Protecting Individual Freedoms a Theme at First-Ever CPAC Australia

August 14, 2019 Updated: August 15, 2019

Notable speakers at Australia’s first-ever Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) observed that individual rights and freedoms are at constant threat of being taken away if citizens do not continue to defend them.

The conference, which took place Aug. 9-11 at Rydges World Square Hotel in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, saw multiple speakers praising the numerous freedoms that Australians have always enjoyed, but also cautioning that such freedoms are at risk of being taken away.

According to the event’s website, CPAC Australia “is a conference for those that despaired at the prospect of a Shorten [Labor] government controlled by militant unions and influenced by the Greens.

“Australia dodged a socialist arrow this time,” but ”now is not the time to be complacent. Now is the time to get involved,” it said.

Rowan Dean, editor of The Spectator Australia, told the hundreds in attendance on the first day of the conference that over the past couple of years, the rise of conservatism appears to be “really noticeable in the country and probably as much because of the effectiveness of the Left in marching through all our institutions.”

“But sane, common sense, every day, normal decent people, have had enough of it [the Left]. They said ‘no no no’ and are looking for alternatives,” he added.

mark latham
Ross Cameron (L), Mark Latham (C) and Rowan Dean (R) at CPAC Australia conference in Sydney, Australia on Aug. 9, 2019. (The Epoch Times)

Hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU) and local libertarian organisation LibertyWorks, and modelled on the popular American event, CPAC Australia is seen by organisers as a rallying point for those who identify with conservative or libertarian values that favor small government to gather and share their vision for the nation’s future.

“Can people govern themselves?” Dan Schneider, the executive president of the ACU, posed as a question to the crowd as he elaborated on the values of classical liberalism, which he said were core to what conservatives are dedicated to protecting.

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Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, and U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), speaking at CPAC Australia in Sydney, on Aug. 10, 2019. (The Epoch Times)

“[Classical liberalism] is the idea that each person is unique, deserving of equal dignity and respect, that your rights are naturally yours. The government doesn’t give you your rights, the government should respect your rights.

“The fight all over the world is ultimately about your individual liberty vs. authoritarian regimes,” he said. “If individuals don’t stand up and fight for their individual rights, and protect their national sovereignty, we lose.”

Among the individual freedoms—speech, religion, and association—freedom of speech was frequently referenced and lauded by multiple speakers.

Janet Albrechtsen
Janet Albrechtsen, chairman of the Institute of Public Affairs, speaks at CPAC Australia on Aug. 9, 2019. (The Epoch Times)

“Free speech is the single most important principle in a functioning democracy,” Janet Albrechtsen, chairman of the libertarian think tank Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a major sponsor of the conference, told the audience.

“It’s that piece of intellectual machinery that allows for a contest of ideas and that contest—those disagreements, those debates—underpin our progress, our innovation, our ability to find the best ideas, the best solutions and the best policies.”

Speakers also raised their concerns for Australians losing their jobs and the rising cost of living.

Daniel Wild, director of research at the IPA, observed how the Labor party’s agenda for the nation would have attacked Australians’ culture and way of life.

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Daniel Wild, Director of Research at the Institute of Public Affairs, speaks at CPAC Australia in Sydney on Aug. 10, 2019. (The Epoch Times)

“[The Labor Party] wanted to transform our economy with radical, unrealistic, unattainable, unachievable climate policies that would make no difference to the global temperature, no difference to the global environment, but it would impose significant and irreparable economic damage on working-class, middle-class Australians,” he said.

“They wanted to hold a referendum that would ask Australians to divide themselves by race. They wanted more limitations on freedom of speech, more limitations on freedom of religion,” he said. “They wanted higher taxes, retrospective taxes, taxes on self-funded retirees.”

Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker addressed the issue of improving Australia’s productivity and said doing so is a moral imperative because it delivers more jobs, higher wages, and reduces the cost of living for Australians who need it most.

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Australian Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker speaks at CPAC Australia in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 9, 2019. (The Epoch Times)

“It’s also a political imperative because if we don’t create real improvements in wages and help people cope with the cost of living, which we know is very high in Australia, we will ultimately pay a political price for it,” she said, noting that it was “part of the reason that the Coalition was entrusted with government over [left-leaning] Labor’s hard-taxing agenda.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly praised the importance of low-cost energy and said that this, combined with true free-market capitalism, are what have guaranteed Australians’ prosperity.

He questioned the prospect of—had then-Labor-leader Bill Shorten won the election—Australians being taxed for air travel in order to meet the 45 percent emissions reductions target proposed in the lead up to the May election under Labor’s mandate to reduce carbon emissions.

Kelly encouraged the crowd to raise their voice for issues they care about.

“[Ronald Reagan] said that we are only one generation away from extinction of the freedom that we enjoy today. He said it’s not passed down in our bloodstream to our children. He said we have to fight for it, we have to protect it. That’s what I call everyone in this room to do. To stand up for these issues,” Kelly reminded the crowd.

“Stand up and don’t be frightened to say stuff if you think it’s politically incorrect.

“Don’t be frightened to say stuff if you know some lefties are going to criticise you and attack you. Because it’s only by all of us using our voices together that we’re going to win this battle, to protect our freedom and prosperity for our kids and grandkids for generations to come.”

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy
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