Change of guard in culture battle

Peter Kurti

04 October 2019 | Ideas@TheCentre

The departure of my colleague, Jeremy Sammut, from the Centre for Independent Studies after 12 years here caps a very fruitful and productive career in policy research.

Jeremy’s work in health policy, child protection, and adoption brought him to national — and influential — prominence, and he helped shape the ways governments responded to these pressing issues.

Over the past year, Jeremy’s attention has been directed towards issues of culture and society as he directed the new CIS program Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society.

The program was established to articulate and defend the key principles that form the foundation of a free and liberal democratic society and an open economy.

Even in its infancy, the CP&CS program has produced a significant body of work on corporate social responsibility, religious freedom, euthanasia, free speech in universities, culture, and hate speech.

Jeremy’s ability quickly to understand complex issues and then to formulate concise responses intended to help address those issues was crucial in establishing the authority and scope of the program.

While his work at the CIS is finished, the work of the program is not — and there is much to be done. Appointed recently to helm it into the future, my role is to ensure that it carries on the path started by Jeremy.

As the federal government gathers responses to its exposure draft bill on religious discrimination bill, the program will continue to contribute to the ongoing national debate about religious freedom.

We will soon publish research on attitudes to religious freedom; and also on antisemitism — a very specific form of religious and ethnic vilification.

We will continue as watchdogs guarding against the identity politics that have become the scourge of a free society by politicising differences and creating special privileges for some at the expense of others.

In a free and open society, we also need to be on guard against the tyranny that would enforce ideological conformity on matters of faith, sexuality and race – all done in the name of ‘diversity’.

Many Australians are very worried about the direction in which the country is heading, and they are alarmed by illiberal attempts to regulate how people think, speak and act.

The work of the CP&CS remains focused on providing leadership on precisely those matters of culture and society at a time when so many fear for the future of a country they know and love.

Jeremy’s departure from CIS draws the first period of the CP&CS program to a close. But the second period now begins — with the continuing fight to ensure Australia remains prosperous, free, and open.

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