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What is a ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights?

Tim Wilson, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, has announced that he will take a “classical liberal” approach to human rights. There is a fair degree of confusion about what this means. Classical liberalism…

Federal attorney-general George Brandis wants to champion a ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights, but what does this actually mean? AAP/Daniel Munoz

Tim Wilson, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, has announced that he will take a “classical liberal” approach to human rights. There is a fair degree of confusion about what this means.

Classical liberalism is not a coherent body of political philosophy. However, in relation to human rights, there are three key ideas that most classical liberals subscribe to.

The first is the idea that all people are born with rights, which they hold simply because they are human. This is the idea that underpins Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Not everyone shares this belief. Many people believe that rights are simply entitlements granted by the state and held only by citizens. But for classical liberals, rights are much more than this. They are universal (held by everyone) and inalienable (they continue to exist regardless of whether or not governments recognise them).

The second idea concerns what human rights actually are. Classical liberals believe that the list of genuine human rights is quite short. It is comprised primarily of those things that are necessary to preserve life and individual liberty.

This list includes the right to be free from torture, slavery, arbitrary arrest or detention. Freedom of association and freedom of speech are also seen as legitimate human rights. But other rights, particularly economic and social rights, are viewed as mere aspirations.

Thirdly, classical liberals believe that the role of the state in fulfilling or protecting human rights should be very limited. States should do only what is necessary to protect life and property.

Classical liberals believe in a minimal state – as political philosopher Robert Nozick puts it, a “night watchman” state – that does not interfere with the privacy of citizens and their freedom to live, work and be educated in any way they see fit.

Wilson has alluded to all of these ideas in public statements. Like attorney-general George Brandis, Wilson has argued in favour of focusing the attention of the Australian Human Rights Commission on the rights championed by classical liberals, particularly the right to free speech.

Wilson has talked about the problems that occur when certain rights (such as the right not to be discriminated against) collide with other rights (such as the right to freedom of association). Like Brandis, Wilson has criticised the Australian Human Rights Commission for its emphasis on anti-discrimination.

But there are several reasons why a classical liberal approach to human rights does not necessarily reflect the needs and aspirations of contemporary Australian society.

First, the philosophical foundation for the classical liberal idea of human rights is very shaky, as argued by the likes of philosopher Joseph Raz. Historically, classical liberals view rights as bestowed by God or derived from some essential human essence.

But many Australians seem to take a more pragmatic view of human rights, as noted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner Mick Gooda. Rights are the important interests and values that democracies have decided to protect. Far from making rights less important, this makes them more so.

Community consultations show that many Australians are also more ambitious than many classical liberals about what these rights should consist of. Brandis has said that freedom is the core human right without which nothing else is possible. But food, work, education and social security are also important. Rights are inter-related and inter-dependent. It is a mistake to think that something like a right to adequate health care is too vague to be an enforceable right.

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has criticised the government’s policy of detaining asylum seeker children. AAP

Finally, Australians seem to aspire to more than a society where individuals are just left alone to pursue their own interests and where the best a government can do is prevent individuals from being arbitrarily deprived of life or property.

For example, ensuring that certain groups of people are not discriminated against is a central part of an equal society. As Brandis points out, since its establishment in 1986, the Australian Human Rights Commission has spent much of its time advancing the idea in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

This is hard, slow work, done on a case-by-case basis and through public education and training. It certainly lacks the glamour of the classical liberal rhetoric around liberty and freedom, but it has been a vital part of achieving a fairer society and a better life for millions of Australians.

So far, Wilson has not been at his most convincing championing rights of privacy or arguing for more free speech. Where his views have resonated is on subjects such as children in immigration detention. On this issue, Wilson has simply said that he doesn’t think it is right. This is the sort of visceral response shared by most Australians.

In addition to his gut feeling that imprisoning children is wrong, as a classical liberal, Wilson should find the government’s entire asylum seeker policy deeply troubling. What the government is doing is violating the rights of the few (asylum seekers) in the name of achieving a greater good for the many (preventing deaths at sea and protecting Australia’s sovereignty).

To a classical liberal, this sort of utilitarian approach to rights should never be acceptable. Wilson’s intervention on this issue will be important.

Join the conversation

308 Comments sorted by

    1. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal,
      TC seems to be over-represented by people wise about the evils of corporations while having no great experience with them, if judged by patches of ignorance displayed in their writing. Don't fall into the trap, eh?

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    2. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Bradley Stringer

      Bradley,
      For a lawyer, you make a very eco-comment. I will balance this with a legal comment from a greenie.
      Corporations are certainly not evil. Because of their legal status and structure, they are, depending on the specifics of their articles of incorporation, of necessity, amoral.
      Specifically, the corporate structure largely separates beneficial ownership and moral responsibility for their actions. When this is combined with the primary legal obligation of directors and managers to maximise profits for shareholders, there are grave risks that such entities will be less than good citizens. It has been ever thus and begs for some basic changes to the laws governing associations.

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    3. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Really interesting points, this makes Neoliberalism just another religious sect of the same core of justifying selfish greed.

      They have priests in economists and kings in corporations, especially the finance industry which kinda owns the priest caste.

      If economists were really scientists, there'd be a huge mass of them protesting Neoliberalism now saying 'not in my name, the evidence doesn't support your hypothesis'.

      But instead they rally around corporations and governments telling people to do what they say to appease 'the economy'. We must give all our wealth to the rich and they will use it to appease the great God 'the economy'.. Remember fiscal policy! Praise Friedman!

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      "The growth and profit focus of corporations requires exploitation of resources, both human labor and earthly resources to expand and exploitation becomes acceptable procedure. Little chance of social conscience."
      Janeen, if you want us to revert to living in grass huts, and living off the land, you are free to. The rest of us are quite keen on the comforts of civilization, capitalism has afforded us.

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      "Neoliberalism" is a word Communists made up to describe their horror at the collapse of what they thought was an inevitable forward march away from liberal capitalism to Socialism and Communism. There are no actual self-identifying "neoliberals". "Neoliberalism" is just an anxious projection of an 'Other' by a defeated and ridiculed socialist left.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Thanks for so eloquently illustrating what I was saying about simplistic, ahistorical either/or thinking, Andy.

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    7. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal, I am pleased to see you are aware that fractional reserve banking is a problem.

      May I ask you what possible paths you see out of this mess?

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    8. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Mr Cameron: "There are no actual self-identifying "neoliberals". "Neoliberalism" is just an anxious projection of an 'Other' by a defeated and ridiculed socialist left."
      No actual self-identifying silly illogical people either, but that doesn't mean that none exist. Does it?

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    9. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, the modern movement legislating worker's rights was kicked off by the British Tories - please see Benjamin Disraeli, and continued by German conservatives - please see Otto von Bismark - and English Liberals - please see William Beveridge.

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    10. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to David Collett

      This is a fascinating problem explored by quite a few people and here's a good and detailed discussion of the nature of the problem and possible solutions:

      http://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Criticism_of_fractional_reserve_banking#Potential_solutions

      My preferred approach is a move to government controlled, fiat debt free money....This would be combined with large scale debt cancellation of unfair debt - especially third world debt.

      Advantages:
      - Since money is created without debt, there is not…

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    11. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Thank you for that Mises link, will have to have a look at that. Don't have any problems with your thoughts on the topic above.

      My question was more what your thoughts were regarding "neoliberal" state of our current politics.

      I was wondering if you have any thoughts on how to change the greed/self interest dynamic?

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    12. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to David Collett

      ..politicians representing corporate interests instead of the people etc.

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    13. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to David Collett

      That's a much bigger question, which I think has a different answer entirely to just focusing on neoliberal fundies.

      What we really need to do is understand what is really important for Australia's future as an independent nation with an incredible quality of life, filled with people from diverse cultures who manage to work together pretty well.

      I've recently spent a lot of time answering that question, along with a lengthy debunking of neoliberalism.....here's some thoughts

      http://dhugal.ninjaduck.net/Australian-Answers-to-Global-Issues.pdf

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    14. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      But nothing, of course, has happened since then, has it?

      Care to go back to the standards Disraeli advocated?

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    15. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Awesome Dhugal, I will have a proper read of that after work.

      Am involved with the Aus version of positive money. Things will be pretty quiet this year but hopefully early next year we will have time to get going on some type of productive output.

      Like ending negative gearing and the many other things that need to happen, they are secondary to the question of why we don't have people in there right now making good decisions for the benefit of the many not the few.

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    16. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, until I see some firm evidence that you are capable of conversing on this site without constantly whingeing to the mods, whenever you are called out, I am not going to waste my time interacting with you. I am not going to waste my time replying to you, only to have the post deleted.

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    17. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Apologies for "calling out" the logical fallacies in your argument. ;)

      I do not whinge, I only ever reported you once for personal abuse (and rightly so). Since then, you are responsible for your own demise.

      "I am not going to waste my time interacting with you. I am not going to waste my time replying to you,..." < Please do, if you can restrain yourself.

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    18. Account Deleted

      logged in via email @drdrb.net

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Corporations are people, my friend!

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    19. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      No Felix, of course I do want to go back to the 19th century - I am a progressive! However, YOU raised the track record of liberals on worker's rights over the past 200 years.

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    20. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Er, Of course I do NOT want to go back...

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    21. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Mr Sherrington,

      Janeen Harris's comment has pretty well nailed the issue regarding corporations: "Not inherently evil but inherently mindless when it comes to those consequences. The growth and profit focus of corporations ..."

