SPEAK UP: Extremists on both sides are shutting down sensible debate
SPEAK UP: Extremists on both sides are shutting down sensible debate triocean

Will the real 'Quiet Australians' please speak up?

OPINION 

EVER since Scott Morrison declared his election victory a win for the 'quiet Australian', the phrase has proven as divisive as it is catchy.

It was intended as a nod to the everyday Aussie, even those who hadn't always voted on conservative lines, who couldn't quite stomach the proposed emissions targets while looking at their already crippling power bills and at the major polluters who were barely lifting a finger.

People who felt like it was getting dangerous to say anything in case you offended someone, whether it was intended or not, and were won over by the late-in-the-campaign move to convince self-made folks Shifty Shorten was coming for their savings.

Unfortunately however, the label has also been embraced by far-right extremists - giving off the impression everyone who didn't feel comfortable with the direction our nation was going in must be a conspiracist red-neck with a direct debit to Israel Folau's Go Fund Me, a Trump figurine on their bedside and doomsday bunker out the back.

The result? The real quite Australians are living up to their names and keeping their lips sealed.

Remaining that way and leaving the ballot box to do the talking is not necessarily the answer.

There's a lot of legislating between drinks if we get it wrong.

Politicians, no matter the party, will always require a free-thinking society and healthy debate to keep them accountable.

Whether you love or loathe her, or think freedom of speech forums sound a little extreme, controversial Senator Amanda Stoker's visit to the Fraser Coast this week has at least left some food for thought.

She is not alone in expressing concern that universities are churning out a generation with one view, where free-thinking debate isn't encouraged and there is a risk of being marked down if you're not parroting the views of the lecturer.

The popular response whenever free speech is raised during controversy is "you are free to say what you want but you are not free from the consequences".

But is there a difference between social consequences and those which impinge on basic rights?

If you are being denied a degree, were you really free to say it in the first place?

And yes, social media does in fact seem to have created a sounding board for like-minded people.

Extremists on both sides of politics are shouting so loudly, it does feel like the sensible conversations many of us would like to be having in between are being shut down.

Quiet Australians need to find their voice.

If they don't, they risk being silenced for good.