The subject of freedom of expression has has come to the fore of late. There are calls to, if not abolish 18c of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act, then at least amend it. On a State level there has been moves by Legislative Councillor Tania Rattray to remove the terms, “offence” and “insult” from the Anti-Discrimination Act Section 17.
In defending to retain the legislation as it stands, proponents state any such change will harm many and that the laws are really there to prevent ‘hate’ being espoused.
Yet, are these laws actually doing what they claim to prevent? Are they actually being used to intimidate and threaten individuals and groups? Are those who advocate, “inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity” consistent when they also advocate with those with whom they have a differing opinion should be not only persecuted but also prosecuted? This is the dilemma; in endeavouring to protect sections of the community , it can be used to victimise others.
What is freedom of speech and expression? It is to be able to express one’s social, political and/or religious views without hindrance, especially if put in a civilised manner. Obviously if violent, then the current laws will deal with that. If libellous or defamatory, existing laws will handle that. An opinion given in a debate and stated in a peaceful manner which has been sincerely uttered must be tolerated. The supporters of Section 17 and 18C state the legislation is there to prevent “hate” speech. Yet, the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart’s pamphlet on traditional marriage was in no way a hateful document. It was interpreted as such by a political candidate. Although the charge was dropped, the Archbishop was subject to not only persecution, but possible prosecution. For simply voicing his Church’s policy on marriage? This had nothing to do with ‘hate’ but somebody taking an issue with his opinion. Well how many times in life are we offended? Personally I am offended many times a day. Being offended, however, can be a lesson in life; how to deal with it, how to meet its challenge and how to counter it with adult argument. Free speech can only exist if one has the right to offend.
On the Federal level with 18c we have seen unfair prosecutions regarding the late cartoonist, Bill Leak. Then there was journalist Andrew Bolt and the three young university students from Queensland. The latter had written inoffensive and true statements on their Facebook page, when they were subject to reverse discrimination (which is simply discrimination) because they were not aborigine. There would many more cases not making the news, because the person or person involved, just comply, not wanting to handle the stress and strain of the whole affair.
We have become despite the claims, an intolerant society. Even though we can watch the most offensive material when it comes to the entertainment industry, including filthy language (and that is what it is) on a political level, we are greatly censored. We have moved from being a debatable society to a society which promptly bans an opposing point of view.
Examples of this is the attacks on Coopers Brewery for organising a civilised debate on same sex marriage (Coopers collapsed like a pack of cards over the matter) to a Christian Lobby group on the mainland who had to cancel their conference on traditional marriage because of threats. Now we have seen the film “The Red Pill” about a Men’s Right Movement banned in Melbourne and Sydney because again, of threats. The young American female producer of the film stated on Sky News recently that Australia has far more political censorship than the USA. Organiser for the screening of the film (again a young lady) has been told by the Student Union from Sydney University they will not tolerate the showing of the film.
Then we have the young Somalian woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in the USA cannot come into Australia for lecturing as her security cannot be guaranteed. Her subject, of which she has had first hand experience, is female religious genital mutilation. Incidentally (19th April 2017) a doctor who undertook such a procedure in America has just been arrested.The first case ever in that country.
Overseas, the film “Vaxxed” produced by Robert de Niro was removed from the Cannes Film Festival because of outside pressure from big corporations. The public must not make up its own mind on a particular subject.
Senator Cory Barnardi’s office was recently trashed by a militant left wing group who did not agree with his views and saw it was their right to threaten his staff and destroy his place of work.
Just being offended because of the subject matter does not give anyone the right to prevent the opposing view being aired or the right to use legislation to ban it. This word “offended” can be used to stifle debate and freedom of expression.
The problem is that there is a complete lack of leadership on this issue from the Prime Minister downwards. Our governments and Parliamentarians (excluding the few) shy away from the subject. Our universities which should be in the forefront of defending differing points of view do nothing to counter this intolerance. Incidentally English comedian, John Cleese said recently he will no longer perform at universities because of their sensitivity and political correctness.
Is ANZAC Day on the attack list? I wonder what our diggers would think of the current repressive situation? To give their life so one cannot espouse an opinion because someone may be “offended”?
As one who has been involved with the media now for 49 years and has made much of my living from my interaction with it, I have seen the gradual erosion of freedom with speech and freedom of movement in Australia. This is a very dangerous trend.
The twentieth century saw freedom of speech advance in various Western democracies. Are we now in retreat? What makes a country a free country as opposed to an oppressive dictatorship is a free media and the guarantee of individual freedom together with the ability to be able to tolerate another’s point of view.
What has happened to Voltaire’s “I disagree with every word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” On his death a banner proclaimed, “He gave wings to the human mind. He prepared us to be free.”