It was, by any means, a remarkable moment.
The advance of anti-family and anti-Christian cultural Marxism through social institutions such as large corporations, in universities and politics is so serious that groups and individuals who were former political foes must unite to resist it, former Labor Leader Mark Latham said last Friday.
But it wasn’t his views that were remarkable – it was who he was expressing them to.
The Leader of the Federal Labor Party from 2003 to 2005 was addressing a fundraising dinner in Epping for the National Civic Council.
In past years and decades, involvement with the NCC, a largely Catholic political organisation inspired by the faith and social teachings of the Catholic Church, would have made it impossible to be a member of the ALP and the two organisations were regarded for decades as almost toxic polar opposites following the disastrous ALP Split of the 1950s. Involvement with the NCC would have meant instant expulsion from the party.
“We need to unite people who might have had some differences in the past. I come from a Labor Party background of traditional social democrats and we have a concern of loss of merit and freedom of speech in our society and we need to form bridges with conservatives with whom we would have had differences in the past,” he told the gathering of around 200 guests.
What was also remarkable was the obvious enthusiasm with which his message was received, with regular applause and laughter signalling how far political boundaries have been completely re-written in recent years.
He agreed with one questioner that a third political party of united conservatives would be a boost for the nation, but he said he didn’t believe this could happen until conservatives in the Liberal Party realised they were fighting a losing battle against the entrenched forces of political correctness dominating it.
And while he had no problem with university students focusing on their studies and careers, keeping their heads down and not picking fights with politically correct policies flourishing on Australian campuses, he also urged those with an inclination to stand up for truth, academic freedom of inquiry and free speech.
Australia also needed to re-think completely its human rights framework to ensure Christians were free to practice and teach their faith and to ensure no-one was forced by government to do things they believed were immoral, he insisted.
Meanwhile, the alliance so desperately needed in the nation’s life would have to include social democrats like himself, Christians, patriots and nationalists, while “anyone who wants to fight for the values of western civilisation need to form alliances and bonds that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago,” he said.
“In the last 20 years Australia has been subject to a cultural invasion. Cultural Marxism, identity politics, leftist ideas about censorship and outrage have run through our institutions at a rate of knots,” Mr Latham said.
“If we don’t stand up and fight against these things we will lose the very best not only of our national values and practices but also the best traditions of our culture and western civilisation,” he said.
Conservative individuals and groups are now effectively an underground movement, he said, while many ordinary Australians now worry that articulating their views could lead to them losing their jobs.
Christianity and Christians are vital in what is now a fight for the heart of civilisation, he said.
“The importance of Christianity is absolutely essential. I’m not a Christian myself but I recognise that if we are to be serious about defending our civilisation, Christianity has never been more important, never been more essential in terms of its values and its significance.”
This, he said, was because Christianity is one of the vital pillars of western civilisation in teaching people about the difference between right and wrong. “The Ten Commandments remain the best guide to the rules and values of civil society,” Mr Latham told his audience.
“Christianity has given us respect for the sanctity of life, the meaning of compassion, the meaning of community – and Jesus Christ, as an historical figure, remains the greatest moral teacher in human history,” he said.
Among the greatest offenders now, he said, were the political Left. Previously, the Left would stand up for individuals targeted by the state – now its adherents are leading efforts everywhere to impose and enforce their agenda of political correctness which judges people based on gender, race and identity politics rather than merit.
Although he had not had a chance to read it, the release of the Ruddock Report on Religious Freedom was timely. “In the attacks on our civilisation, one of the pillars they’re trying to take down is Christianity, the freedom of Christians to practise their faith and articulate their views in society.”
Examples included the “horrendous” same sex marriage debate last year where the Left had warned everywhere of the intolerance of Christians but had gone on to be the outstanding example of intolerance.
The very worst example, he said, was the treatment of Margaret Court.
“I grew up with the idea that Margaret Court was an Australian hero, a tennis legend, a very compassionate woman. Earlier this year I had the privilege of visiting her mission in Perth where she would do more to look after very many needy people in a compassionate way than all of her critics combined.”
Her removal as patron of a WA Government tennis academy following her expressing her Christian views on same sex marriage was a travesty, he said.
The existing human rights framework in Australia is now being exploited by minorities to take revenge for past grievances, he said, adding that one example was how the radical left feminist network now demonises men throughout Australian society.
“It’s really, really tough having two sons go through the school system knowing they can work hard at school, get good university qualifications. But at a university they’ll be subject to exclusion from ‘safe spaces’ , they’ll be subject to propaganda saying they’re sexual predators and when they go into the workforce they’ll be discriminated against by the new employment quotas. It’s a very tough time for men.”
He said groups that have achieved improved conditions in society are now using political and media power to seek revenge.
“The gay-Left revenge against Christians is very clear and that’s why we need to re-think the human rights framework in Australia so that everyone is protected against discrimination.
The work of the NCC was more important now than at any time in its 80 year history, he told a clearly receptive audience.
However the former Labor leader was not pessimistic; NCC founder BA Santamaria would absolutely relish the current struggle, he insisted, while cultural Marxism could not ultimately succeed because of its numerous internal contradictions and the basic human capacity for commonsense and the desire for freedom.
“One of our great allies is truth,” he told his audience.
The young are also the hope of the future, he said, in part because they have grown up in an environment of access to the Ineternet which is largely unrestricted by political correctness.
The whole point of communism, he said, was economic control. After communism’s fall the Left had merely regrouped “like something out of a Terminator movie. Cultural Marxism, expressed through numerous movements is “Designed to control our language, our feelings, our behaviour – even to the point of controlling our moods.”
“If you control a person’s language, you control a major part of their life. And the attempt at language control is a very, very insidious attack on our freedom.”
On the political front he agreed conservatives should unite in a new party.
“Australia would benefit from a third major party, a united third force, to keep the other two honest – there’s no doubt about that,” he said. However the main obstacle was that conservatives inside the Liberal Party are wasting their time.
“The Party is split between the conservative and progressive wings with many of the post-modern and cultural issues acting as a wedge inside the Party; this will need to be resolved before a major uniting of civilisational-type parties, he said.
It was certainly an evening of firsts. In all likelihood, Mr Latham was the first former Federal Labor Leader in 63 years since the Labor Split of 1955 which has shaped political life in Australia since it occurred.