      In case you and some others hadn't noticed, the earth is finite. This means its resources and capacities are finite - in a finite world, sustainable growth is an oxymoron.

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    22. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      "... the modern movement legislating worker's rights was kicked off by the British Tories ..."

      What a shame it is that the heirs and successors of those Tories have forgotten that you can't run a productive economy with an impoverished, ill-educated, sickened populace from which to draw a workforce.

      When did the rot set in? It wasn't before Henry Ford: he paid his workers well so they could all buy cars.

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    23. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      If you can give me a place to do that I might talk to you Where is there a free place to live?.

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    24. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Arthur

      "In case you and some others hadn't noticed, the earth is finite. This means its resources and capacities are finite."
      And in case YOU hadn't noticed, this is the fundamental premise of neoclassical economics.

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    25. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Arthur

      Ford's motivation was to reduce chronic absenteeism. It worked.

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    26. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      So neoclassical economics automatically prevents extinctions? Or does it just allow resource exploitation until the resource (dodos, say, or factory workers) ceases to exist?

      In which case, so too does the neoclassical business.

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    27. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy

      I agree.

      It is the either/or stance that marks the extremist - whatever their chosen ideology.

      The entire 'if you don't behave how we tell you - we'll all wind up in grass huts' simply sounds like a line from Monty Python - yet it gets trotted out with such unthinking regularity, many, including yours truly, switch off . Maybe these 'grass-hutters' do have something more to offer than "my way or the highway" - I have yet to see it from the current ascendancy of the neo-libertarian…

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    28. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Well Janeen, my extended family shares a place in the country, right near the beach. If you need to, maybe you could move there. But I have to warn you, it does have sewerage and electricity, so maybe too much exploitation for you. But wait! There's a block of land at the back we have never got around to clearing. Very overgrown, so more than enough grass to build your hut!

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    29. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Arthur

      As your dodo example shows, extinctions pre-date/exist capitalism and neoclassical economics!

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    30. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Arthur

      And isn't the whole idea of progress to make factory workers extinct, by making factory-work extinct?

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    31. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Yes indeed Ms A... the straw hut is just a scaled up straw man argument with a leaky roof.

      Although strangely enough I helped a mate build a rather palatial country residence from haybales - beautiful, thermally efficient and a cinch to build on a budget ... I know you have an interest in such matters, so here's a few to have a look at ... http://glassford.com.au/main/

      That three pigs story has given straw houses a very undeserved reputation. Flagrant carpenterism!

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    32. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      And you made a brief comment about some very primitive work way back at the start of the 'track' - when things were so bad that it would be hard to make them worse - as if that somehow proves something of substance.

      What social forces were Disraeli et al responding to?

      What additional action, since then, has been taken by 'liberal' forces OF THEIR OWN INITIATIVE rather than in response to social pressures?

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    33. Robert Smith

      retired

      In reply to David Arthur

      True, but Henry also had them shot when they asked for better wages and conditions.
      In almost every case, employers only pay as much as they have to.
      They always argue for reductions in pay and conditions if profits drop, or remain static, but never offer more when productivity and profits are up.

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    34. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Robert Smith

      "In almost every case, employers only pay as much as they have to."
      Yes, shame on those who have the bottle to actually go for it, and set up a business, and actually employ people!

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    35. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Bizarre!
      Ford's motivation came from understanding that money makes the world go round, so that paying his workers enough to buy the cars they made ensured HE became very rich. Not quite the "company store" idea, but close.
      His development of the production line was to enable his workers to achieve the productivity needed. The final result today is automation of the lines so that far fewer workers are needed.
      Ford employed gangs of thugs to keep his workers non-unionised. He was one of Hitler's favorite people, and he was awarded Germany's highest award for non-Germans. Hitler kept his portrait in his office.

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    36. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Not just Hitler was a fan Robert - but also Lenin who reckoned that old Henry had it right with Taylorist factory production. In fact there's a pretty solid body of evidence suggesting that Henry Ford had far more influence on the subsequent development of soviet production than Marx. Here's an angle you might find interesting ... http://www.leninology.com/2011/02/gramsci-on-americanism-and-fordism.html

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    37. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      And Rupert Murdoch had a bust of Lenin on his desk at Oxford. What's your point?

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    38. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Bradley Stringer

      Human activity, Bradley. Corporate activity is only humans acting in concert.

      If we are to acknowledge human rights, we must acknowledge the real people acting within a corporate environment quite as much as we must acknowledge the real people working as bureaucrats, party hacks, faction warlords and union bosses, and their lackeys and underlings too.

      Having said that, a single individual acting entirely alone can cause quite as much harm, inflict quite as horrible consequences, perhaps more so given that unlike people acting in corporation they have nobody close by to oversee their actions, and correct them in a prompt and timely manner.

      As it is, corporations are far more highly regulated than any body in contemporary Western society.

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    39. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The reason the Jacobites were resisted and finally defeated by parliamentary forces was solely because of James I & VI's insistence on his divine right of kings.

      Back then, your African-Americans were slaves, only freed finally through the intervention of liberal parliaments, and it must be added progressive economists looking for more efficient forms of production. The best they could achieve at the time was the industrial wage-slave, yet unlike the slave positioned to afford to purchase the…

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    40. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Catholic Church still strangling the world, through the same insistence on divine right against humanism and human right.

      And if you want to see the other side of the way big corporations behave try spending more time dealing their their alter-ego, the big unions and big government, and living in remote communities where they all impact quite as badly, so badly in fact the movement is for self-determination, which means in layman's language they can all just bugger off.

      And in that maybe stand…

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    41. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Amusingly, at the end of the article "In particular an appraisal of neoliberalism as an historical bloc can help grasp the doomed, declining constellation of forces behind Tory England, their deep hatred for Cameron..."
      Andy, the fact that the American Lizard had a bust of Lenin on his desk simply reflected his interest in history. The main concern is his belief that he can direct history with his lying rags. I assume that when he gave up his Australian citizenship to become an American he carefully cleaned up his desk and bookshelves of anything to do with Lenin.

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    42. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The ability of workers to fight for their own rights is a liberal idea in itself.

      Part of the problem has been that instead of "workers" as human beings acting in empowered self-determination through education and skill acquisition they remained alienated as anonymous objects still clustering about the big bosses and big unions, running anxiously to big government all the time to protect their "rights".

      But such rights are only ever the rights of the non-entity, to remain non-entity, as ignorant, as helpless and as dependent as ever.

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    43. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      You clearly do not understand Lenin - his deeds, his ambition, his horror.

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    44. Gary FitzGerald

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Well said.

      If I may go a step further neoliberalism is also totally illogical because there the basic freedoms in this world also rely on other freedoms, for example can ill-fed, uneducated people without access to communications be free?

      Put another way who is more free, the educated healthy person in easy communication with the world OR a disenfranchised young person without opportunity cut off from the world?

      Have a look at places like Afghanistan etc to make a choice

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    45. Gary FitzGerald

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Perfectly put how can we truly be free if market power is in the hands of corporations and their advertising agencies

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    46. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Hi Dhugal,
      The problem with the Forbes article is that it does not go far enough. It may well be that absenteeism and turnover was very high at one stage, hence paying a good wage PLUS bonuses was required to tackle it. The article calculates the revenue of Ford at one time, claiming to show that the wages exceeded the extra revenue. But it does not continue on to show how Ford became extremely profitable and Henry very rich.
      The answer (probably) is that Ford's innovations made the production…

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    47. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Andy, where in any of my posts have I mentioned Lenin before, and how on earth did you read my mind about my understanding of Lenin. Bizarre!

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    48. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      "Andy, the fact that the American Lizard had a bust of Lenin on his desk simply reflected his interest in history."

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    49. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal,
      I've known thousands of employees in industry over several decades and I don't think I can think of one who qualifies as having done anything 'profoundly ugly for the masses.' Just nice people trying to earn a living, far from the scenes you paint of corporate greed Gordon Gekko style. Sure, there is some of the Gekko attitude around, but I think that you know as well as I do that it is minor and not at all representative of the outlandish branding that you propose.

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    50. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Your logical fallacy is 'hasty generalisation'. You assert that because you don't think you know anybody that fits the description, there are no people that fit the description.

      I've met plenty of people in and outside corporations who exhibit extreme selfish greed. The ones I came across in positions of power were spreadsheet managers focussed on returning the right numbers at any cost. If they got their bonus, they had no concern for anybody else. The exceptions to that rule were noteworthy…

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    51. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      In fact Ford Germany helped Hitler's war effort, as did other American companies with German subsidiaries.

      They made money from both sides during WW2 and then from the aftermath............

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    52. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal, you state the position that "Neoliberalism is a religion for the rich and greedy pretending to be benefitting everyone."
      Isn't the same argument a nice tight fit for socialism?
      Couldn't socialism be viewed as just another way of saying 'I want what you've got and the government should take it off you and give it to me because..." The whining 'What About Me?' generation.

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    53. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      There are various sorts of "persons". A "natural person" has pulse and maybe a sex drive. A "corporate person" is a company in various guises. The Yanks introduced it so they could play games with various laws about political donations and free speech. Thus a "corporate person" has the right to spread whatever bullshit they want and has the protection of the USA constitution.

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    54. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Sweet on Peter. Also called 'taking your responsibility' :) But a cooperation is created for the opposite. It's the way to grab what you want, whenever you can, or can't, and still avoid responsibility for your actions. A little like banks.

