The Hon Scott Morrison MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
06th of June 2019
REGARDING: The Australian Federal Police Raids on the ABC and Freedom of Information
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
Before I begin, may I say congratulations on having achieved election into parliament. I did not vote for you, or your party but I respectfully recognise that most of the Australian public did so, and you have therefore been given a government mandate to represent all Australian people whether they voted for you or not.
I would like to follow up by providing some background about myself. I am a West Australian playwright, and performer currently studying Secondary Education. I am the mother of a nearly nine-year-old and am working three part-time jobs while I am studying. I was raised in the evangelical Baptist church by parents of a Pentecostal persuasion and spent my teen years attending Pentecostal churches, first with the Assemblies of God, and then a non-denominational charismatic congregation in Mandurah. As an adult, I studied Theology, worked for Scripture Union as a missionary for seven years, and moved into left-leaning progressive evangelical church structures, before finally moving away from the church after a long struggle with my faith, and understanding of the world.
You are most likely wondering, why I have painted such a broad strokes portrait of myself for you when the subject of this letter is Freedom of Information amongst the Australian press. Well, over the course of your tenure, you will be hearing a lot from me. I intend to write 100 letters to be precise. Roughly one per week before the next election is called. Why 100 letters? Well, I have a lot to talk to you about, and it is a nice round number.
So, let’s begin. I struggled over where to start, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19? The Australian Human Right’s Commission, General Comment no. 25? The High Court Ruling 177 CLR 1 and 177 CLR106 that held implied freedom of political communication established by the Constitution, and reaffirmed by HCA 58? The beliefs section of the Australian Liberal Party website? Or perhaps, the Bible.
Mr Prime Minister, you are the first evangelical elected to your position. Now, for those with a strong theological understanding, of the Old Testament call to justice and mercy for the fatherless, widowed, and sojourners (refugees), this would not be a cause for concern (Deuteronomy, 10:8). For those familiar with the New Testament call to cast off wealth, status, and partisan treatment of others due to gender, race, or class, but rather to treat everyone as if they were themselves the Son of God (Matthew 25: 25-40, Galatians 3:28, James 2: 1-25).
The bible doesn’t say anything specific about Freedom of the Press. However, it is populated with stories of people who stood up to injustice, argued against oppression, and told the truth no matter the consequence. I grew up reading the stories of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Paul – all persecuted, for their beliefs, and for expressing opinions unpopular with the political leaders of the time. In the Old Testament, the Prophets didn’t do so well when they stood up to the Kings and Queens in charge, exposed their secrets, told the truth – Jeremiah literally ended up down a well for speaking his mind. And he did try to keep things to himself, but those words burned in his bones until he could not help but speak even if it meant risking his own life (Jeremiah 20:9).
When I was young, I wanted to be a politician, the first female Prime Minister (that ship has sailed!). Later I wanted to be a journalist. My main driver was a desire to tell the stories of the oppressed, and to make the world a better place. Although those dreams changed and shifted over time, that resonance with the prophet Jeremiah remained, a sense that the injustice in the world burned in my bones, and strong compulsion to say something, to speak out against oppression.
Mr Prime Minister, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Nothing you have done or said has given me cause to like, respect or relate to you. However, you claim faith in Jesus Christ, the ultimate rebel, who spoke his mind, stood up for the poor, and the outcast, and was executed for the things he said. I am going to put my faith in you, that when you were young you also dreamed of following in the footsteps of the Prophets in the Bible, of Jeremiah and Jesus. That your call to politics is about doing the right thing and making the world a better place. I know how hard it can be, to live up to the ideals of our youth. That you have pressure on all sides to promote the agenda of powerful people, wealthy people. Your own party places political pressure on you to conform to particular ideals, much of which is driven by a fear of left-leaning progressive policy and need to ensure national security and a strong economy.
I understand that fear. I too fear for my safety and long for financial security, I am sure that most human’s do. The bible didn’t have journalists, but it did have Prophets. The role of the Prophet, like the journalist is to both inform the people of the truth, but also to hold political leaders to account. That is not always a comfortable place to be, the truth can be ugly, and difficult, and painful, but without it, I do not believe it is possible to do what is right in the world. And as a self-professed evangelical Christian, you align yourself with a call to represent Christ to the world – and Jesus cared about doing what was right, no matter the cost.
I will leave you with some parting words from the Liberal Party website:
‘We believe: in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples: and we work towards a lean government that minimizes interference in your daily lives; and maximizes individual and private sector initiative…in those most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy – the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.’
As I said at the outset, I do not vote for your party, but many Australian’s did. I can only assume because they too believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples, and the most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy. I am not asking you to agree with me or to believe what I believe, but Mr Prime Minister I do ask you to demonstrate integrity in your political actions. Do what you say you believe in, fight for freedom of thought, worship, speech and association, and the implied freedom of the press. Defend the poor, the widowed, the fatherless, and the sojourners (refugees). As it says in James 2:26 ‘Faith without deeds is dead.’ All I ask Mr Prime Minister is that you be, who you say you are. A Liberal Party member, and follower of Christ.
Your faithful servant,
Jessica Dianne Messenger