SYDNEY—Attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) have praised the event for giving them a forum to exercise their freedom of speech, at the same time criticising prevalent leftist ideologies for dampening open discussion.
Nick Kotevski, owner of a roofing business, attending CPAC said the event allowed him to meet with fellow conservatives and speak openly, which was a vastly different experience from modern society.
“There's a lot of stigma against those people who are capable of observing situations or circumstances, and sometimes stating the facts,” he told The Epoch Times on Nov. 4.
“So, I just end up, wondering or withholding myself from speaking openly as I would regularly,” he said. “I hope that it's not going to go like that forever. Because it's not going to be good for democracy and for having the right to speak.”
CPAC’s main organiser, Andrew Cooper, told the conference that the event has had to navigate numerous challenges this year, including adverse publicity from left-leaning media outlets, cancellations due to COVID-19 lockdowns, and a High Court challenge after the Attorney-General's department requested documents from Cooper under the Foreign Transparency and Influence Scheme (FTIS).
The FTIS was originally established amid increasing concerns of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) influence over domestic bodies and organisations in Australia.
Anna Rusman, a retiree, said the conference aligned with her Christian values and that leftist and socialist ideology was infringing on the rights of Australians and silencing “the voice of Christians.”
“I came to Australia in 1980 from a communist country, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and so, I know firsthand, of how the system works,” she told The Epoch Times.
“Our belief is this conference helps me to stand for the values that I want to see in Australia. I do not agree with socialist and communist theories, because I know they don't work,” she said.
Jeff Grimshaw, a business analyst in the health industry, said individuals were fearful of speaking out because they are “afraid of losing their jobs” or “being harassed.”
Two attendees declined an interview with The Epoch Times due to similar concerns.
“Because being a conservative or libertarian is quite depressing at times, you often feel alone,” Grimshaw said.
“I mean if you just take last year’s CPAC there was a riot outside started by the socialists (Antifa), you know these people who were coming to protest our free speech … support an ideology that killed 100 million people last century,” he said.
Grimshaw said CPAC was “absolutely important” for like-minded individuals to come together and exchange ideas freely.
This year’s event had over 300 attendees despite COVID-19 restrictions. All speakers attended voluntarily.