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    55. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The 'corporate person', however, has limited liability and can get away with behaviours that would place any 'natural person' in jail. Which encourages psychopaths to become more successful than socially and environmentally responsible incorporated 'persons'.

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    56. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I really enjoyed the link Mr O.

      Undeniable proof that true individualism plus ingenuity are the positive human traits we need to foster.

      'Classical liberalism', are weasel words for 'business as usual' which in turn covers a form of authoritarianism which (ironically) began when people started building huts and stopped wandering for food.

      True liberalism embraces diversity, change and acceptance of all humans- tends towards flat arterial community structures than the anachronistic pyramid which is well past its use-by date, simply because there is very little room at the top.

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    57. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy

      Successful psychopaths are often adept at passing on their dubious characteristics - which explains why so many people today are self-entitled and care less about others.

      "The team, from Britain, Italy, China and Uzbekistan, took tissue samples from 2,000 men from central Asia, and studied each one's Y chromosome, the genetic package that confers maleness and is passed only from father to son.

      'Y chromosomes belonging to different men vary slightly. One in every 5,000 DNA units is…

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    58. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to John Phillip

      He is spreading neoliberal religious dogma. Just calling it what it is: assertion without evidence.

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    59. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal,

      You keep using the term 'neoliberal', but it has had a number of definitions on the occasions when opponents of liberalism tried to introduce it.

      Can you give us your understanding of the term, and explain how it differs from classical liberalism, as well as why it is religious?

      I would be interested.

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    60. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to John Phillip

      The kind of 'socialism' that comes with authoritarian dictatorship is an extreme religious philosophy just like Neoliberalism. I think it misses the points of the original motivations for people to act together without being exploited.

      There has been a lot of evolution in the forms of socialism, one of them is worker's collectives and cooperative model businesses. These are both huge in Australia and implement socialist ideas at the right level.

      I don't think any one business model should be forced on all businesses, I think business models should compete as well. Except one business model, the one that says a corporation only has one goal 'profit for shareholders no matter what' has to go. It is also an extremely radical view that needs adjustment to function effectively. That adjustment is triple bottom line accounting.. B corporations are already moving this way....

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    61. George Carroll

      Solicitor

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I think the problem with the article and with your comment is a misunderstanding as to meaning of the term 'rights', or at least to the different kinds of rights that are at issue in this debate.

      I would say that the terms and conditions that workers now have that they didn't have 200 years ago are better described as privileges or entitlements and not rights. If you prefer we may instead distinguish between inherent rights and granted rights. So the t&Cs achieved by workerrs by legislation and…

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    62. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom, that was 'jacobins' not 'Jacobites' - being of Scottish ancestry I tend to be aware of the distinction...you might find yourself less prone to making an idiot of yourself in public and falsely abusing others if you bothered to check a few very baic facts.

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    63. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      That first sentence is the single most risible thing I've read this year, Tom. Are you actually suggesting that workers rights, pay rates and entitlements are the result of some abstract 'idea' rather than centuries of hard struggle?

      Genuinely insane.

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    64. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Yes indeed Felix ... the plague of liberalism that swept through the ruling classes saw them just wandering through the streets distributing obscenely high wages, implementing shorter working weeks and taking the kiddies out of the pits without even being asked. We our our betters everything they've given us so freely.

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  1. Stephen M Sasse

    CEO

    This is an outstanding article - if you are looking for a text that can be used to educate budding logicians. Five marks for each fallacy that is identified (argumentum ad populum; argumentum ab auctoritate; straw man etc). As a contribution to the debate on rights, the piece is hardly helpful and an appalling slur on what is probably the single greatest achievement of western civilisation - classical liberalism

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    1. Catherine JK

      Educator

      In reply to Stephen M Sasse

      can we also get marks for detecting hyperbole in the comment feed? Come on, every good philosopher knows that just because you used logic to arrive at a different conclusion doesn't mean that your logic is the only logic that can be applied. *sweet smile*: 'single greatest achievement' - argumentum ad populum indeed....

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Catherine JK

      Catherine, I think you'll find Stephen's argument is that the author did not use logic at all, which is kinda what "fallacy" means.

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  2. Janeen Harris

    chef

    Classical liberal approach sounds to me as if a person who is born in the wrong circumstances they are free to go to hell in a hand basket.

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  3. Fred Moore

    Builder

    George Orwell wrote about this sanitisation of cherry picked Nation Building aka
    "classical Liberalism" in Animal Farm.

    All I can say is beware PIGS.

    1. We live on the fringes of a fragile desert ecology and only HUman rights are of concern - to the degree where "CL's" are planning for up to 3 times the current Australian population with up to 10 times the ecological damage. The only rational explanation is our "CL's are frauds. They are merely getting rich by importing market share whilst…

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  4. Giles Pickford
    Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired, Wollongong

    Anton Chekov said the are only two human rights.

    - The right not to be treated violently
    - The right not to be lied to.

    All the rest are human needs, not rights.

    Being treated violently starts in the school yard and being lied to happens daily at all levels of society.

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    1. Mark Chambers

      logged in via email @velocino.com.au

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Giles,

      Chekov was (famous as) a short story writer and died over 100 years ago. His views are of mildly interesting historical interest only.

      The U.N. declaration of Human Rights seems a far better definition of human rights in the context of this conversation.

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    2. Catherine JK

      Educator

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      I happen to love Chekhov:

      "Anton Chekhov, the most frequently produced playwright after William Shakespeare, also played a vital role in Russian society, according to Malaev-Babel. As a medical doctor, Chekov participated in the first effort to perform a census on Sakhalin Island. He interviewed and treated thousands of political and criminal prisoners and settlers over the course of three months. Shocked by what he saw, he wrote a book titled The Island of Sakhalin documenting his experiences…

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    3. Catherine JK

      Educator

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      “Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

      1) They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable ... They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don't make a scandal when they leave. (...)

      2) They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is…

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  5. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    The theory sounds wonderful. The reality is completely different.

    If only life were as simple and straightforward as the above doctrine of Human Rights espoused.

    No-one can or will live up to all that, it only serves as a list of hypocrisies.

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  6. John Clark

    Manager

    Extending rights as suggested creates problems as evidenced by the failure of socialism. While democracy protects the rights of the individual, it also includes the common good. Introducing rights such as "adequate" heathcare, requires definition, as in what is adequate. The application therefore is relative, rather than absolute. If you have been born, or given residency in Australia you are fortunate indeed, and should value this accident of birth.

    The children of unauthorised arrivals pose a vexed problem. Clearly detention is undesirable, but what are the proposed alternatives?

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    1. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to John Clark

      Concentrated media ownership causes problems as videnced by the failure of democracy

      Deregulation of finance industry results in problems as evidenced by the failure of capitalism.

      Defining rights is a matter of documentation followed by enforcement.

      The only reason we haven't done it already is because capitalism took over democracy and is now trying to destroy us all

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    2. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to John Clark

      Maybe the question of adequacy should be applied to wealth and income. We have freedoms in place that favor greed.

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    3. Annamarie Newton

      Small business/part-time student/carer

      In reply to John Clark

      If all stakeholders encouraged arrival through the correct processes, then checking credentials would be fast and efficient. Those that do not meet the criteria could be sent back to where they boarded a plane or boat. The real issue in the UN Human Rights Declaration really is: whose right comes first. Does the collective good of the community outweigh the individual right or must the individual be attended to first? We the community must be protecting vulnerable children who cannot protect or stand up for themselves. But, when is this jeopardised through adults deliberately using children or innocent adults to enforce individual rights (discrimination, freedom of speech, right of association, asylum seekers) then the community must say no, we must take a stand.

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    4. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to John Clark

      John Clark,
      The unauthorised arrivals problem would cease overnight if people abided by very well known and clear laws. If you wish to place the lives of your children at risk, you can choose the lawless path via a boat arrival, but that it your choice and it absolves lawmakers from any subsequent liability.
      It is sad that some people are prepared to place their children at such risk.
      My thoughts are that we do not want such people in our society in any case. We certainly do not need a Nanny state to reward them for their lawlessness.

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    5. Paul Byard

      Brain Surgeon, Project Manager

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      In my experience Mr. Sherrington the vast majority of parents, of whatever race, creed or nationality, would go through a great deal of soul searching before putting the lives of their children at risk by sending them into the unknown, alone or accompanied. That they still choose to do so says a lot about their particular circumstances but also their courage, hopes and dreams for those children.

      If only they could receive better advice from their legal advisers before departure...

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Clark

      Where socialism failed was in its reliance on centralised command-and-control, and in its failure to facilitate productive innovation.

      I don't see that "recognition of rights" had anything to do with it - rather, it is the stifling of rights in Socialist states that leads to their failure.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Arthur

      You see, David, this is the mistake you and I keep making - because we are not unquestioning adherents to extreme neo-liberfalism we are therefore, axiomatically, lesbisn pinko commies who want to live in caves or, if the weather's nice, grass huts. There are no other alternatives.

      Just ask Andy Cameron.

      I hadn't realised until now that I was actually an unreconstrucyted Stalinist...

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    8. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, I don't how long it's been since you met a lesbian, but the ones I know would not be caught dead in a grass hut, or marching with pinkoes. They prefer Manolo Blahnik to income tax!

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    9. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      But you have us in your society, whether you want us or not.

