Australian Libertarians and Theocrats unite in Albury

Jun 24, 2024
Melbourne, Australia, 5 December, 2020. Well known Libertarian and documentary filmmaker, Topher Field is seen being interviewed during the Sack Daniel Andrews Protest in St Kilda. Image: Dave Hewison/Alamy Live News

The Triple Conference took place in Albury in March. Conspiracists and hustlers appeared alongside the well-meaning and self-important to inform a small audience of largely white-haired elders about the North Korean conditions overtaking Australia. We are dark in politics and spirit.

The “triple” in the name referred to the uniting of three distinct events. The third day was dedicated to “The Aussie Wire,” a Red-pilled Right YouTube channel integrating transnational rightwing figures.

The second day was the “Church and State conference.” Church and State describes itself as “grassroots-funded, unaffiliated ‘marketplace’ ministry” founded by David Pellowe. As a political organiser, more recently for Family First, he was frustrated by the fact that Christians were not actively ensuring their priorities were represented in government. It held its inaugural conference in 2018, with former Deputy PM John Anderson as the keynote speaker. Pellowe enjoined the 2023 conference to ensure ultra-conservative, religiously-driven candidates “prevail” in every branch in a “long march” over decades. In 2018, Pellowe orchestrated a speaking tour for two white nationalist agitators.

The first of the three days was the Friedman Conference, an event that has been the droll highlight of the libertarian calendar in Australia since 2013. It was the product of the Australian Libertarian Society (ALS) and the Taxpayer Alliance of Australia (ATA), co-hosted with other Atlas junktank partners. It drew together university students with the few keen adults who have not grown out of the faux-intellectual ideology. Tim Wilson was a sometime coordinator.

There, in better days, representatives of the US Atlas bodies such as Dr Tom Palmer appeared. The event described him thus in 2018: he is “executive vice president for international programs at Atlas Network and is responsible for establishing operating programs in 14 languages and managing programs for a worldwide network of think tanks.”

In 2018, for example, Palmer delivered a patronising lecture to the students on “personal responsibility,” bedecked with references to Friedrich Hayek and Aristotle, also advertising the Network’s products including his “snack boxes for the mind.” One such was “The Morality of Capitalism” which had been translated into 43 languages at that time: convenient with over 100 countries now hosting these bodies designed to promote ease of operation for American (and local) corporations.

While the 2024 event was organised by conspiracist Topher Field, the ATA continued to play a subdued function with their “Chief Economist” John Humphreys delivering the welcome. The Institute of Public Affairs, Ron Manners’ Mannkal and the Centre for Independent Studies were missing after a decade of involvement. Instead the event featured the support of Reignite Democracy, Monica Smit’s anti-lockdown body. On May 4th, Smit and Reignite were convicted “on charges related to running an unregistered fundraiser to pay her legal bills.”

Another sponsor was the Australian Medical Professionals Society (AMPS) which has been described as one of several “fake unions” established to contest covid health measures such as mandatory vaccination. Both President Chris Neil and Vice President Duncan Syme spoke.

Professor Ian Brighthope, a doctor who has been platformed by the AMPS, also presented. His prior career in “Nutritional and Environmental Medicine” included treating an extensive range of diseases like cancer with “megadoses of intravenous Vitamin C and other nutrients.” He spoke about how he had experienced a heart attack as a result of breathing in exosomes “because I was too close to too many people breathing out toxic substances from the vaccines.” Gina Rinehart has disseminated his assertion that covid should have been treated with vitamins. So has Russell Broadbent.

In America, it has been established that there are far more excess deaths in states with low vaccination rates.

Predictably, climate action was a target at the conference with the “Gala” dinner named “Nyet Zero.” On the “Aussie Wire” conference day, Joanne Nova spoke. She is a “science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host.” She began her speech on Net Zero complaining that we let “freeloading parasites turn science into a group hug form of neolithic sorcery.”

Smit’s speech on her relationship with God included the instruction that her fellow travellers must stand for the end to all abortion.

Topher Field’s sermon on Church and State Day promoted a form of theocracy known as “theonomy.” This is the belief that “teaches that Old Covenant judicial laws are the universal moral standard of civil law for all Gentile nations.” Field uses the prescription that the only laws are those given by God to “the Children of Israel.” He asserts there is no basis for the creation of any further laws. Thus any law implemented in modern society that does not function within Old Testament parameters is idolatrous, worshipping man instead of God.

Laws that Field interprets as contradicting Mosaic laws – such as those enabling abortion, preventing conversion “therapy” abuse of LGBTQIA people, and pandemic health measures – demand civil disobedience. Indeed, according to these strictures, paying 10% tax makes the individual a slave.

Field depicts being a Christian in Victoria as being the same as being a Christian in China, feeding the unfounded fear that Christianity is under siege. One slide declared we are beyond “fixing” this with politics.

Friedman Day was dominated by celebrations of Atlas Network operative President Javier Milei’s “success” at bringing “freedom” to Argentina. There was no sign of other Atlas Junktanks this year, perhaps preferring the posh crowd at the Atlas conference celebrating Gina Rinehart in Perth. When UAP’s Victorian Senator Babet and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts are considered exciting guests, the better-connected libertarians have lost interest.

Intellectual heft was granted by the dolorous Augusto Zimmerman, Brazilian-Australian Liberal Party legal scholar and Quadrant-affiliate, who coined the neologism “Wokeshevism.” Social justice concerns and empirical bases for policies are, of course, communist. He asserts the oligarchic threat to Australian rule of law lies in ministers and senior public servants, rather than in the plutocrats. If he had cited Robodebt rather than pandemic responses, his speech might have had resonance for a less niche audience.

The uniting of theocrats with libertarians and “cranks” is not a novel phenomenon. The unsavoury Right has exerted a longterm influence on fusion conservatism, despite the intellectual conservatives’ boast about exiling the outliers and bigots.

In 1962, National Review’s senior editor Frank S Meyer wrote an essay called “The Twisted Tree of Liberty” celebrating the allied conservative factions. In response, Catholic L Brent Bozell Jnr wrote “Freedom or Virtue,” a passionate opposition to freedom as the aspiration. Temptation abounds to allow individuals to choose virtue for salvation without libertarian stripping away of legal constraints on sin. Government must, despite libertarian misgivings, “assist man in this adventure, either with its hobbles or with its crutches.” Christians must, according to Bozell, pursue laws that prevent the “sins” they abhor. Both men, like Zimmerman in Albury, accepted that law comes from God.

Conservatives in the 1950s were able to unite against atheist communism posing an existential threat. The libertarians, theocrats and “cranks” at the Triple Conference were united by the pandemic against “tyrannous” governments.

Meanwhile in America, libertarians are campaigning to have employers freed from compulsory meal breaks for child labourers and from compulsory water breaks for the agricultural and construction labourers dying in extreme heat. Arizona’s laws removing protections for child labour were drafted by an Atlas Network junktank, the Foundation for Government Accountability.

Their theocrat friends are ensuring the fertility of the poor is uncontrolled, for religious freedom’s sake. So the desperate will replenish the stock of slave-labour workers, obliging the Christians’ libertarian donors.

Meanwhile L. Brent Bozell Jnr’s grandson was recently sentenced to 45 months in prison for his role in Trump’s insurrection. Would Topher Field argue Bozell is accepting with Grace the repercussions for Divinely-mandated resistance to bad laws?

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