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The irony in the outrage over south western Sydney book banning

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sydney book ban - The catholic weekly

People are losing their minds over Cumberland Council resolving to “take immediate action to rid same sex parents books/materials” from the Council’s eight libraries.

Premier Chris Minns labelled the ban ‘ridiculous,’ Attorney-General Michael Daley has sought ‘urgent’ advice from the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board while Arts Minister John Graham has threatened to withdraw public funding from the libraries altogether.

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Aside from the politicians, journalists and other commentators are rending their garments over what they equate to book burnings.

I must confess to being entertained by the irony of complaints about a local council with a narrow conservative majority using censorship and cancellation – two of the favourite weapons in the progressive left arsenal – to score some political points of their own.

Those on the left, local councils in particular, love to ban things. In recent years, we have seen a local council ban the flying of the Australian flag on street banners. One removed references to “Christmas” from its end-of-year decorations while another ensured nativity scenes would not be on council property.

Numerous councils have banned citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day while Sydney City Council voted in favour of providing council facilities for free to ‘yes’ campaign events during the Voice referendum and rejected an attempt by one councillor to have these accommodations be available to both sides.

These councils have no problem in banning or restricting ideas that they or others find offensive, but only when this is done in accordance with the progressive agenda of the day. They only seem to object to censorship when it goes in the opposite direction.

sydney book ban - The Catholic weekly

It’s not just councils either. The federal government has still not withdrawn its proposals to order the removal of online content determined to be misinformation or disinformation. It also continues to back the Orwellian-sounding role of the eSafety Commissioner, who is currently in litigation with X’s owner, Elon Musk, over an order she gave for Musk to remove a user’s post that she alleges deliberately misgendered someone in Australia.

Silencing or penalising dissent is the modus operandi of this group and so it is odd that they didn’t expect that it would at some point be used by those on the “other” side.

In this case, I doubt the council motion had anything to do with the book in question, because even the councillor who moved the motion admitted he had not read it. It is more likely that the motion was an attempt to send a message of resistance to a broader LGBTQ+ agenda.

Consider another motion passed earlier this year that prohibited drag queen story time from being held in Cumberland Council libraries or on any other council properties. This was in response to Sydney City Council managing to pass a motion at the Local Government NSW conference that local councils should be encouraged to facilitate drag story time on council premises.

Or last year’s controversy over Welcome to Sex, a book with graphic detail about all manner and forms of sexual activity being stocked in the children’s section of Big W. (There are many more Big W stores in Western Sydney than there are in other parts of the city.)

It seems to me that the Cumberland Council motion was an opportunity to say “enough,” to push back on what many feel is a relentless campaign to normalise LGBTQ+ themes for children. And I expect that most Cumberland Council residents would be in support of the motion too. As Councillor Steve Christou keeps saying, this area is not Marrickville or Newtown.

Even so, I still don’t think the Council should have passed the motion. Whether you call it banning, cancelling, censoring or deplatforming, these tools are an unsophisticated way to engage in public debate (or rather, to avoid it). Plus, if freedom of speech does not extend to those with whom you disagree, then it not really freedom at all. A decision isn’t right even if the majority agrees with you.

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