A non-illustrated guide to where conservatives continually fall short on a key pillar of liberty… 

Libertarians and conservatives might be friends on certain issues, often shoved into the same corner by the ‘progressive’ left, but it’s time we libertarians took a hard stance on free speech.

James Hol’s recent commentary regarding the proposed ‘misinformation’ bill reflected an attitude towards freedom of speech and expression that is generally shared across the entirety of the centre-right.

However, conservatives are not yet ready to defend the speech and expression of those they don’t agree with. Purporting to pick and choose who has access to free expression is a dark pathway to liberty.

Free speech is very easy to defend when you agree with the speech that is being censored – the true test of principle is to defend all speech, regardless of your personal view on what is being expressed. Yet apparently Yumi Stynes’ ‘graphic’ book titled Welcome to Sex should be ‘wrapped in black plastic’ and sold in a restricted manner akin to a pornographic magazine according to the self-confessed ‘conservative patriot’ Senator Ralph Babet. 

Comments from Stynes that she would be ‘comfortable’ with an 8 year-old child reading the book, and its availability in major retailer chains, have sparked community outrage at the supposed accessibility of such material to children. Yet what does it say about the rights of parents if conservative commentators feel entitled to decide what is suitable for other people’s children? It raises questions on our perceptions of the role of parents too – is it their job to manage what their child has access to, or is that the job of government and society at large? 

You have to wonder at what point any more restrictive approach by government towards curating children’s material could be weaponized against conservatives. This of course is the fundamental weakness in the conservative take on this issue: the lack of foresight as to how restricting the speech and expression of one group weakens it for us all in the end. Furthermore, all the attention and furore over the content of the book led to it becoming a bestseller. 

Controversial book ‘Welcome To Sex’ attracted conservative calls for it to be banned

It’s not the first time so-called ‘freedom friendly’ MPs have actually sought to curb the rights of those they disagree with. In February, Liberal Senator Alex Antic introduced a private member’s bill that sought to impose harsh criminal penalties on ‘incitement to trespass, cause property damage or traffic disruption’ (paraphrased). This was clearly an attack on extinction rebellion type traffic protests and the activities of animal rights protesters at slaughterhouses. 

Yet it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the same laws could easily have been imposed on leaders of protests against vaccine mandates. This bill was yet another reactionary, populist thought bubble that demonstrates the folly of conservatism as a philosophical vehicle to protect individual rights and reduce the size of government. 

As seen by the impact of boycotts and negative PR directed at companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Gillette, Target and Big W, it is much more effective to fight bad ideas and bad speech with consumer action as opposed to legislative action. It is also fundamentally moral – the market will ultimately determine the social licence companies have to comment on social or political issues by rewarding or punishing them via consumers. 

Good ideas don’t require force, and bad ideas don’t require banning. As libertarians we must fight both progressives and conservatives who seek to censor or ban speech they dislike.

They will invoke the innocence of children, the plight of minority groups or the collective ‘harm’ caused by disinformation, but history tells us that those doing the censoring are never the good guys. 

The only role politicians have with regards to free speech is to protect it, and the best way to protect free speech is to amend the Australian constitution, enshrining the right to freedom of speech, religion and assembly.

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  1. Hi Max,
    Enjoyed your article.
    It has raised a few questions for me as a parent and a thoughtful libertarian.
    Your assertion seems to be that the free market will manage what is appropriate for children to be exposed to and what isn’t & it is not the role of government to legislate in this space. Some thoughts on this argument are as follows:
    1. Should the government also step back from prosecuting child abuse in all its forms?
    Child pornography can also be prosecuted under the law. A quick google search produced this statement below:
    “What kind of material constitutes child pornography?
    In one NSW matter, a defendant fronted court over his possession of offensive cartoon material (Simpsons characters!). Although not involving human children, the court still found that such material fell within the bounds of child pornography law.”
    Senator Babet’s suggestion that allows for the offending book to be available but to be treated like other pornographic material sounds reasonable to me. It is still available, but only to those who are prepared to recognise that it is controversial. This is about personal responsibility on a matter that the vast majority of the community would find unacceptable. I am also less concerned about this book being available online because then it is not as “public”. This reduces the normalisation of pornography being promulgated to children which I believe is part of a wider agenda.
    2. I also don’t share your confidence in the Australian community moderating the extremism of minority opinions in this New World Order. Why would you assume the Australian population will do anything to protest the distribution of this book? These are the same people who stood by and watched as the rights of fellow citizens were trampled during the COVID Scamdemic & who vaccinated their children with an experimental gene therapy to protect them from a virus with a .001% fatality rate.
    Anyway, while I acknowledge the right of people to purchase this type of material for their children, I will be fighting against the public availability of this book on shopping centre shelves and in public libraries.

  2. Thank you Max, for your article.
    The last paragraph resonates with me, absolutely. “The only role politicians have with regards to free speech is to protect it, and the best way to protect free speech is to amend the Australian constitution, enshrining the right to freedom of speech, religion and assembly.”

    I see the American First Amendment being diluted. I suppose that is the price of living too long! I wonder given the cost of The Voice, how folk will even agree on Constitution change and if maybe the Westminster way is not so obsolete.

    What disturbed me re the book you cited. Is the ease with which it became available to teens. For me the book was pure porn. It is that easy to publish sex positions for CHILDREN? Parents have so few right’s in Australia, it seems. I read that now a child of 12 can request sex transition drugs at the age of 12 without parental consent.

    We restrict driving permission till at least some of the hormones are stable but not sex manipulation and how to perform sex or play the game. The data as yet are not compiled or fully available. It appears though, that those who transition kill themselves in equal number as the that do not, transition. The parents of gender ambiguous babies were once guided to ‘stand back and watch and see.’ I suppose that is old-fashioned now.

    If PARENTS choose to buy their children of 8 books that demonstrate a variety of positions in which coitus can be facilitated that is entirely their right. That my eight year old great-granddaughter does not have this book trust into her hands by her peers, is her parents choice. Had the book been left on the shelves I expect we could be seeing rather more childhood pregnancies than you realize. Parents do have a duty of care. Govts of course can choose according to votes. Vendors could have chosen to put the book out of children’s reach or sealed it. Do people who put books on shelves even think. Colour and form attract not only sheep but humans too. I expect that I am one of those who went to buy the book and was told that it was available only only line. A pity.. Putting the book out of reach of those teens whose parents are too busy putting food on plates, could have worked. Initially folks reported it was at eye height for both teens and children. The publishers worked out the most clever sales plan I have see in Australia. If Meer Cats can share helping keep kittens safe… maybe even we Libertarians could do the same.


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