John Howard served as our Prime Minister for eleven years, and now he’s back with a controversial message for everyday Australians.
Our former PM reckons Australians are too “frightened” to express their honest opinions, about everything from gay marriage to abuse within the Catholic church.
“You should be able to express a view on these things”, Mr Howard told The Australian today. Adding that we are often “cowed” into silencing our true feelings.
“There is a sense in which people are so frightened of being accused of being discriminatory or intolerant that they don’t speak the common-sense view”.
John Howard drew some controversial comparisons though. He said there was a “get Pell” mentality in relation to Catholic church abuse allegations.
“It seems as if Cardinal Pell is being singled out to take the rap for the misdeeds of a whole lot of people”, Mr Howard said.
In terms of gay marriage, Mr Howard said “there is nothing homophobic about supporting traditional marriage. Everybody did in the parliament in 2004”.
“May I remind you that in 2004, when I inserted the definition in the Marriage Act, the Labor Party supported it”, Mr Howard said. (Although parliamentary views about gay marriage are more varied today.)
“I think people are cowed because they think, ‘I can’t say that because I might lose votes or I might offend somebody’.”
Mr Howard has also expressed frustration at what he sees as growing political correctness throughout Australia.
“From now on you can sing Jingle Bells in schools but not Once in Royal David’s City or Silent Night“, the former PM said about new education rules.
“This is pernicious”, Mr Howard said. “I’m surprised there hasn’t been a greater outcry about it. Nobody is forced to believe in God”.
“Nobody’s forced to follow Christianity. The observance of Christmas and all that goes with it is part of our culture”.
“I must say I have never come across a person of the Jewish faith or of the Muslim faith who has complained that they have had Christianity forced upon them”, Mr Howard said.
The now 76-year-old added that Australians today have “almost a fear” of expressing ideas in case they “offend our multicultural views” or get “branded as intolerant”.
That’s not to say John Howard supports extreme right-wing views, like Donald Trump’s election platform in the USA.
Mr Howard said he “would tremble at the idea of Trump being President of the US”, but added the Republican’s popularity shows “a measure of how people feel” in America.
Regardless of the topic, Mr Howard seems to support the notion of a healthy debate. “You ought to be able to have sensible discussion on these sorts of things”, he said.
“I think the problem is that too few people are prepared to call (any topic out) for what it is”, the former PM added.