The honest Downer

The Liberal party is often a disappointment. In government they ran the highest taxing administration in Australia’s history. And often they appear to have little understanding of the philosophy of freedom. Sometimes this is because they actually have no understanding. But sometimes they really are (classical) liberals who are simply forced to hide their views for political expedience.

I think this is a shame, because by hiding their views they make it harder for liberals to win the battle of ideas. But the up-side is that after they leave politics they have the chance to tell us what they really think.

Alexander Downer was Australia’s Foreign Minister from 1996 to 2007 and at the time he gave few hints that he believed in individual liberty & responsibility. But in an op-ed he wrote last month he gives an excellent slap-down to the whinging dependent “idiot Aussie” who get in trouble overseas and want the government to come to their rescue.

After about 10 minutes as foreign minister I was a little surprised to learn I was “responsible” for miscreant Australians who got into trouble in foreign countries.

No, no, no, don’t get it wrong – drug traffickers, drunks, kleptomaniacs and fraudsters weren’t responsible for their own stupidity – I was.

It’s about time that great nanny in Canberra, the Federal Government, turned around and told people they are responsible for their own decisions.


11 thoughts on “The honest Downer

  1. Libertarian, crossdresser, is there anything the man can’t do? (Other than give an honest opinion when in government, that is?)

  2. The former treasurer of NSW, Michael Costa, has also revealed himself as more or less libertarian. And we know that Craig Emerson, Minister for Small Business, is definitely libertarian.

    I wonder how people like these can turn the tide when they are surrounded by nanny state diehards. It seems it can only happen if the PM or Premier supports them. Hawke supported Keating, Kennett supported Stockdale, and (in NZ) Lange supported Douglas.

  3. I think that DavidL is essentially right. I also wonder at the constraints of opposition with regards to Turnbull. I hope he is more liberal than his politics suggests. Although it is hard to imagine Turnbull being worse than Rudd.

  4. This article was printed in Adelaide’s local newspaper and actually had a very good response.
    Some people wrote in to the paper in disbelief that they agreed with Downer so whole heartedly.
    So I think that is a good example of people understanding personal responsibility in our community (either that or they just hate bogans).
    However will people translate the personal responsibility principle into other areas of politics? Or will they compartmentalize issues such as health etc into its own separate category needing special government intervention?

    Regarding Michael Costa, I definitely wouldn’t put any faith in that guy. I’ve read a couple of his articles in the Australian and I think his pragmatist rationalizations for his anti-Rudd opinions are counter productive to the goal of liberty.

    I would never class Turnball as a champion of freedom either, I’ve given up on him.

    Perhaps after a life time of hoping and searching for politicians that represents your views you may become less critical than you should be?

    PS. Great comment Nicholas.

  5. Downer never achieved his potential, but it showed through his excellent work as the Foreign Minister. It’s a shame he couldn’t pull off the leadership (or perhaps stuffed up his chance).

    He’s also made other quite libertarian off-the-cuff remarks such as personal choice with regards to smoking: ‘who’s business is it but your own’, if I remember correctly.

    Incidentally, I’ve never seen Emerson’s libertarian side. What has he done? I’ve got to admit I don’t like his personal demeanour.

  6. I don’t know how you could have missed the many free-market comments and articles by Emerson, but have noticed one libertarian comment by Downer. Unless, of course, you have a predisposition towards the Liberal party and against the Labor Party. 🙂

    Having said that, Emerson has followed the time-honoured tradition of hiding his true opinions once his side has political power.

  7. well, perhaps we can look forward to more of the downer candour when he speaks about the australia wheat board…
    his saving grace is a sense of humour.

  8. In politics it does seem that tribal loyalty generally comes before honest opinion. All the more reason for a new tribe in which support for personal liberty, free markets and low taxes are requisite opinions rather than blaspheme.

  9. TerjeP, tribal loyalty to anti-tribalism/(personal liberty)? That would be the ultimate marriage of love and science! I might even pay to see that!

  10. What the heck? Why am I supposed to be pleased with these comments from Downer? I should be happy that the guy in charge of making sure I get a fair trial if I happen to get banged up overseas is nonplussed about my right to a speedy trial and the support of my government?

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