Americans have a lot to be thankful for. The American founding principles are true and good ones, still alive and well in modern conservatism. Individual liberty, protection from government tyranny, and a love for God and his message–these are the core principles of the founding that conservatism has sought to preserve.
In Australia, we have no founding story. There was no underdog war against the then-greatest power on Earth. January 1, 1901, saw Australia become a nation. But it wasn’t by fighting off an oppressive king, it was by an act of the British Parliament passing a law allowing Australia to do so.
American conservatism, for all its internal debates, is blessed with a clear understanding of what they are fighting for, but there exists no such clarity in the minds of Australian conservatives.
The two major political parties in Australia are the centre-left Labor Party and the centre-right Liberal Party. But on many issues, the liberals would fit in far better with the Democrat Party than they would with the GOP. An obvious difference is in firearm legislation. In America, the GOP has fought hard to maintain the right to bear arms ensured by the Second Amendment, but that is not the case in Australia.
Following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, Australian conservatives passed strict legislation to prohibit gun ownership. The legislation specifies that a person must have a firearms license, which can only be obtained for the reasons specified in the legislation. It is worth noting that protection of oneself or others, or one’s own property is not considered a valid reason to own a firearm. Australian conservatives chose to exchange freedom for safety.
Contrast this with the words spoken by US founding father Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
In the United States, healthcare has been a divisive topic. The Democrats have moved on from Obamacare to a platform promoting free healthcare for all. While the Republicans have fought against these efforts and for privatised competition-based health insurance, neither party seeks to remove universal healthcare which has existed since 1984, while only fighting over the minutiae of its finances.
Here again, Australian conservatives have failed to stand up for individual citizens’ right to choose how to spend their money. All Australians pay a tax that funds Medicare whether they use Medicare, pay their expenses out of pocket, or use private insurance.
Major differences also exist on the issue of free speech. In 1975, the Australian Labor Party enacted the Racial Discrimination Act, which renders it “unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely… to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person….” And despite holding power in both Houses numerous times since then, Australian conservatives have failed to change or revoke this Orwellian law.
This shows a fundamental difference between Australian and American conservatism. America conservatism argues that rights preexist the state, including the right to self-defence, the right to dispense with your property as you see fit, and the right to free speech. Australian conservatives instead take the view that rights are given to you by the government, which means that the government can also take away your rights, as it did in 1975, 1984, and 1996.
This understanding of God given rights which are inalienable, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, is unique to the founding story of America. American conservatives need to fight to preserve it. In Australia, conservatives are not advocating for it, choosing to wrestle for the reigns of power against their enemies across the aisle instead.
If there is only one thing conservatives in America can learn from Australia, it should be this.
America you are exceptional, not because you are smarter than others, or stronger, or blessed with natural resources, but because your founders believed that every man, woman, and child had rights endowed to them by their creator. Rights which you must protect.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.