From Hansard: Brandis lifting his game

We have been very critical of George Brandis over his equivocation on free speech. While he is not yet where he should be on this issue – he did take the fight up the Human Rights Commission. The whole exchange is well worth reading – it gets better. I especially enjoyed the comments about the Magna Carta.

The extract begins below.

Senator BRANDIS: Professor Triggs, I want to focus my questions on a broad issue about the commission’s priorities. I do not know whether you have a copy of your act to hand, but I am sure you are very familiar with it. Can I remind you—not that you need reminding, but can I put it on the record, as it were—that the act defines the duties of the commission in section 10A in these terms:

(1) It is the duty of the Commission to ensure that the functions of the Commission under this or any other Act are performed:
(a) with regard for:
(i) the indivisibility and universality of human rights; and
(ii) the principle that every person is free and equal in dignity and rights …

And then in section 11, the functions of the commission are set out at some length in 16 subparagraphs. It talks about promoting public understanding and acceptance of human rights in Australia and so on. Human rights themselves are defined in the definition section, section 3, in these terms:

human rights means the rights and freedoms recognised in the Covenant—
that is, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—

declared by the Declarations or recognised or declared by any relevant international instrument.
If we go back to section 11 and the specific functions of the commission, as you know, those functions are expressed, in the first instance, by reference to rights arising under the Covenant and also declarations or other relevant international instruments.

Professor Triggs, what has the commission done in the last year to promote Article 19 of the Covenant—that is the article which says:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

What has the commission done to promote freedom of speech and expression in the last year?

Prof. Triggs : Thank you, Senator. As you are aware, we have a comprehensive complaints system and we receive about 17½ thousand inquiries, 2,600 of which gel into formal complaints. Approximately, I believe, three a year concern political opinion. So it is a very tiny part, in answer to your question, of the complaints function of the commission.

Senator BRANDIS: But you are not purely a complaints driven organisation—

Prof. Triggs : No, so if I could go on to complete my answer to your question. We inevitably take some lead from the kinds of complaints we receive, because we obviously want to reach as wide a range of Australians with concerns about human rights as we possibly can; so the emphases tend to lie in the very questions that Senator Fifield has raised in relation to disabilities or sex and race discrimination.

We promote the right to freedom of expression in our speeches and our media work where appropriate, and it has become particularly important in the area concerning the public discussion—that we have certainly welcomed—in relation to the current section 18C; in other words, what are the limits on the right to freedom of expression? This has been a matter—that we have debated, and I have discussed a little in the media—of trying to find a balance between the well-recognised importance of freedom of expression and political opinion and the limits that currently exist in the legislation, at least in relation to racial vilification.

I think perhaps I have two answers to your question. One is the role we can play in complaints, which has been small, but, in the public arena and in the educational context and the programs that we have for education, we very much support and talk about the right to freedom of expression, but we do so in the context of attempting to understand what the limits are in relation to racial vilification, particularly in the context of media, the internet and Facebook.

There is a third point I might make, and then I will finish this rather long answer. You might recall that, at our Human Rights Awards in December last year, we invited the Hon. Jim Spigelman to be our guest speaker, and he took up the question of what the proper limits are and how the balance is to be established between freedom of expression and the current racial vilification provision in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That sparked, through our Human Rights Awards, a very significant public debate, which you have been actively engaged in, Senator. We take some credit at least for having promoted public discussion in this area through our Human Rights Awards, although we would not want to take too much credit for that.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr Spigelman might have said what he said—and I agree with what he said—but what has the Human Rights Commission done? It provided a platform to a man who gave a speech—and I presume you did not know what he was going to talk about at the time you decided to invite him. That is right, isn’t it?

Prof. Triggs : When I invited him, I did not, but, as the weeks went by, he advised me.

Senator BRANDIS: That is fine. I hear your answer, but what steps, what outlays from your budget, what staff deployments, what public education programs and what other activities have you had to promote, to evangelise, the message to the Australian people that freedom of speech and expression is a very, very important right in our democracy, which ought to be jealously defended?

Prof. Triggs : I think that the primary answer to your question, particularly in terms of the expenditure of our resources, lies in the work that we do in human rights education and the work that the team at the commission does in developing curriculum with the Australian curriculum board—I think that is not exactly their right title, but I can perhaps take this question on notice in part. Certainly that is where a very strong focus of the commission lies, in public education and working and developing human rights education as an integral part of the curriculum. In that context, I understand that we place quite a significant emphasis on the right to freedom of expression and political opinion.

