A preview taste of our event (watch the full video below).
Former Prime Minister John Howard launched The Centre for Independent Studies’ new Culture, Prosperity, and Civil Society Program at the CIS’s Sydney office on Tuesday night.
The ‘Conversation About Culture’ event ranged over many of the important topics at the heart of the program, with Mr Howard delivering numerous characteristically penetrating and common sense insights into questions about identity politics, political correctness, civility, religious freedom, and the ‘history wars’.
But it was the long term perspective and experience that Australia’s second longest serving PM brought to the one of the most pressing international issues — the European migration crisis — that deserves special attention.
Asked about his statement in an article written for the American National Review in late 2015 — “We still live in a world of nation-states [and] to pretend otherwise is delusional” — Mr Howard took the opportunity to restate the lessons of how his government handled border protection.
Stopping illegal arrivals boosted public confidence in, and support for, a controlled, large-scale immigration and generous humanitarian refugee program, and set the scene for the record immigration intakes into Australia since the early 2000s, he emphasised.
This is to say, that a borderless world is a trans-national delusion — and that the nation-state remains the ultimate political reality.
In democratic nations, the people will have the final say on immigration. Hence, the job of proponents of immigration is to convince the people that it is in the national interest, and will do no harm to the welfare of the existing citizenry and existing character of society.
As Mr Howard also pointed out, the political correct argument that it’s somehow racist to debate immigration is entirely counter-productive. A full and frank debate about issues such as the size and composition of the immigration program is not just legitimate — it is essential to build public confidence and support.
This lesson was apiece with broader points Mr Howard made about the political crisis gripping many western countries in the age of Trump and Brexit: trust in political institutions will not be restored unless politicians are prepared to speak out — and provide leadership on the contentious social and cultural issues that are of concern to many ordinary voters.
Dr Jeremy Sammut is Director of the Culture, Prosperity and Civil Society Program at the CIS.