Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) spoke at length on the importance of free speech as part of a broader discussion on conservative principles on the sidelines of Australia’s first-ever Conservative Political Action Conference on Aug. 9.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Meadows discussed the Hong Kong protests, censorship, and China’s relationship with Australia, often alluding to the role free speech has in society. Several hundred attended the first day of the conference at Rydges World Square located in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.
“For me its all about encouraging those who have conservative thought who believe in freedom of speech, who believe in a limited government,” he said. “They don’t want to empower the government to rule our lives.”
Meadows said he was surprised to see so many “Make America Great Again” hats among the Australian audience and said he was encouraged to see CPAC grow internationally. A conference slated for Japan and Korea is forthcoming.
When asked about British political activist Raheem Kassam, who had faced calls to ban him from speaking at the conference by the Australian Labor Party, Meadows talked about a common tactic used by the left—censorship.
“The left always does this,” he said. “If they can’t win the argument what they do is they want to ban people from having free speech.”
“You can have a different background than I have and yet we [should be] able to have a discussion, debate the issues. What they want to do in this particular case is not give him a visa to come to a country that supports free speech because they don’t like the speech that perhaps is communicated.”
Kassam has since challenged Australian Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Kristina Keneally, to a public debate at Rydges World Square.
The American congressman said that we should condemn those things that are hateful and wrong, but said at the same time that “we must protect free speech,” adding that it’s what “makes us stronger as a nation, whether you’re in Australia or the United States.”
“Free speech is something that should be celebrated, it’s where all the new ideas come from,” he said.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, one of the speakers at CPAC, told attendees that he believes those on the center-right are better placed because “we are less ideological than our opponents.”
“We are more practical, and less theoretical than our opponents,” Abbott said to loud applause.
On the Hong Kong protests, Meadows highlighted how a free society is the most prosperous. He said he applauded the people of Hong Kong for “standing firm on freedom.” He also brought up the Korean peninsula.
“You can look at what freedom does … you’ve got South Korea, versus North Korea. You’ve got the ninth largest economy versus the 125th largest economy,” he said. “Same people, same group, same peninsula. There’s no better case study to show what freedom does.”
“Now the people there in Hong Kong are rising up and saying, ‘Hold on just a minute, we don’t want to give up those freedoms that we have long enjoyed,” he said.
“They are right to do that and I think it scares the Chinese government because when you have free speech and you have the ability to articulate that and then its multiplied not by one, but by tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, you have to take note.”
Meadows also pointed to Australia’s relationship with China.
“China is going to trade with Australia if it’s good for China,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the relationship. You can look at china’s interaction with other countries. It’s not based on a relationship, it’s based on those things that if they need coal from Australia, they need commodities from Australia, it’s a whole lot easier than to get them from a closer neighbor.”
President Donald Trump is committed to reshaping the United States’ relationship with China, according to Meadows. He said he believed the Chinese are “underestimating the resolve” of Trump.
“He wants to make sure that we have a respectful relationship with our Chinese trading partner,” Meadows said. “But also one that’s really built on free trade, market principles, no currency manipulation; and to the extent that we can have that kind of relationship, he wants to reset it.”