Senator BRANDIS: Again, I hear what you say, Professor Triggs, but I have looked through the annual report—and, in fairness to you, the reporting period precedes your coming into office as the president of the commission—but I can find nary a word about freedom of speech or freedom of expression. It is all about antidiscrimination law and kindred values. I have no problem at all with the Human Rights Commission promoting antidiscrimination principles and conducting public education campaigns about the importance of equal treatment and the importance of discouraging racial discrimination, disability discrimination and so on, but, frankly, Professor Triggs, it seems to me from your most recent report that that is largely all you do.

By ‘you’, of course, I mean the commission. It is as if your agency is not really a human rights commission at all but an anti-discrimination commission.

You used the word ‘balance’, not me, and I am looking for the balance, I am looking for the programs that you run to promote freedom, liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of association—the very values that article 19 of the covenant enshrines and which, under your act, you have as much responsibility to promote as you do other articles of the covenant which the commission so zealously does promote and foster.

Prof. Triggs : I quite agree with you that of course our mandate is to promote human rights, and that concept—

Senator BRANDIS: Sure—as defined by your act.

Prof. Triggs : As defined by the act, which, in fact—as you point out—is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and those declarations that have been declared and others that have been recognised over time. We do that work without question. One area that perhaps we need to make clearer to the public is the very important international work that we do in the region. We are a leading ‘A status’ national human rights institution—and I can say this because I have only recently arrived; it is not something that reflects anything I have done. This institution is one of the leading human rights institutions, not just in the region but globally. I have seen that from my own experience. I think that we make a very significant contribution in that area. I believe we make a contribution in the field of education, and I would like to take it on notice and give you rather more information in regard to that. We play a media role whenever we can. However, I do come back to where I started: inevitably, some of our work—or the direction and focus of our work—is informed by the very significant level of complaints we have in some areas rather than in others.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand that, but it is a bit of an asymmetric comparison isn’t it, because if a person feels discriminated against, for good or bad reasons, then that is the kind of grievance which will naturally provoke a complaint. But to suppress or discourage freedom of opinion or freedom of expression is something less immediate, because it is something that changes the culture of the entire country. There are, I suggest to you, few people who would feel it as immediately as a person who is the subject of unlawful discrimination in a particular case, because in a sense it affects all of us. So I think it is an asymmetric comparison

Prof. Triggs : Maybe, but it is a very powerful statistic that, while we have thousands of complaints in certain areas across the community, we have only three that relate to political opinion. So I do believe that, in fact, the freedom of expression is very strongly protected in Australia by numerous groups, by government and by our courts. That is a very strong right. The great difficulty in the public debate—and the extremely interesting public debate—is how do you achieve a balance that is acceptable to the public and that the public can understand. How do you legislate to prevent the intimidatory acts or acts of harassment that we have all been witnessing in the last few weeks and months? It is a very difficult question of legislative balance and we hope we have played a role with regard to achieving that balance.

Senator BRANDIS: It might be a difficult question of balance, Professor Triggs—and I know you are a very distinguished lawyer in this field with an international reputation, if I may say so, as a scholar of human rights law—but it seems to me that we are not wanting for the appropriate legislative foundation for your commission to undertake both the work that it does in relation to antidiscrimination law and kindred rights and the promotion of liberal rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of religious worship and so on.

So I would suggest to you, Professor Triggs, that it is not the difficulty of the legislative balance. The legislative balance is already there in the act. You are directed to protect both categories of rights, what we might loosely or perhaps at the risk of overgeneralising call both libertarian rights and egalitarian rights. You are not wanting for the legislative basis to do that, nor is the ICCPR wanting for sufficient protection of both of those broad categories of rights. But all the emphasis as disclosed by the most recent annual report and, if I may say so, by your answers seems to focus the commission on the protection and championing of the egalitarian rights and the neglect of the liberal or libertarian rights.

Prof. Triggs : Senator Brandis, I think that is a very important question to ask us. I would like to go back to the commission and have this discussed within the commission to see whether perhaps—

Senator BRANDIS: I think that would be a great idea.

