Freedom of speech threatened by Tasmanian bill

Via Freedomwatch:

“Proposed changes contained in the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 threaten freedom of speech and freedom of conscience,” said Simon Breheny, director of the Legal Rights Project at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

The bill has passed the Tasmanian House of Assembly and is now set to be debated by the Tasmanian Legislative Council.

“The bill proposes a fine of $65,000 or a 12 month jail term for the newly created crime of protesting in an area within a radius of 150 metres from an abortion clinic. This is an inappropriate limitation on freedom of speech.

As Mr Breheny goes onto note, we already have strong laws against intimidation, and the creation of this offence is indeed a violation of freedom of speech.

Freedom Of The Press Under Attack In The United States

Australia isn’t the only Western country where freedom of the press is under attack by the government. The same thing is happening in the United States, or so argues James Goodale, former general counsel and vice chairman of The New York Times at the time the Pentagon Papers were published,  and author of the forthcoming book Fighting for the Press, in which he argues that President Obama is “worse for press freedom than former President Richard Nixon was” and that “The Obama administration has prosecuted more alleged leakers of national security information under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined”.

The Columbia Journalism Review recently interviewed him:

Why aren’t more people angry about what they see as Obama’s aversion to press freedom?

They don’t believe it. I actually have talked to two investigative reporters who are household names, and I said, “Do you realize what’s happening to you if this goes forward?” And I talk, I get no response, and the subject shifts to other parts of the book. No one seems to care.

So you think that if John McCain or Mitt Romney were the president and doing this, there would be a different response?

We’d be screaming and yelling and the journalists would be going crazy. And that doesn’t speak well of journalists.

h/t Volokh Conspiracy

The academics who hate free speech

John Speer, from the University of Melbourne Liberal Club, writes in Quadrant Online on how the battle from free speech is far from won … and is most at threat in our Universities. The University of Melbourne Liberal Club, as it does every year, set up a stall to attract new students for the University’s O-Week. As part of their promotional material, they had a corflute of John Howard with the quote “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”

Here is what happened:

Within minutes of displaying this corflute, members of the MULC were approached by university academics who believed it to be was ‘racist’ and ‘disgusting’. In addition to this, they insisted we had no right whatsoever to display it at our stall. Senior members of The Club explained that whilst they were free to hold those opinions, we were perfectly within our rights to voice our own beliefs and display a piece of official election material.

With the debate ending rather quickly, our stall was soon approached by the University of Melbourne’s security staff, who stated they had received “complaints” about the corflute. They then ordered the MULC booth off campus.

After it was explained that all present were both MULC members and students of the university,  thus having a right to be present on university grounds, the security staff then attempted to remove the corflute from the grounds of the university.

Upon members reminding them that the corflute was a member of The Club’s own private property, they placed it back on the stall. In a desire not to inflame the situation, MULC members transported the stall off campus and onto public property in order to continue our membership drive

Click here to read the full account.

This incident is symbolic of the left’s approach to freedom of speech in the modern age. This desire to censor, to control, to regulate is bred in the incubators of our taxpayer funded universities, and this incident explains that while we may have won the battle over the Governments’ anti-free speech legislation, the war is far, far, far from over.


Another Attack On Our Fundamental Rights

Amidst the tragi-comic farce occurring in Canberra last week, few noticed a fundamental attack on our rights taking place in New South Wales by an allegedly conservative government.

The right to silence, a fundamental right at the core of western liberal democracies as a vital check and balance upon the power of the government and protection of the innocence has just been abolished. That’s right, a right going back 400 years in the United Kingdom, which was enshrined in the US Bill of Rights, which is recognised in key international human rights documents such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: gone.

As our good friends at the IPA stated:

The right to silence is a key pillar of our legal system, developed over more than 400 years of English common law. Removing it undermines procedural fairness and creates an unjust legal system. The freedom to remain silent is a vital safeguard against state tyranny and it should never be removed.

Judges can already instruct juries to draw adverse inferences in certain cases where defendants fail to assist police investigations, so there is no justification for any erosion of the right to silence.

Fundamental legal rights must not be tampered with.

The New South Wales government should recognise their mistake and reverse what they have done.

This is just the latest attempt by Australian governments of all political stripes to remove basic legal rights, such as the right to silence, the presumption of innocence and the privilege against self-incrimination

Why does this matter? Isn’t it only criminals who have something to hide? Well, no. The right to silence isn’t there to protect criminals – it’s there to protect the innocent. Whether it be protecting people being coerced into making false confessions, or having their words manipulated or misquoted, or simply against overzealous police. it is a vital protection of the rights of the innocent.

Don’t agree with me? I would STRONGLY urge everyone to take the half hour necessary to watch the below video. It’s what changed my mind on this, and, while delivered in the US, is just as relevant here today.

