TONY Abbott has issued a call to arms for conservatives to speak out on issues like same-sex marriage even if they are labelled offensive.
Delivering a rallying cry just 24 hours after conceding his party was unlikely to return him to power, Mr Abbott made it clear he would step up his self-appointed role as a right wing torchbearer.
In a passionate plea for his supporters to speak their minds, the former Prime Minister warned “sensible people” were being cowed by a “noisy minority” who pose a new threat to freedom of speech.
Mr Abbott used a speech in memory of Brisbane Catholic priest Father Greg Jordan last night to signal he would take a prominent role in the debate against same-sex marriage – one of the issues Malcolm Turnbull did not want to dominate the election campaign.
Warning of a new wave of censorship, Mr Abbott argued “people’s reluctance to speak out” in defence of traditional issues was because they would “risk the accusation that they’ve been brainwashed by the Church”.
He backed the right of conservative commentators Andrew Bolt, who writes forThe Courier-Mail, and Alan Jones to question climate change and who was able to call themselves Aboriginal without fear of retaliation.
His suggestion will raise eyebrows among Mr Turnbull’s supporters, who staged a revolt over Mr Abbott’s initial plan to remove a ban on comments that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” people based on their race.
The provision was a “bad law” and backed a compromise proposed by Family First Senator Bob Day that would allow “offensive” and “insulting” statements but ban intimidation and humiliation.
He argued all Australians have to accept “offensive, insulting, humiliating, and even intimidating” comments about divisive topics and warned “the alternative is a suffocating politeness at best”.
“The challenge for those of us against change will be to make our case again and again even though it will often be misconstrued as an attack on everyone whose life does not correspond to the traditional ideal,” he said.
Mr Abbott’s speech came after he told Sky News his colleagues would not change their minds about dumping him, declaring “the Abbott era has been” but vowed to be “a very vigorous and forthright” MP.
Mr Turnbull yesterday said he had “a good chat” with Mr Abbott recently about “life, politics everything”.
Asked if he believed Mr Abbott had given up any hope of returning to power, Mr Turnbull said “That’s what he said.”