Last week’s paper included what was close to a party-political broadcast in the guise of a letter from Julian Brown. That is fine and he is definitely within his rights to express his opinions about the performance of the state government, some of which I agree with, others I don’t.
What I want to draw attention to is the extravagant language that he used – in particular, his comparison between the Victorian government and that of the military dictatorship in Myanmar.
I think the past year or so has taught us two things. The most obvious and tangible is how vulnerable humanity is to a new, unexpected and deadly disease. The second is the fragility of democracy. This has been shown most clearly and tragically by recent events in Myanmar. But it has also been revealed during the election campaign in the United States and its disturbing aftermath, which was inflamed by the language used by various politicians, commentators and others.
I think Australians can be proud of the way that we have responded to the pandemic – and we should be grateful that we live in a country where democratic principles still hold sway. I hope and expect that Julian would acknowledge that his claim was hugely exaggerated: after all he was able (1) to make his opinion public; (2) to do this in an independent newspaper; and (3) he was calling for a change in government at the next election, which by all precedent will be free and fair. I’m sure he doesn’t need to be reminded that none of these things can or will happen in Myanmar any time soon.
My point is this: we are very fortunate to have many rights in this country – but I think that along with rights go responsibilities. And one of those responsibilities is to make sure that the language and rhetoric we use is chosen carefully.