On Monday, The Centre for Independent Studies did something that the Australian government did not deem necessary: We provided a very warm welcome to Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic.
Klaus is a true friend of Australia. One of his first international trips after the fall of the Iron Curtain was to Australia in 1991, when he delivered the John Bonython lecture to the Centre.
Ten years later, he returned to participate in a CIS conference; he also has close relatives here.
Despite all this, the Prime Minister’s Office found no way to accommodate a meeting between the President Klaus and her. Maybe she was genuinely too busy. Or maybe Klaus’ views were too unpalatable for her.
President Klaus is a rare bird: He is an economics professor, a former finance minister and prime minister, and now a head of state. But despite this impressive career, he has maintained an outspokenness and independence of mind rare in politicians these days.Maybe Klaus does not hold back his views because he had to do so for too long under communist rule. He does not conform to modern standards of so-called ‘political correctness,’ which he thinks is ‘a misnomer for officially sanctioned hypocrisy.’
So he speaks out where other politicians rather bite their tongues. Whether it is against the intrusive regulations coming out of the European Union, against the drive towards supranationalism, or indeed against programs to impose draconian measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Our exchange of views with the President was most informative and refreshing. It’s a pity the Prime Minister missed the opportunity to experience the same.