      Just wondering at the sheer hypocrisy of your argument here, in the same breath arguing that you don't want people in your society who don't want you in theirs.

      The reason for the walls, no doubt, and the refusal to sit and discuss anything sensible with other people, already rendered as Other and alienated by the very position you adopt.

      It seems timely to recall that even Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the task is not to make friends with your friends, but with your worst enemies.

      That's what recognition of human rights is about, nothing less.

      Go figure.

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    10. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Brett Forbes

      No, the advocacy is for restoration of good government in those countries, not continuation of dysfunctional and erratic government with ongoing receival of refugees in other countries always after the fact.

      What an odd mentality some of you people have, tolerating oppression and terror for no better cause it seems than to have an endless stream of refugees on your doorstep, making you feel good and moral and self-righteous by helping them no matter who else it affects, and not a stable, well-educated population of an enlightened and prosperous economy with whom one might as well be friends and colleagues.

      If we are going to have human rights, let's have human rights.

      I tell you, here I assert my human right to enjoy peers and colleagues of all nations with whom I might collaborate, not fellow human beings perpetually reduced to refugee status with no end in sight just to suit some exclusive moral cause refusing to collaborate toward resolution finally.

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    11. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      Err, I'm not sure you should be too fulsome in your praise of my remarks, Mr Phillip.

      At the start of this thread, John Clark asserts: "Extending rights as suggested creates problems as evidenced by the failure of socialism."

      I understood Mr Clark's reference to be to "socialism" as practiced in Soviet-style states, hence "Where socialism failed was in its reliance on centralised command-and-control, and in its failure to facilitate productive innovation.
      "I don't see that "recognition of…

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    12. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      Mr Phillip, the single-minded pursuit of profit growth fails to consider that we must all share a finite planet.

      Stephen Ralph also misunderstood this point in suggesting to me that neoclassical economics automatically considers this.

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    13. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to David Arthur

      Holy Smoke! David, We're on a roll. The endless consumption of products designed to fail after a brief, but entertaining life is one of the greatest shames in our modern society.Whjatever happened to the 30 year old tv, fridge, washing machine, toaster, car etc etc etc. You know stuff you actually fix.

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    14. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Phillip

      "I don't think too many of the respondents here are offering anything useful to replace it with." that's as may be, Mr Phillip, but recognition of a problem is a step towards developing a solution.

      I think the issue of this page pertains to competition for 'rights' between humans and corporations. Elsewhere I've seen 'classical liberalism' leading to laissez-faire capitalism.

      Now, if there were no adverse social or economic consequences of laissez-faire capitalism, I'd have no quibble; in its application to this real world, however, laissez-faire too readily translates to "let 'er rip".

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    15. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to John Phillip

      Yes there is, that is the failure of the system as it stands. You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet with finite resources. We finally got big enough to hit the straps. That is why we need triple bottom line accounting to balance the mess.

      Also why we need a zero net growth global economy.

      The system needs to change to become a dynamic equilibrium of small businesses permanently eating at and replacing larger ones. No system can operate with just apex predators, but we are desperately…

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    16. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to David Arthur

      Anyone who has had a game of Monopoly end with a huge fight and the board thrown around the room understands completely what a free market inevitably results in.

      That is why the government must act to balance the power difference between huge business and startups instead of tip the balance further to huge business.

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    17. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal, I am aghast - I must have totally misread your earlier post. You've offered an excellent model that I can agree with on all points. Maybe my mistake has been to equate a critique of 'neo liberalism' with an attack on 'conservatives' in general - I consider myself conservative and consider that the global corporatisation that we are assaulted with has nothing to do with those values. I guess that's an everpresent problem with a debate that is too often simplified into a 'left/right' polemic. Thanks again for the nuanced and detailed response.

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    18. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to John Phillip

      Neoliberalism is a fundamentalist religious outlook that is extreme and radical from the outset.... Doesn't sound very conservative to me. It is the economic equivalent of putting One Nation in charge of social policy. A nightmare for the masses and bliss for a small minority.

      I don't have an issue with actual conservatives who think we should change slowly and carefully if we can justify change at all. It's a great balancing force on society. But neoliberal governments are playing dog whistle…

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    19. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      You don't even know what you mean by "Neoliberalism". Again, it is a mirage; an anxious projection.

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    20. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I know exactly what I mean, I've posted a link on this thread to a large document I've written that covers the topic in more depth, but if you can't be bothered with all that, then here's a great primer:

      http://www.globalissues.org/article/39/a-primer-on-neoliberalism

      Again, you saying something is so does not make it true without evidence. You keep making assertions without evidence, which is a big problem if you want anyone to take you seriously.

      What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. I've continually provided mine, where's yours?

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    1. harry oblong

      tree surgeon

      In reply to Bradley Stringer

      preventing deaths at sea will only lead to more deaths somewhere else ,either in other seas or in the reggaes home countries from the regimes and warlords the asylum seekers were originally fleeing.
      its not really a humanitarian (save people from dying) policy the lib/lab parties make it out to be, unless they can prevent these refugees they illegally detain and send back from drowning in other seas or not being killed by the governments and armies they were fleeing.
      its nonsense and immoral rubbish ..........

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Bradley Stringer

      Dog whistling to whom? The Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Indians, and Filipinos living in Sydney's western suburbs?

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    3. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      To anyone that thinks their rhetoric represents a conservative viewpoint. To anyone who thinks that their promise to 'fix the economy' actually means anything other than a radical neoliberal regime.

      Any conservative should be asking themself why a conservative government has spent over 6 months tearing up a vast amount of government programs. That action is not the action of a conservative government - that is the action of a radical suddenly in power. It wont fix the economy, it will simply enable the flow of wealth from the masses to a tiny minority. Hopefully Australians are smart enough to learn from what happened in the US and UK.

      I've provided a wealth of linked facts and data in the document and link I've already provided for your benefit. Please read something new instead of relying on your religious fervour.

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    1. Lydia Ralph

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jo Bourke Martignoni

      Absolutely right, Jo! Well-expressed too. I think the nut of the problem - and the main area of obfuscation in the way this topic is presented by Mr Wilson and certain sections of the media - is located in that distinction between negative and positive rights, and the consequences of promoting one type of rights or the other. Positive rights are seen to require not only money, but government 'interference'. Such interference is not only antithetical to the liberal project, but it is seen to somehow…

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    2. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Jo Bourke Martignoni

      The massive public expenditure in the area of human rights is already in healthcare and education, social security, universal adult suffrage and secret ballot.

      No, not all people have "equal access" to education but we do have access. Many of us growing up in remote inland Australia while we had access to schools had very limited access to education, and decent teachers and stimulating learning environment, and dropping out in despair went working often on farms and cattle stations, trapping rabbits…

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Lydia Ralph

      We do not want any more bloody government interference, we want them to get out of our way finally, bugger off, go find some other cause to sponsor.

      Maybe knitting pullovers for penguins, eh?

      That would be real good, very very good indeed.

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  7. Geoffrey Sherrington

    Surveyor

    This essay is much about who should balance rights between an abstract, treaty definition and actual work in progress. The cited Article 2 does not apportion management responsibility - "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
    One approach is to study history to see if there is a correlation…

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  8. David Collett

    Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

    I had the feeling from reading some of Tim's transcript that he may believe the right of association overrides anti-discrimination, that if we can choose who we associate with then we can therefore choose for certain people to not be in our presence for whatever reason.

    He is good at asking questions, but does not seem so forthcoming when pressed to answer them.

    Interesting article Catherine.

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  9. Tony Dickson

    Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

    Given that the justification for these “reforms” are the ideas of “classical liberalism”, perhaps several things should be noted.
    Liberalism was a child of The Enlightenment, a uniquely Leftwing intellectual revolution. It was the genesis of the labels Left and Right. The Right being the conservative opponents of the progressive ideas generated by the Left;. ideas like empiricism, market economics, participatory democracy and personal freedoms.
    There are two basic points that should have been made…

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    1. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      Fascism and communism aside, in a liberal democracy the project of the "Right" is conservative in the sense of frugality and economy, and due process, while the project of the "Left" is to spend and spend and spend, racing ahead on schemes lacking thought and substance, from what I can gather so they can later argue that progress is their baby and it's what the Left are about.

      I know a lot of the old union guys who after a few too many beers would slur, "Yeah, mate, the simple fact of politics…

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    2. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Thanks for that summary of the myths that conservatives like to tell each other. If any of that was ever true (doubtful) it hasn't been true for decades. The Liberals today are fundamentalist religious nuts spouting nonsense. Turnbull was the only reasonable voice and is being forced to tow the line.

      Now back it up with evidence. To get you started, here's a good summary of the counter evidence to your unfounded assertions.

      http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/we-really-must-talk-about-the-howard-and-costello-economic-disaster,5686

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    3. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Much of the discussion regarding this article has been a semantic one about the terminology and attributes of liberalism. Your posts seem to be addressing another topic altogether. Unfortunately, whilst I get your general drift, I am never sure exactly what your point is precisely. However, the above post is specific enough to comment on.
      As a farmer, I entirely endorse the notion of frugality and fiscal rectitude. Personally I have a horror of debt. At a political level, I have sometimes wondered…

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  10. Michael Gardiner

    Lecturer at USQ

    Classic Liberalism is quite simple, there is only one right/freedom: the right/freedom to pursue self-interest. I for one do not accept the legitimacy of such a right.

