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Author Topic: The Job of Government is to Foster Free Speech, Not to Suppress it

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The Job of Government is to Foster Free Speech, Not to Suppress it

Tony Abbott: Leader of the Opposition (Australian Liberal Party).

Following is an edited extract of a speech given by Tony Abbott on August 6 at the Institute of Public Affairs. Commentary (*) and text contained in [square brackets] added by Reverend Cambeul.

A hung parliament has brought out the government's authoritarian streak. It is not the role of government to manage the day-to-day practices ... to "mark" commentary and media against unavoidably subjective standards of fairness. The job of government is to foster free speech, not stifle it. It's to increase the number and the range of people who can participate in public debate, not to reduce it.

[A] threat to freedom of speech in Australia is the operation of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits statements that "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" another person or a group of people on grounds of race or ethnicity.

At the time of its introduction, oblivious to its Orwellian overtones, the then minister, Nick Bolkus, said that it was designed to prohibit "speechcrime" over and above the traditional tort of defamation.

Making the likelihood of causing offence to a group the test of acceptable behaviour is a much more onerous restriction than bringing a particular victim into hatred, ridicule or contempt.

Let's be clear: insulting, humiliating or intimidating others on any grounds, racial or otherwise, is deplorable but a "hurt feelings" test is impossible to comply with while maintaining the fearless pursuit of truth which should be the hallmark of a society such as ours.

As Robert Menzies declared: "The whole essence of freedom (of speech) is that it is freedom for others as well as (for) ourselves. (It is) a conception which is not born with us, but which we must painfully acquire. Most of us have no instinct at all to preserve the right of the other fellow to think what he likes about our beliefs and to say what he likes about our opinions. (But) if truth is to emerge, and in the long run be triumphant, the process of free debate - the untrammelled clash of opinion - must go on."

If it's all right ... to upset conservative Christians, why is it not all right ... to upset activist Aborigines?

The Coalition will repeal section 18C in its present form. We would be prepared to maintain a prohibition on inciting hatred against or intimidation of particular racial groups, akin to the ancient common law offences of incitement and causing fear. Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive. It ought to be inconceivable that a commentator offering an opinion should fall foul of the law just because offence was taken or might be expected to be taken. This is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with [a journalist]. It's a matter of an expansive or a repressive view of the right to free speech.

It's not just the present government which will be put to the test in the debate over new restrictions on free speech, although its authoritarian tendencies are likely to be on display. It will be all the commentators and organisations that have ever thundered in defence of free speech but find their indignation highly selective when it's News Limited or ... [Dr Frederick Toben*] that are in the dock.

The Australian Left has long cited the Menzies government's attempt to ban the Communist Party as an egregious assault on freedom. What will they make of any Gillard government legislation to restrict freedom of speech? Menzies sought to restrict freedom in order to defend the country. The Gillard government, by contrast, seeks to restrict freedom in order to defend itself.

Note: *  We must never forget that it was under the Liberal Party's reign that Dr Frederick Toben was convicted and sentenced for the crime of having an opinion contrary to that of the ruling thuggery of International Jewry. Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott's decision to repeal thoughtcrime laws does not guarantee freedom of speech. As Abbott is fully aware, the laws already in existence prior to the current Labour regime are quite sufficient to crush freedom of speech and persecute the innocent when their thoughts are deemed politically incorrect, racist or anti-Semitic as is more often the case.


Further Comments:

Noli Nothis Permittere Te Terere
The only way to prevent 1984 is 2323

Reverend Cailen Cambeul, P.M.E.
Church Administrator, Creativity Alliance
Church of Creativity South Australia
Box 420, Oaklands Park, SA, Australia, 5046

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