Yesterday I spoke in the Parliament about the importance of safeguarding fundamental freedoms at the heart of our liberal democratic tradition.
14 July 2014
As a child I lived in Malaysia and I am a keen follower of Malaysian politics. Malaysia is a country with which Australia has a strong economic and diplomatic relationship, and many Malaysian students are studying in Australia. In April this year, one of those students was a panellist at the ‘Race, Religion and Royalty in Malaysia’ forum held at the Australian National University. For taking part in the panel, the student was issued with a 'show cause' notice by the Malaysian public service department office.
This was an apparent breach of his scholarship agreement, and there were suggestions he was 'being seditious in a way that may harm Malaysia'. Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution grants freedom of speech, the right to assemble peaceably and the right to form associations to every Malaysian citizen. In Malaysia, as in Australia, such freedoms are not absolute and might be subject to government restrictions, but I do believe that both our nations must be ever vigilant in safeguarding fundamental freedoms such as the rule of law, freedom of speech, human rights and civic participation.
In my first speech to the parliament, I argued that the Labor Party stands at the confluence of two powerful rivers in Australian politics—egalitarianism and liberalism—and that Labor is Australia's true small-l liberal party. We on this side of the House believe that governments have a role in protecting the rights of minorities and that freedom of speech should apply for unpopular ideas as for popular ones. Liberalism derives from a deep belief in individual freedom. I take pride in the freedoms that our liberal democratic tradition provides.