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    1. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Michael Gardiner

      Michael, your assertion seems perverse. You confuse the the original idea with the self serving distortions of the neo cons. The answer is to challenge the corruptions by pointing out their inherent inconsistencies, not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

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    2. Michael Gardiner

      Lecturer at USQ

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      Tony, I find that the 'inherent inconsistency' is self-evident and there is no 'baby' to be saved, only effluent to be discharged.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      Tony, I like what you're saying, particularly in your longer post above, but I'm less convinced that 'classical liberalism' is in the parlous state we find it because it has been distorted - as noted above in my first response to Dhugal, I think the problem is much deeper and more intrinsic than that and 'liberalism' is clsiming a pedigree it doesn't deserve.

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    4. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Sorry Felix, I missed your first post. A very good argument. I find I am not in a position to contradict it with any confidence, however, I suggest that you may not have accounted for Adam Smith. His justification for his economic vision puts economics at the heart of his concerns about freedom and social justice. His observation that government dominated by commercial interests is the worst type of government, surely gives some clue to his intentions. Surely it is the intentions behind these ideas and their progenitors that we are debating, rather than their subsequent appropriation and corruption.
      Surely the test is to compare the intellectual climate of The Enlightenment with what preceded it. It should also be remembered that Marx was influenced by the work of Smith

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      Don't apologise - I think I posted it later than yours anyway!

      Yeah - fair point about Smith - the least nasty of the early 'liberals' by a long chalk!

      I love the way Hayekian/Friedmanesque neo-liberals love to bathe in the glory of their roots in Smith but neglect the many sane things he argued, such as a fear for excessive inequality, a fear for excessive molecularisation and mechanisation of labour, and a belief (even back when he was writing!) that quite quickly we would get to the point where simple economic growth was no longer important (think Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if you like) and we would prefer to focus on other, more enlightened pursuits. They also forget, that all his thinking was premised on an assumption that he was dealing with deeply moral people who had ideals far beyond the merely material...

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    6. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Michael Gardiner

      Ah, you mean to say that when others refuse to pursue my interest, or help me pursue my interest, I am not allowed to pursue my interest because it's "self-interest".

      Que?

      Pursuing self-interest has never been about anything beyond pulling oneself up out of adversity and oppression by one's own bootstraps, through hard work and education and focus and discipline, and in this country often hysterical abuse from people arguing we are "only being selfish".

      But the level of equality is not the…

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  11. Gray Connolly

    logged in via Twitter

    This is an unusually weak article. Ms Renshaw ridicules (from a position at a Catholic university no less) the idea of human rights conferred by "God or derived from some essential human essence" yet ends up arguing for an idea based on a common humanity that presupposes same.

    She also cites as evidence for her views that some community consultation by the Brennan commission, no doubt attended by the usual suspects, is some reflection of the public will, despite numerous elections with results to the contrary as to where the voting public puts rights in its hierarchy of issues. If Ms Renshaw truly does believe in "Vox populi, vox Dei", and that human rights are whatever 50.1% of people think they are, then the whole debate is utterly pointless as the mob will always change its mind.

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Gray Connolly

      "She also cites as evidence for her views that some community consultation by the Brennan commission"
      Another Catholic natural law type.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Roger Davidson

      Hey, Roger, that's a very neat description of our current democracy! Do you mind if I borrow that metaphor?

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    3. Roger Davidson

      not really a Student

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Go for it. But it didn't originate from me, I heard it some time ago (in relation to democracy) and it just stuck in my mind.

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    4. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Gray Connolly

      I'm afraid that you misconstrue Catholic Social Teaching and, inter alia, misrepresent Renshaw's position which, I imagine, is drawn from the Catholic teaching on human rights, expressed initially in Rerum Novarum, which was Leo XIII's response to the crisis of capitalism in the nineteenth century.

      This follows the terrible injustices, poverty and inequality resulting from the Industrial Revolution in Britain and Northern Europe, and which provoked Marx and Engels better known contribution to…

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  12. Peter McCaffrey

    logged in via Facebook

    "Rights are the important interests and values that democracies have decided to protect."

    If rights are given by a majority, then they can be taken away when the majority changes its mind.

    That’s the exact opposite to what classical liberals believe – that rights are the things that are NOT subject to a majority vote.

    Of course, people like Catherine Renshaw want rights to be subject to a majority decision when the majority agrees with them, but want rights to be inherent when the majority disagrees with them.

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    1. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Bravo Peter.
      Well said as usual, we are of one mind.
      However, your first paragraph I find a little opaque. I presume you are alluding to the patrician hypocrisies of people like Jefferson. It is true that he was monumentally inconsistent and never did free his slaves, which included his own offspring. However, he did brilliantly articulate a secular statement of moral aspiration that still has significant currency. Given that a substantive democracy (as opposed to a procedural one) has yet to be achieved, let’s give credit where it is due. I suggest they did more good than harm, in contrast to their French equivalents a few years later.

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    2. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Excellent points Peter. Economic rights - what a concept. Here we are arguing over the right to offend while governments are acting deliberately to throw a bunch of people into poverty. Deliberately. Have we gone mad? What are we thinking?

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    3. karen griffiths

      retired teacher

      In reply to David Stein

      The growing distance between theory and law is becoming more and more frightening.

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    4. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter,

      You said:" the foundation texts of "Human Rights" are not found in such modern contrivances as UN declarations and the like but in the thinking and writings of the slave-owners of the American colonies and the French revolutionists."

      Actually, many predate these somewhat, and also derive from other sources.

      You said:"In reality Wilson's views are in fact well outside the contemporary right-wing of American thought and scholarship - far far to the right - more ideology than reason…

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    5. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Right-wing extremism and classical liberal political theory are no strangers to each other: Goldwater, the senator for Arizona and partly because of his disavowed Jewish origins, eclipsed other Republicans in his support for right-wing causes....this at the high point of the Cold War and McCarthyism, effectively making Eisenhower and Nixon look like Lefties!

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    6. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael,

      Sometimes a principled stance can be mistaken for support, as in the ACLU acting to support the constitutional rights of Klan members.

      Goldwater, for instance, deserted the Republicans and joined many Democrats in voting against the Johnston Civil Rights Bill, not because he disagreed with its aims, as the Democrats who voted against it did, but because he held to the belief that the Federal Government was exceeding its constitutional authority in enacting it.

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    7. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Ah yes that'd be "bomb 'em back into the stone age" Barry Goldwater I assume ... talking about pulverising the men women and children of Vietnam using nuclear weapons. But I'm sure they understood that such extremism was in their best interests of course.

      Personally I think any sort of extremism is a vice ... simply saying it isn't don't make it so ... and moderation - yes even in the pursuit of "justice" is always a virtue. We can always be wrong, always misunderstand, always be ignorant…

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    8. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Hello Chris

      Thanks for your post.

      Goldwater was a Republican. Republicans at the time were trenchant Cold War advocates while Democrats, especially like John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, were somewhat to the left of them, but not by much given the right-wing elisions of US politics on this question.

      Currently Republicans form the backbone of the Tea Party (classical economic liberals who would rather see hungry people starve than break into the public coffers to dispense state charity…

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      How on earth is that fraudulent. Tim, as a citizen, has [or should have] every right to scorn the Occupy movement.

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    2. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Well at least you did not respond with Voltaire's "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

      Given your other comments here, that would have been risible.

      Wilson like most conservatives is a totalitarian at heart.

      His view of freedom of speech is that only people who own their own newspaper, have a column in a newspaper or who can pay the IPA to spruik for them are entitled to it.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      So, responding to someone else's expressing their [rightful] views by recommending that water cannon be applied is defending freedom of speech, Andy?

      Did anyone say he had no right to scorn something? No.

      Mike merely pointed out that, by recommending violent repression of someone else's right of expression he was being hypocritical.

      Most children could make that distinction.

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "So, responding to someone else's expressing their [rightful] views by recommending that water cannon be applied is defending freedom of speech, Andy?"
      Yes, it is defending free speech. HIS.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Talking about water, is it OK to use water to torture people? After all, the torturers are only trying to encourage their guests to speak freely.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      No, Andy, the tweet had nothing to do with defending his free speech, as it had not been attacked. It consisted solely and entirely of advocating violent repression of other peoples' free speech.

      Are you actually unable to see this distinction?

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    7. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      You are right, my bad. Has was not *defending* his free speech. He was *expressing* it. I suppose you would criminalise those who say "whenever I hear - [culture/whatever] - I reach for my revolver"? I say this often, yet was, and remain, an ardent cheerleader of Howard's gun laws.

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    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Please show where somebody said he should be prevented from expressing his views. All that was said was that he was being hypocritical.

      Nobody said he should have been prevented. Nobody said that he should have been prevented. Nobody said that he should have bee nprevented.

      Has that penetrated yet?

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    9. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Nobody is decrying the right to have a say, what they are against is people deliberately interrupting the traffic and causing obstruction on the pretext of asserting their right to speak.

      They all have a right to speak. But what they are doing is ("non-violently" no doubt) coercively ramming their views down other people's throats without allowing them their correlative right of reply, or not reply as the case may be.

      In short, if you want me to listen to your views, kindly pay me the courtesy…

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    10. In reply to Mike Hansen

      Comment removed by moderator.

    11. In reply to Mike Hansen

      Comment removed by moderator.

