochet’s Chile. You know, the kind which locks you up without charge or trial, spies on you continuously, prevents you from associating with others who might share a similar point of view, prevents open non-violent protest, persecutes and incites hatred against minority groups and actively attacks an independent judiciary. You see, if you’re really worried about the state taking over your life and taking away your ability to decide who governs you, these are the kind of things you need to worry about.
Thankfully, we are a long-long way from such an horrific government. But in the name of law and order and national security we do see Australian governments’ instituting laws and supporting activities that look like a dangerous slippery slope. Allowing, indeed actively co-operating, with the US National Security Agency to vacuum up all our internet communications is one. Another that comes to mind are these anti-bikie laws where the government can outlaw a particular group of people from associating with one another. And Premier Newman just recently decided he’d give the judiciary a few pointers as to what they should be doing in a particular court case. I can also think of a range of interventions that have been instituted in the name of the 'war on terrorism'.
Yet, in reviewing Wilson’s countless opinion pieces published on the IPA website (my god, there’s a lot of them) over the past year-and-a-half, I couldn’t seem to find him railing against such interventions. But I did come across this tweet below from Mr Wilson.
What should we do about a group of people peacefully protesting against the government? Send in the water cannons. How stupid of me, that’s what freedom’s all about, the right to be free of hippies taking up space in a city square that nobody uses anyway.
It was only just yesterday – after his appointment as our 'freedom commissioner' – that Mr Wilson found the time to pen an opinion piece criticising Queensland’s laws that allow the government to ban groups it deems to be bad.
Now there are some people within the Institute of Public Affairs who have been prominent in defending us from government efforts to undermine our fundamental legal rights, it’s just they aren’t Tim Wilson. Instead Wilson has specialised in basically defending corporations’ freedom to make many people’s lives miserable and unhealthy, particularly future generations'. He is defender-in-chief of tobacco, alcohol, junk food, gambling and pollution.
The IPA could supply us with a good freedom commissioner; instead the government chose to reward an anti-climate change ally.