Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

A fireside chat with Mark Latham

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On Wednesday 11 March 2020, the young men of Warrane College were honoured to welcome Mark Latham as their formal dinner guest. Member of the NSW Legislative Council and also a well-known name in Australian politics, Latham has worked for a series of Labor politicians, as well as serving as Mayor of Liverpool Council, Member for Werriwa (1994-2005), a Labor Shadow Minister (1996-98 and 2001-2003) and Leader of the Opposition (2003-2005).

After a 14-year break from politics, Latham has re-entered parliament with a strong focus on policy issues in the education, urban planning, energy and law reform portfolios. He is one of Australia’s leading advocates of ‘outsider’ politics, and strongly opposes the impact of political correctness and identity politics on public debate. He freely speaks his mind on a range of issues, a few of which he touched upon while at Warrane College.

The rise of social media

One of the topics Latham brought up was the rise of social media. “I think it’s had a profound impact on politics… I find politicians now are very risk averse. They won’t make a decision, they won’t show leadership or reform or direction, for fear of what some polluter will say on Twitter! What some outrage group might say about them on Facebook! So you’ve got a whole lot of political leaders who are quite frozen by the fear of criticism. And there is a tendency to be much more of a snowflake society.”

He went on, “If someone’s critical, you know two things. One is you’re doing something… You’re not sitting there inactive; you’re actually doing something that means change and you obviously believe it’s the right sort of change, so criticism is a natural consequence of doing the things that you regard to be worthwhile.”

“And the other thing about criticism and outrage, of course is that it’s out of depth in the society we’ve become,” continued Latham. “We are now a much better educated society than before. We have less trust in major institutions… People talk about diversity… of skin colour, gender and religion… they never mean diversity of opinion! At the end of the day they just want a homogenous society where everyone’s got an opinion like them. But that is so out of step with the society that we’ve become, with high levels of education… If you’ve got an opinion that’s based on information and research, it should stand on its own right; you should be able to project it… So welcome criticism for what it is.”

Religious freedom

Latham also spoke on the topic of religious freedom, which he was quite passionate about. “It’s described in the public debate as religious freedom… Which is one way of thinking about it, because what we’re really trying to do in this space is counter religious discrimination… trying to undermine one of the key pillars of western civilisation, which is Christianity,” he said. “Now I’m not a Christian myself but I always tell my children they should study the Bible as a great work of history – whoever he was and wherever he came from, Jesus Christ was certainly the most important moral teacher in history and his lessons today, for those who are not of faith themselves, are never more important… To undermine the teachings of the Bible is to undermine one of the pillars of our civilisation. People don’t notice it on a daily basis but where do we get our notion of what’s right and wrong? In most part, from the Ten Commandments and from Scripture. And that moral code governs what we call civil society… I think acting against religious discrimination is just as important as laws against racial discrimination… People of religious faith should have every opportunity to act out their faith…without being vilified.”

Dealing with poverty

Latham also touched on the importance of dealing with poverty, and helping people out of the poverty cycle. When asked how to
practically do this, he replied that the answer lies in education. “They mightn’t have role models down the street… They may think welfare is a way of life instead of aspiring to get a good job… Nothing matters more in breaking the poverty cycle than a good government school. The fact that so many of our disadvantaged schools stay disadvantaged nearly forever is a terrible shame… One of my ambitions is to have a long list of formerly disadvantaged schools in NSW… Teach the basics, teach them well… It’s lifting students out of the poverty cycle as soon as possible… As well as programs that transform communities… If you put disadvantaged people in a disadvantaged place with no role models of success, you’re aligning them to a future of disadvantage… Poverty has got to be the major focus for anyone interested in government.”

 

 

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: details of other guest speakers are available here]