  13. Gregory Melleuish

    Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

    Jeremy Bentham once described the idea of human rights as nonsense on stilts. It is clear that not all classical liberals believed in human rights and it is difficult to reconcile utilitarianism with a notion of human rights. When the French revolutionaries made the famous Declaration of Human Rights in 1789 what they were opposing were ideas of privilege. A privilege is something which one has by virtue of membership of a particular group, be it a status group, such as the clergy, or a corporation…

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    1. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Can I ask what your view of privilege is?

      "..what they were opposing were ideas of privilege. A privilege is something which one has by virtue of membership of a particular group, be it a status group, such as the clergy, or a corporation such as guild (including universities) or a corporation, such as a town."

      "This means that particular groups cannot be given privileges which are not enjoyed by the rest of the population."

      If I start a business and it become successful and I have a board who are well paid because the business is profitable, are those board members receiving a privilege that should also be enjoyed by the rest of the population?

      I would assume the point at which membership to a particular group becomes unfair from the point of view of the general population is when there is an unfair entry barrier into that group?

      I don't see there are any unfair entry barriers to starting a business in Australia, so I am a little curious about the above.

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    2. Gregory Melleuish

      Associate Professor, School of History and Politics at University of Wollongong

      In reply to David Collett

      Privileges are essentially legal entitlements which are assigned to members of a group. By group I mean members of a status group or corporation. For example members of the clergy or aristocracy might not have to pay certain taxes. The origins of modern rights lie in the privileges or rights which were granted by charter to particular towns and corporations. Human rights seeks to go beyond particular rights to universal ones. It is worth noting that when the Americans began their protests against Britain in the 1760s they did so on the basis of their rights as Englishmen, not as human beings. The universalism comes later.

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    3. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Thank you Gregory, that definition of privilege helps me understand your first comment better.

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    4. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Mark Weiner's book? Title?

      One might also attend to P. J. D. Wiles, 'Economic Systems Compared', which comprehensively compares slavery and forced labour, for example, with the open labour market.

      And I would challenge you on the central focus of liberalism on the individual as distinct from corporate and clan-based society. I doubt the liberal exists who insists that each person is an island, entirely free of all obligation or social setting. As simple and straight forward reality as business…

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    5. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Gregory Melleuish

      Then you need to examine, Gregory, why members of other, ostensibly non-status groups are not granted the same legal entitlements. Even unions under long successions of Labor governments are still not granted the same "privileges", or might we say exemptions, but still rely more on rorts and slush funds to remain viable in circumstance where compulsory levies on their members are deemed illegal.

      Surely we must look far beyond rank and privilege, and consider how, for example, of two children growing…

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  14. George Naumovski

    Online Political Activist

    The word itself “Liberal” is exact opposite of what the LNP are all about. The Liberal party should change their name!

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  15. Edwina Laginestra
    Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Jack of all trades

    The first thing I noticed when reading this article (and thank you Catherine 'cos I think it important to start the discussion on the definition of classical liberal) is Article 1

    "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood".

    I haven't seen too much evidence of some of my fellow men being endowed with reason or conscience, plus I'd like to see a little more effort in taking actions in the spirit of brotherhood. Some in our political arena have failed at the first hurdle!

    And thank you to the contributors who have been enlightening me as to needs and rights and starting the thinking on context.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood".

      Give me a break..........this is just lovely words to make those in power feel better. Like "give me your tired and poor etc..".....
      it should go onto say "we will trample over them, and use and abuse their labor, and milk as much as we can from them"

      Human Rights is just a Western ideal that make's the ruling elites think they are just and kind - all tosh.

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    2. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Edwina Laginestra

      This argument that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" is especially intriguing from a Catholic university when historically wars to win recognition of humanity have been against the Romans and the papacy, and in turn their favoured Franks and Carolingians, when courts like that if Frederick II bringing scholarship and learning and numeracy into Europe against the tide of crusade and religious fervour brought excommunication.

      And try to argue or discuss these issues…

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  16. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    'Rights are the important interests and values that democracies have decided to protect.'

    From this pragmatic perspective, rights will change from time to time, as people change their minds about what is and isn't important to protect. For example, thirty years ago we had a 'right' to free tertiary education. Now we don't.

    'As a classical liberal, Wilson should find the government’s entire asylum seeker policy deeply troubling.'

    That's where the argument seems inconsistent. Now rights aren't about what most people want - rather, they reflect universal values, 'bestowed by God or derived from some essential human essence'.

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, I think that economic policies, including taxation, are not universal and enduing rights.
      Currently the capitalist world is busily organising for the wealthy to become wealthier. I can't see how this trend can be reversed, as it is the wealthy who direct our politicians.
      You might look at Maslow for a scheme of human needs, and build that in as rights / aspirations for political systems.

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  17. Robert Molyneux

    Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

    Currently we allow fellow humans to be held in concentration camps to try to stop them from fleeing mortal danger in various countries. We pretend that we care about them drowning, when we could easily pick them up using our airlines - just as we turn a blind eye to the far-more numerous humans who come here on tourist visas and then take work for our country cousins.
    I suggest that Brandis and his little friend Wilson could easily fix the Dolt problem. Simply allow him and his ilk to push whatever insults they like, but require them to stand in a public square once a week, when those who have been insulted are allowed to punch them in the nose. No need for any Press Council adjudications - think of the money saved.

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    1. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Robert to refer to the Manus detention centre as a'concentration camp shows your absolute ignorance of history. As a rhetorical tool for your ideologically driven argument, it is at best, in bad taste. At worst it is just gutwrenchingly vile and reflects on your character poorly.

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    2. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to John Phillip

      I disagree with you John. I think running a concentration camp on Manus Island is in much worse taste that calling it by the appropriate name - as Robert has done, with great self-restraint.
      We have seen enough videos,, read enough witness accounts to know what life is like in the 'detention centre'. 77 people injured, 8 taken to hospital urgently. Fractured skulls, one dead. How does the word "centre" begin to describe this? Here's a better description:
      "The Manus Island Hell Hole".

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      A vile notion but Robert is technically quite correct John.

      There is a big difference between concentration camps and nazi death camps, the former have been around for a long time - at least a couple of centuries.

      The Russians used them against Poles during a rebellion of 1768. The Spanish in Cuba 1868 and by the USA in the Philippines War 1899

      They were used by the British Empire forces during the Boer War to intern without charge potential enemies and their families.

      The term "concentration…

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    4. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to John Phillip

      As you know (perhaps) concentration camps were invented by the British during the Boer War (in which Australian colonials participated). It simply means a camp where people who have done no wrong are collected for administrative purposes.
      What euphemism would you like me to use?

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Older and more widespread than that I'm sad to say Robert ... rounding civilians up and imprisoning them without charge or trial is a pretty popular strategy when dealing with popular uprisings or when the loyalty of specific minority groups, ethnicities or religions is called into question. Human and legal rights are the first to go.

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    6. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I admit that most people would also associate concentration camps with indiscriminate victimisation of men, women and children, and that some concentration camps had these natty little gadgets for murdering people and incinerating their bodies as soon as they arrived. We have not built the latter yet.

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      True - I was trying to keep it simple for John.
      Did you notice that I mentioned Lenin (just his name) in one of my posts, and Andy Cameron immediately riposted that I didn't know anything about Lenin. Same with John - that I have somehow made an obscene remark without knowing anything about concentration camps.

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    8. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Jane, until you can s demonstrate a program of extermination being run on Manus Island, the use of the term Concentration camp remains nothing more than an emotive tool of those desperate to add some rhetorical punch to their 'argument'. Go and visit a holocaust site and look at the images of starved inmates - look at the images of stacked, naked corpses and look at the images of the gas chambers and the ovens and ask yourself if you are using the term appropriately.

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    9. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I know the history of the term, Peter. However, language is a 'living' mode of expression and meanings change over time. To call someone a 'fag' has an entirely different meaning in 2014 to what it had in the early 1900s.
      Mass extermination has been key characteristic of the term concentration camp since 1945.

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    10. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      That may well be the common usage John but the reality is that the Nazis actually ran a couple of different types of camps - labour camps and extermination camps, the latter came late to the scene - the Final Solution.

      As I suggested the idea behind a concentration camp is to contain and isolate a "worrisome" section of the population - civilians, men, women, children - without charge. Essentially illegal imprisonment.

      Call them detention centres if you find that more acceptable but they are in fact concentration camps in the historical and strategic sense. They are prisons.

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to John Phillip

      We used to have lots detention centres. When we outsourced the camps to PNG and Manus Island we concentrated the luckless inhabitants.
      The Germans had various distinct sorts of camps. Concentration camps (for example Buchenwald) were used to hold groups of people, such as Communists and university students from Alsace Lorraine that were French / German bilingual, and of suspect allegiance. The Death Camps / Extermination Camps (for example Auschwitz) were designed to murder people efficiently and…

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    12. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, I refer to your reply to Peter including the words ". . . . language is a 'living' mode of expression and meanings change over time. " I agree with you on that point.
      I did know, thanks, that there is not "a program of extermination being run on Manus Island" - so far, anyway.
      Can you please direct me to a modern word or short phrase which means "a place where people are imprisoned for long periods without charge and where they are given no hope for the future and sometimes exposed to violence, injury and death"?'
      I'm always keen to improve my vocabulary :)

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    13. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      BTW Peter, It's mean to make fun of denizens of the Western suburbs.
      I once spent a year working in Liverpool Hospital, where I met and made friends with a dedicated, caring group of health professionals.
      One sad note, though,I found that some of the people living in 'McMansions' out there are obliged to make do with only one bathroom and one garage (per person). Shocking …

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    14. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to John Phillip

      John Phillip,

      Concentration camps are not of necessity extermination camps. The functions may be combined, but this is not definitionally necessary.

