Bernardi Manages To Miss His Own Point

Driving home from the station last night, I caught what I felt was an extraordinary speech in the Senate from the self-proclaimed bastion of all that is good, Cory Bernardi.

It was a speech which appeared on the surface to be primarily about free speech – (I think so anyway, as you can never be too sure what Bernardi is really on about) – but to me, he seemed to miss the point.


Funnily enough, the point he missed was the point he was trying to make, and in doing so he displayed his own hypocrisy.

In a nutshell, he was complaining about an apparent lack of coverage of the Australian Islamic Peace Conference, and of the “purveyors of hate” who may or may not be speaking at this conference.

He states:

“It is hard for even the stoutest defender of freedom of speech to defend the poison that is peddled by this lot.”

I would have thought that “freedom of speech” was a fairly black and white concept.

You either have freedom of speech, or you do not have freedom of speech. If you defend this principle, you have to defend it for everyone, not just for select groups.

To single out “this lot” – (as Bernardi describes them) – as to be apparently not worthy of the right of freedom of speech, is wildly hypocritical. That is, Bernardi appearing to support free speech, but not for “this lot”.

He also stated:

“Melbourne’s Sheikh Abu Ayman, aka Sheikh Omran, who I was unfortunate enough to sit next to on an SBS Insight program.”

He was “unfortunate enough” to sit next to someone whose opinion differs from his, and is a member of “that lot”?

Poor diddums.

You either support free speech or you do not. There’s no halfway point.

He went on to attack the other side of politics for not attacking them:

“And, just as important, where were the words of condemnation from Labor ministers like Chris Bowen, Kate Lundy and Mark Dreyfus? These ministers had no problem being forthright and scornful when at least one other recent visitor was on our shores, but why not for Al-Sudais and his companions?”

For whatever reason, Bernardi chose not to name controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders in his speech, but Wilders was clearly the “other recent visitor” he was referring to.

Heaven forbid I agree with him, but Bernardi may have a point in pointing out that Wilders was attacked by some, and that Islamic speakers such as Sheikh Abu Ayman were not.

It may just be a case of the media not knowing about the Australian Islamic Peace Conference, and Bernardi does point out the lack of media coverage the conference was attracting.

Most likely, the media didn’t know about it either, or didn’t think it was important enough to make a story of it. Or there were other more important stories that day – like Julia Gillard’s glasses perhaps?

Or a thousand other possible reasons.

But it was Bernardi’s support of Wilders before, during and after his recent visit that makes his speech truly remarkable.

Said Bernardi:

“Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ public speaking tour has run into constant problems as venues continue to pull out or refuse to host his events. In such a tolerant and open society like Australia, why is it so difficult to accommodate a speaking tour by a member of the Dutch parliament who has a different perspective?”

Don’t the Islamic views he is complaining were not attacked, come from a “different perspective” also?

Yet he would attack them, under parliamentary privilege.

Double standard.

Why is it so difficult for Cory Bernardi to accommodate an Islamic peace conference, where the speakers have a different perspective?

The difference is, as long time supporter of Wilders, Bernardi presumably agrees with his views. It’s quite clear he doesn’t agree with the views of someone like Sheikh Abu Ayman, and of course it is his right to agree or disagree with anyone he chooses.

If you are the believer in free speech Bernardi would claim to be, Sheikh Abu Ayman and Geert Wilders would have every right to state their views in whatever forum chooses to allow them to state them.

Equally, those listening would have every right to express opposing views if they so chose.

But in “such a tolerant and open society like Australia”, where does supporting Wilders’ right to free speech, yet complaining that nobody is trying to squash the views of the Australian Islamic Peace Conference and its speakers, leave Cory Bernardi?

In the “hypocritical basket”.

That’s where.