…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
This is the slightly truncated maiden speech by the newly elected Senator James McGrath, a Liberal, from Queensland. It looks good, but we have had many politicians elected, saying one thing, and then doing something else altogether. Many? Every single one of them. Perhaps this time?
“Freedom and liberty, 100 years ago this month, were under threat as the gods of war awoke. Armies of empires stretching back before the Middle Ages were slowly moving to Armageddon—a world war with deaths of millions, the end of four royal houses and the beginning of wicked new orders of communist and fascist cruelty. This war ended realms of geography but brought in dominions of political terror imprisoning generations under dictatorship, ending hope, freedom and liberty for many until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the war that began in 1914 with the invasion of Belgium was the second ‘Hundred Years War’, the war against tyranny, continuing from the Armistice, pausing in 1989, and resuming in 2001 in New York.
The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.
Freedom and liberty are not abstract concepts. You either have freedom or you are not free. Whether I serve here for 16 days or 16 years, I shall always judge myself on how I have battled against tyranny and fought for the axis of enlightenment—that is, liberty of the individual, a free market, small government and low taxes. I will let others badge and brand and box me, as, in my great broad church that is the Liberal Party, my pew is a moveable feast. I have campaigned against dictator-loving Islamist fundamentalists in the Maldives; Sinn Fein- and PLO-supporting Labour candidates in London; and godless rebranded communists in Mongolia—not to mention the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party!
My life has not been about the pursuit or gain of power but to confiscate power back from government to free people. My story is not special or unique. I come from the great blancmange that is the Australian middle class. Families are modest and shy. They are joiners and doers, workers and strivers, not shirkers. Our homes are not big and flash, and cars often second-hand. The biggest investment is never super, bricks or shares, but education. My mob are farmers, saddlers, soldiers, gardeners, small business owners, nurses, teachers, doctors and, shamefully, the odd lawyer. One side is stridently Labor and unionist, the other cheerfully Liberal National and Tory.
The first McGrath was a convict, rightly punished by a sensible judge and sent down to Australia. Family folklore has it was for stealing a sheep. On my mother’s side are the Schneiders and Doughertys. The first to arrive was German, illegitimate, with barely a word of English. He moved to western Queensland in the 1870s. His son, my great-grandfather, patented the Schneider saddle, and his store stood on George Street in Brisbane until the 1970s. Schneiders would become guests of the emperor, caught in the fall of Singapore, on the way to fight the Nazis.
Like many, my journey started young. I worked on my first Liberal campaign in the 1989 Queensland state election. I started the Capitalist Club at Toowoomba State High School a year later. When 17, continuing my quest to become the most popular kid at school, I led the campaign to save the school principal when the new Queensland Labor government engaged in some restructuring. Our school community was the only one to actively campaign for their principal’s retention. Our school community was the only one whose principal was eventually made redundant. I learned early on that you can be right in life but still lose in politics.
Politics is not about the pursuit of power as an end in itself. Those who seek power for the sake of power will always fail. Politics is about seeking power though democratic means in order to take power away from the elites, whether bureaucratic or corporate, and return power to the people. I have been lucky in politics. I do not think I am that good at politics but I do learn from my mistakes, personal and political, and I have made a few—some spectacular. And I have learned from some wise mentors as, along my journey, I have been fortunate to work with some erudite people here in Australia and overseas.
I believe there are 11 principles of politics and power that should guide me as I work for Queensland, and all principles were taught to me or learnt from my own mistakes. I start with the greatest ever peacetime leader, Margaret Thatcher. I never met Mrs Thatcher, but I get her. I get that someone from a corner store in a small market town could be so strong to rise so high, not just in making decisions but holding fast to her underlying values—because she had to fight for everything, and she said, ‘You might have to fight a battle more than once to win it.’
Likewise, the moral courage of my friend Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, taught me the power of forgiveness. A former political prisoner and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, he forgave those who jailed and tortured him. I fail this principle. As much as I try, I cannot forgive and I Continue reading