      However, the use of the term in this context is deliberately emotive.

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    15. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Imprisoning folks without charge or trial is the hallmark of the concentration camp"
      Actually WAR is the hallmark of the concentration camp; a circumstance where much civilian law runs out.

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    16. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Hallmarks were originally stamped on silver and gold to show their degree of purity. Another - more recent - use of the word:
      Hallmark:noun = any distinguishing feature or characteristic: e.g. Accuracy is a hallmark of good scholarship.
      Concentration camps are often used during a war, to imprison without charge, nationals of the country with whom a nation is at war. Sometimes concentration camps are used to round up 'undesirables' (for reasons / excuses other than war) and to imprison them, without charge.
      Hence: "Imprisoning folks without charge or trial is the hallmark of the concentration camp."

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    17. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Jane, I repeat - in war, much civilian law and administration runs out. That's kinda what 'war' is. Also, in the context of Australia's treatment of boat people, it is completely governed by law - The Migration Act (1958).

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    18. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      OK, we disagree about what constitutes the hallmark of a concentration camp. No surprise to me - I can't remember ever thinking you were right about anything at all. : )

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    19. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Two questions Andy - just idle curiosity.
      1. When I replied to your point about the hallmark of concentration camps, why did you post this total non-sequitur? (see below)
      Your reply was: "Jane, I repeat - in war, much civilian law and administration runs out. That's kinda what 'war' is."
      2. Why do you repeat yourself like that?
      Is it some kinda digital stutter?

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  18. Andy Cameron

    Care giver

    "For example, ensuring that certain groups of people are not discriminated against is a central part of an equal society." Australians have rejected socialism time and time again, so using it is a justification for anti-discrimination laws is fraught to say the least.

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    1. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      'Australians have rejected socialism time and again'

      And that's how you frame a baseless argument. State fiction as fact and derive from there.

      The majority of Australians are socialist at heart. You never heard of a fair go or helping mates? Medicare and the dole are socialist services loved across the country.

      So perhaps you don't actually know what socialism is?

      It's selfish greed placed above all else that is new and that is the idea that needs to be quashed.

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Dhugal, social security and welfare are most certainly not socialist ideas. In fact, socialists opposed welfare right from the start, from Bismark till Beveridge and beyond. Welfare involves a capitulation to the inevitability of inequality, and the recognition that better capitalist inequality than socialist poverty, authoritarianism, and misery.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      So, Andy, if, as you are implying, 'socialism' means 'ensuring that certain groups of people are not discriminated against', and 'liberalism' is the opposite of 'socialism' - and preferable - then you are arguing that certain groups of people SHOULD be discriminated against.

      Thanks for at least being honest about it.

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, ah, "socialism" would be the "equal society" bit.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Nice non-response there Andy.

      Nobody challenged the concept that you could draw a not entirely ridiculous, though not essential or causal, connection between the concepts 'socialism' and 'equal society'. That, of course and as usual for you, has nothing to do with what I was saying.

      If you oppose an 'equal society' would you like to outline who should be discriminated against?

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      No, it is the author who invoked "equal society", which has nothing to do with whatever you think "discrimination" is.

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    7. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I like Billy Bragg's comments about socialism on Q&A this week.

      Nothing wrong with a dose of socialism - certainly better than an overdose of capitalism or plutocracy.

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    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      So you don't like 'equal society' being used as a basis for preventing discrimination, but you'd still like to see that discrimination prevented.

      Are you going for an award for pointless, nuagtory posts?

      Ayway, who said that 'equal society' meant solely and only - or even principally - economic equality? What about legal or moral equality?

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    9. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Oh for god sake. Equality is a far more venal horror than "discrimination"; which by the way is mostly a virtue.

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    10. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Actually I reckon we're in serious strife if we're "aspiring to equality" with the ignorant, the selfish, the ill-informed and the undeservedly opinionated. I'd be shooting a bit higher myself - nothing personal.

      I actually have never come across a political philosophy that advocates "equality" - in the sense you seem to believe it.... but equality of opportunity, equality before the law, equality of access you bet.

      It's all very easy to demonise vague and nebulous notions like "equality" unless it is specified more accurately.

      Now assuming that no one here or elsewhere is talking about this lawn-like astroturfed equality - other than yourself - what sort of inequality would you find acceptable for yourself and your children... from what rights, services and supports would you like to be excluded?

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    11. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      No .. as a very former communist .. a childhood indiscretion ... I am more than familiar with radical literature and I have no first hand knowledge of this "equal" society figment which is haunting you Mr Cameron. In fact the opposite.

      You would - being so erudite in sich matters be utterly au fait with Marx and the "Critique of the Gotha Program" ... from which the following is drawn : " to each according to their contribution". Notexactly a recipe for unifomr dispersal of wealth and…

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    12. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Well, Peter, I am glad you actually type "former". So few baby-boomer Communists who post on blogs show any repentance.

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    13. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Repentance? Who said anything about repentance? I was always my own thinker with far more interest in anarchism and ecology than gobbling down orthodoxy from the 19th Century or from far away places.

      Now text and verse comrade ... who is advocating this "equal" society you are so appalled by?

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    14. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Dhugal Fletcher

      Having a social conscience, being mates with people and helping them out, pursuing policies plainly beneficial to the whole, does not make one a socialist. Quite to the contrary.

      Social welfare, healthcare and education are enlightenment projects, and plain good business in adding to the general prosperity, none of which have ever been systematically opposed or resisted in this country. You cannot remotely claim credit for such programs as socialist initiatives.

      This appropriation and mobilisation…

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    15. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I'll take you one mate, any time you want.

      Enough of this namby-pamby restrictive monosyllabic word-games and pseudo-intellectual cleverness, bring it on, fully and comprehensively.

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    16. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Nothing wrong with a dose of anything.

      It is called inoculation.

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    17. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      So who is doing the excluding, Farmer Pete, sitting there among your chooks, surrounded by belligerent Angus cattle?

      As we've seen in Tasmania, the reality has far more to do with political cowardice than it has to exclusion, or more reliable simple failure to deliver.

      Go talk to the bureaucrats all sitting there on their lazy fat arses why all the money is going into the salaries and perks and leave entitlements, and not into schools delivering tangible outcomes, or any other area you care to name.

      The game these days is self-determination, independence, right to put together our own curriculum and draw the local neighbourhood and community into active participation in our schools, while the far-off department heads and their lackies can just bugger off finally, go find something useful to do like maybe driving around and around Australia in a wank tank pulling a caravan.

      That would be good to see.

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  19. Andy Cameron

    Care giver

    "This is hard, slow work, done on a case-by-case basis and through public education and training."
    Except there has not been any public education and training, as is obvious from reading the transcripts of those public consultations; not to mention the screaming silence in school curricula on the real human rights of life, liberty, and property. Even a highly educated forum like TC makes for very depressing reading when the topic of liberty and freedom come up. Most posters are clueless, making all sorts of batty claims.

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Not really depressing - but concerning certainly Mr Cameron... take for example your own notions regarding the origins of "neoliberalism" both as a term and as a social/economic philosophy.... a "commonsensical" notion devoid of facts and history ... all the more strident and assertive for the vacancy at it's core.

      I shall pluck a page from the scholarly Minister Hunt and point you towards the font of all human wisdom Wikipedia where you might see where the term originated ... not in the ranks…

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      As opposed to this evidence-driven and carefully referenced post of yours, Andy?

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Free as in free of dingbats and union bosses and socialist rorts, free to live one's own life and prosper by it, free to raise children unencumbered by ideology and brain rot, and to be part of a free and prosperous society.

      If we are to pursue human rights in fact, most of the discussion is not only not depressing it is simply not relevant to anything, since above all else I am free to get off this computer and go join my family to celebrate what we have achieved in our lives, out here in the real world, conspicuously in spite of all the "isms" and "wasms" and claptrap from the know-it-alls, the self-righteous and the power-hungry.

      And ignore them entirely, as is our human right, or if they refuse to get out of our bloody way finally act to protect our right and in that our interests.

      Yes?

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  20. Catherine JK

    Educator

    So, George Brandis who holds a classical liberal view of human rights is against arbitrary detention? or should be?

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Catherine JK

      Habeus corpus would seem to be a fairly fundamental individual right and the very mother of all property rights, wouldn't it?

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    2. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Ah, habeas corpus indeed. I love the fact (one that I was unaware of), that this fundamental part of our legal inheritance is in fact included in the constitution of PNG and is the basis for a legal challenge to the Manus Island concentration camp.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      Here's hoping the actual law might actually be upheld - whether in PNG or the International Court looking into the small matter of the Timor Gap Treaty - much as that might discomfort our current chief legal officer.

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  21. Liam Hanlon

    Student

    Funny how the right to be free from arbitrary detention doesn't apply to refugees to these people. Neoliberals support rights at lip service value. Rights are for the wealthy and corporations, not us. Our rights extend to being allowing a lung full of tear gas and the crack of police batons should we dare oppose their economic agenda.

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Liam Hanlon

      Their is nothing "arbitary" about their detention. It is written very clearly into legislation, and has been for the past 20 years.

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Liam Hanlon

      But you are right that mandatory detention was a "neoliberal" policy - Paul Keating's.

