I am writing to express my very great concern at the failure of the federal Coalition to announce their outright opposition to the government’s exposure draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012.
IPA research reveals that the draft legislation is an outrageous attack on the fundamental liberty of freedom of speech. The draft legislation proposes to make it unlawful to offend or insult another person on nearly twenty different grounds, including “political opinion”.
The proposed law is extraordinary and has no place in a free country.
The day after the draft legislation was released Simon Breheny, the Director of the Legal Rights Project at the Institute of Public Affairs, sent you and every member of parliament an email drawing your attention to the dangerous provisions in the legislation and urging you to reject it. I have enclosed a copy of his email with this letter.
It is alarming that the Coalition has to date failed to announce its opposition to the frightening restrictions on freedom of speech contained in the legislation.
The silence of the Coalition since the draft legislation was released stands in stark contrast to the strident defence of our liberties made yesterday by the former political staffer to Gough Whitlam and Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, James Spigelman. Even federal ALP backbencher Kelvin Thomson has been more vocal than the Coalition on the threat to freedom of speech posed by the draft legislation.
IPA members from around the country have inundated me with phone calls, emails, and letters about the draft legislation. Every one of them has asked the same question: where is the Coalition on this issue? I wish I had something positive to tell them.
IPA members tell me that they have been informed by Coalition MPs that the Coalition is waiting for the report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee due in February next year before determining its position on the draft legislation. Frankly, that’s just not good enough.
Freedom of speech is core to the philosophies of liberalism and conservatism. Such attacks on freedom of speech must be opposed outright and immediately.