Media Rules Prohibit Dissent

Jennifer Marohasy has a great piece in the Australian Financial Review on how  Senator Conroy’s proposed media changes are designed to  prohibit dissent:


MODERN history suggests that democracy aligns, and progresses, with the expansion of civil liberties, including access by ordinary citizens to government information. But the new media reform bills tabled in [Australian] federal Parliament last week appear unashamedly about the introduction of an additional layer of bureaucracy unaccountable to the public or the judiciary…

The PIMA will administer public interest tests in the merger or takeovers of media interests. But unlike other areas of government where there is a public interest test, such as the application of freedom of information laws, the decisions of the PIMA will not be subject to judicial review or appeal through the courts.

However, let’s consider how well a public interest test may operate in practice with reference to FOI.

Click here to read the whole piece

Free Speech Rally At Conroy’s Office This Sunday

We need to take URGENT action to save free speech in Australia.

This Sunday, can you join an Emergency Action Rally outside the office of Commissar Stephen Conroy?

Speaking will be Senator Scott Ryan, Senator Mitch Fifield and Victorian State MLC Bernie Finn, as well as other great freedom fighters.

If this legislation is passed, we will join North Korea, Cuba and Iran as having some of the most repressive anti-free speech rules.

This is your opportunity to show Canberra that THEY CAN NOT TAKE AWAY OUR FREEDOMS!!!

The details are:

Time:               1:00pm
Date:                Sunday, March 17
Address:        17 Mason St, Newport, Victoria

Please invite your family, your neighbours, your friends and let us send a message that Canberra can not ignore!!!

The more Australians who turn up on Sunday, the stronger the message we send!
I hope we will see you there!


Telegraph Apologises!!!

This is brilliant:

YESTERDAY we ran a picture of Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy depicted as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

It has since been pointed out that this was a grossly unfair and insulting comparison to make. And so we would just like to say: We’re sorry, Joe.

Yes, it is true that Stalin was a despicable and evil tyrant who was responsible for the death of many millions.

However, at least he was upfront in his efforts to control the media instead of pretending he supported free speech and then suggesting that cheeky, satirical or provocative newspaper coverage might be against the law. We also note that, despite his well-documented crimes against humanity, Stalin at least managed to hold a government together for more than three years.

Nonetheless, we pay tribute to our new Commissar Conroy and stand ready to write and publish whatever he instructs us to.

Get Their Hands Off Our Throats

Andrew Bolt sums it up perfectly:

Here are hints of the real problem, several drawn from Conroy’s unwittingly revealing interview last night on Lateline.

First, Conroy has already called an inquiry into what the Greens insisted was the “hate media” – an inquiry that focused on News Ltd and journalists reporting on climate change from a sceptical position.  (Conroy really does believe there’s a News Ltd plot against the Gillard Government.)

Second, Conroy intervened to block News Ltd’s winning tender of the Australia Network, giving it back to the more friendly ABC.

Third, Conroy in this election year handed the ABC $10 million for news coverage.

Fourth, Conroy on Lateline cited as a benefit of the $37 billion NBN he’s building the ability to help Crikey, a hard-Left website:

I’m a huge supporter in trying to bring the National Broadband Network, which will allow all of those digital voices to come into people’s homes, but we’re not yet at the stage where Crikey, probably the most well-known blog/subscription model, actually only has about 15,000 customers.

Fifth, Conroy in citing the need for tougher rules against journalists just two examples of alleged error and bias that – surprise! – involve reports critical of the Gillard Government:

I think my colleague Anthony Albanese recently had an experience where a news report went to air on the nightly 6 o’clock news, he put in a complaint to the ACMA. He was upheld completely. All of the points made in the program were wrong….

I myself had an experience where someone complained about the Daily Telegraph’s reporting of the National Broadband Network. And they made three complaints. All of them were upheld by the Press Council. And they were ordered to – by the Press Council, the Daily Telegraph, to correct it prior to Christmas a couple of Christmases ago, and not only didn’t they comply with that, they waited until 27th December and they put it on I think about page 42 in tiny print.

Sixth, in saying on Lateline laws were needed for more diversity of opinion, he in the next breath mentioned News Ltd as an opponent:

So it will be a sad day for democracy if there was a further reduction in the diversity of opinion. So, News Limited have at times been quite hysterical about this.

And, seventh, I know Conroy has threatened a media organisation about giving me a platform, and also know how another media organisation has seen his threats of controls as threats meant to make their coverage more government friendly.

No one, but no one, should doubt that however Conroy dresses up these changes, they are an assault against the freedom of journalists to say what they think, and against the freedom of the public to hear whom they want.

It is astonishing – revolting – that such attacks on free speech should be launched in Australia

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