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    3. Liam Hanlon

      Student

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Yep...it certainly was. The ALP and LNP are both disgusting in their treatment of refugees.

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  22. Alex Njoo

    Architect/academic (ret.)

    Notwithstanding the Godwin Principle, Brandis is more of an "uber" Minister of Propaganda of the Goebbels mould and Wilson is his adjutant.
    Classical Liberal approach to human rights? It's an oxymoron.

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  23. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    "Historically, classical liberals view rights as bestowed by God ..." Code for rights being figments of imagination?

    "... or derived from some essential human essence." The get-out clause - or at least it would have been a get-out clause before Evolution.

    Sounds like these classical liberals don't have much to offer, other than dissemblement.

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  24. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Spot the contradiction:
    1) "But other rights, particularly economic and social rights, are viewed as mere aspirations." Fair enough, perhaps.
    2) "States should do only what is necessary to protect life and property."

    Property? Isn't that rather aspirational?

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Arthur

      You are presuming the author has accurately conveyed what classical liberalism is. This presumption is misguided. Extremely.

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  25. Derek Branton

    Teacher

    An excellent article, I hope Tim Wilson read the article and this comment. He needs to reflect on how, in today's Australia, he can hold an important high profile public position and at the same time be openly gay. Not long ago he would have been forced to hide his sexuality to avoid discrimination. A "classical human rights perspective" did not achieve this freedom for him. It was the work of human rights bodies at federal and state level, and the countless community activists in area such as sex…

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  26. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    Ah, see here Catherine, your loose unfounded assertion, "But there are several reasons why a classical liberal approach to human rights does not necessarily reflect the needs and aspirations of contemporary Australian society," is precisely what is wrong with your argument.

    You go to some length to define classical liberalism, but then only very loosely clarify what you mean yourself by "the needs and aspirations of contemporary Australian society."

    Mick Gooda does not speak for or on behalf…

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      "...Mick Gooda does not speak for or on behalf of "Australian society" but specifically for Aboriginal peoples of which there remain several hundreds ..."

      Well not reallt Tom - unless you have some special personal criteria for determining what a "real" blackfella is... but according to the last census there were 455,000 on the books plus an estimate (because of survey problems like illiteracy, remoteness and so forth) that puts the best estimate at 517,000 give or take a few stragglers. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4705.0

      Human rights are not determined by or awarded to "majorities" Tom... indeed it is a measure of the humanity of a society how it treats minorities in general and individuals in particular and you really can't get much more of a minority than that. Societies are judged not by how the bulk of the population are treated but how the weakest, most vulnerable and worst off are protected. And we don't measure up at all well actually.

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  27. Gary FitzGerald

    logged in via Facebook

    Ok let me get this right, what George and Timmy say is not what the do. e.g. asylum seekers.

    That means George and Timmy are hypocrites and/or liars.

    Therefore they are unacceptable for public office?

    I'm wondering why this is in any way new to anyone?

    Sorry for being so cynical it is an excellent article but Tony Abbott and his familiars give me a.......

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  28. Rosemary O'Grady

    Lawyer

    Meanwhile, the blood is seeping away between the great stones of the law...

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  29. Michael Phillip Kivinen

    Security investigator

    Liberals Mandate: Open for Business

    Sell out the nation to highest bidder, close down local manufacture to allow greater free trade imports to bribe Asia, Push how great it is to be a United Nations Cow for other nations to milk, show how New World Order wins over nations full of sheep asleep and deluded without a fight. Show the way how education should be delivered to the deluded masses, show how carbon tax is push upon a helpless populace without a whimper of a protest, and how even the educated…

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    1. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Michael Phillip Kivinen

      One small correction of fact... They sell to the lowest bidder to make sure their mates don't have to pay too much for assets to milk dry.

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  30. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Can the author explain the difference between "some essential human essence." and "Rights are the important interests and values that democracies have decided to protect."
    As this forms a key part of the author's position, it really needs to be clarified.

    I wonder if Tim Wilson will be given the right of reply or, yet again, fall victim to The Con's explicitly discriminatory editorial policy?
    C'mon folks. How about it?

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    1. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to John Phillip

      You really think he wants to talk with ordinary people about it? It's a political 'liberal vision', isn't it? Possibly given by God?

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    2. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to John Phillip

      Why don't you email him again and invite him to say his piece here? He's a man as well as a politician, isn't he :) Don't think anyone want to discredit him personally, more than it's rather unclear what he meant by his ‘classical liberal’ approach to human rights. Can't help joking about politicians, they are a species all by themselves, sort of :) don't think they can get away with their vague responses at home though.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, unless you have evidence that The Conversation is actually censoring responses, this remains nothing back empty libel.

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  31. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    A question of ethics maybe? And what purpose we may have, being born to this life? Simply said you're born in p** and sh**, and most of us do die in p** and sh**. Between those two we better try to decide what we think the meaning of life is.

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  32. Chris Harper

    Engineer

    You said: “Classical liberalism is not a coherent body of political philosophy.”

    This is a very trivial presentation of liberal philosophy. It can be true of some, but is very false for others.

    There are those who base their views on specific principles, such as the non aggression principle, aka the non coercion principle, and/or the principle of self ownership, and who directly derive their positions from these principles, resulting in a tightly coherent philosophy.

    You said: “Historically…

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  33. Edmund Esterbauer

    logged in via Twitter

    Tim Wilson is a political appointment and he has no credibility. Australia's human rights abuses of refugees is clear for all to see. The LNP is not a conservative party or liberal in any sense. It is a party of the far right that has made an appointment to avoid scrutiny of its actions. The position has lost its independence. The LNP is known for its racial and social intolerance. It was radicalized under Howard when it absorbed the Hanson supporters and won government. Howard used anti-Asian sentiment and the demonization of refugees as key electoral planks which proved popular amongst the Australian electorate.

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  34. Loudon Cleary

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    I saw Tim Wilson on Lateline argue that, for example, a publican should have the right to deny service to an Aboriginal because of his race. The way towards racial equality, in his view, lay not in legislation banning this kind of thing, but in the decency of individual pub-goers who would, he said he believed, would spring to the Aboriginal's defence and tell the publican this was simply not on, old chap. As Jeremy Jones from the Jewish Board of Deputies later pointed out on the same program, the publican would then simply ask on what legal grounds anyone dared criticise him. Other than that, however, I've seen virtually no criticism in the media, or from the Opposition, to their shame, of Wilson's cockamamie idea. Had something so obviously and profoundly anti-democratic been suggested by anyone, let alone a state official in the human rights area, in the USA, the uproar would have been deafening. Yet here.... Nothing. Could it be that we actually deserve Brandis and Wilson?

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      G'day Michael,

      It's funny - in the weird sense - where extremism can take one.

      I've been trying to track down a 14 year old Canadian criminal case against a man - Robin Sharpe - found with literally thousands of examples of child pornography on his computer, in his house and in notebooks in which he described appalling acts of sadism against boys.

      Yet there appearing as an "expert witness" for the defence was a member of the board of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association asserting…

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    2. Dhugal Fletcher

      Critical Thinker

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Religious beliefs are religious.

      It doesn't matter that there isn't a church for it yet.

      Anything that can be asserted without evidence can be denied without evidence.

      The problem with 'classical liberals' today is they only apply the philosophy where it suits them. This is the foundation of neoliberal Hypocrisy. But its more than that, neoliberals act like psychopaths to never declare their plans, except to assure you they will be in your interest.

      If you don't believe me, please read more about psychopathic behaviour and compare with neoliberal government activities.

      The truth is there for anybody who looks.

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    3. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to Loudon Cleary

      Many years ago in Adelaide I was watching an argument start to escalate in a well-known pub on Rundle street.

      There was a group of a few aboriginal males arguing with one or two caucasian males.

      Being the bouncer, I removed the caucasion males from the pub.

      The aboriginal males were quite shocked and excited and wanted to know why. I told them I could see the other guy was the one aggravating the situation and being disrespectful, so he needed to be removed.

      They were very, very happy to finally have that experience.

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    4. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Thank you, Peter, for this fascinating example of extrinsic rethink employed in the service of the indefensible, in this instance of a classical, no-holds-barred, free-for-all, which is the chaos into which classical liberalism will plunge us, as it has disastrously wreaked in the past.

      You are, as always, a servant of the truth and a master at exposing, with humour and wry comment, the fraudulent claims of those railing against a wise restraint and in favour of unleashing everything that our society has worked so hard to build an availing and civil public culture. More power to your pen!

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    5. Loudon Cleary

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I'm afraid I have a darker view of Wilson: neither idealist nor dreamer but a willing snake-oil salesman for Abbott's extreme right-wing, libertarian, Tea Party agenda, designed to turn the clock back to the good old days when Abos and other wogs knew their place.

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  35. Jennifer Donohue

    Lawyer

    An eloquent article distilling the fundamental flaws of the "brand" of classical liberalism espoused by Brandis and his appointee Wilson. It is hard to equate that a belief of equality in dignity and rights, and the aspiration that each act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood, does not compel the believer to advance the cause of each individual to enjoy these freedoms without distinction. Viewed in this light, Brandis' assertion that an individual should have the right to express bigoted views, or more disturbing, the implementation of the secretive & callous policy that is "sovereign boarders" (itself promoted with war-like undertones) illustrates just how far this brand of freedom is from the obligation of a nation who has ratified the United Nations' Declaration of Universal Rights.

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