Prof. Triggs : But I do have another answer, firstly to recognise the importance of your question but secondly to say that in many respects the commission does have one hand tied behind its back, because the legislation that applies here is legislation that, over the years, growing a bit like Topsy, has reflected international conventions to which Australia has become a party. We have, in the area of sex and disability and so on, given domestic implementing legislative effect to those conventions, and they have informed, of course, the work of the commission. However, the major international treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and so on, have not been given domestic implementation. So it is not entirely surprising that the emphasis of our work has been on those areas where we have a clear legislative tool. As you know, one can go to the court holding that as a sword. You cannot go to any court holding up the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Senator BRANDIS: Correct. I agree.

Prof. Triggs : If I may suggest, that is one reason why our emphasis has lain with working with the legislative tools that we have rather than perhaps emphasising the wider liberal values that you are describing that emerged from the early sixties with those major covenants. It is an important question, but I think in fact the question is now very much in the public arena, partly stimulated by this Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. It has shone a beam of light in an area of law where most Australians have not seen before, as we saw—if I may refer to Q&A last night—in the extraordinary level of public knowledge about specific provisions of this bill. It is being debated in a way that it has never been debated before in relation to issues that have been good law for 30 years but not generally understood. So I think that we are seeing a public discussion in an unprecedented fashion, particularly over the last two months, of the issues that you have raised.

Senator BRANDIS: That may very well be so, Professor Triggs, but why has it taken people other than the Human Rights Commission to elevate this debate? Why has it taken people like my friends at the Institute of Public Affairs, some of my colleagues in the coalition, columnists, editorial writers and writers of letters to the editors of the newspapers to get a debate up and going in Australia about limitations on freedom, when we have an agency, your agency, whose explicit statutory charter is to promote and advance those rights?

Prof. Triggs : I wonder if I could take another point here. I accept your question. I think it is a valuable one, as I have said. But let us look at another element of this—that is, a great deal of my time as president and that of many members of our human rights law and policy group has been responding to our profound concerns about the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. I understand that at the moment we have many thousands—and I do not know the exact number, but let us say 6,000 people—in mandatory detention in Australia, including children. Many have been there for years. Babies have been born within that environment. They have been charged with no offence, and they have not yet had their claims to refugee status assessed. That is an area that I think is of fundamental importance to human rights.

Senator BRANDIS: Well, it is.

Prof. Triggs : It concerns arbitrary detention without trial. If I may say so, I went to an interesting lecture by the foreign minister the other day to celebrate the Magna Carta, quoting the fundamental principles of the Magna Carta that no man—or presumably woman—can be charged or held without a trial of their peers. It seems extraordinary—

Senator BRANDIS: I do not think the barons at Runnymede had friends like Mr Eddie Obeid and Mr Ian Macdonald, unlike our foreign minister, who speaks with eloquence about the Magna Carta, at least.

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, I am going to ask you now to concentrate on the additional estimates.

Senator BRANDIS: I am sorry, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: That is why we are here. This is not the Boston Tea Party—

Senator BRANDIS: Forgive me.

CHAIR: friendship society, so let us focus.

Senator BRANDIS: Thanks, Madam Chair, I take your admonition as I always do. Professor Triggs, I am not just making an academic point. I want to emphasise that. I understand your point about the claims on your resources, but it cannot have escaped you or the members of the commission that in the last 12 or 18 months or so in Australia we have had a very, very vigorous debate about freedom of speech. We could probably trace its origins, at least in the recent past, to the decision in the Bolt case, and then we had the Finkelstein report, which took—in my view—an expressly illiberal view of freedom of the press. It mounted a very specific and direct critique of classical liberal values and favoured a collectivist view of values. Then we had the draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. We have had the two national newspapers, the Australian and the Financial Review, in their editorial columns and in their opinion pages, agitating this issue on an almost weekly basis. Frankly—and this is not a personal criticism of you, Professor Triggs—the Human Rights Commission, as far as I can see, has been largely missing in action from this profoundly important national debate about one of the most important human rights: freedom of speech and expression.

Prof. Triggs : Senator Brandis, I think that you are looking at only one side of this coin, if I may put it that way. In other words, the other side of the coin is: how do the rules on racial vilification and limitations of freedom of speech impact on that right? Because the public debate has focused, as you say, stimulated by the Bolt case and by the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill and the Hon. Mr Spigelman’s speech—

Senator BRANDIS: And the Finkelstein report.

Prof. Triggs : we have had an emphasis on the proper limitations of freedom of speech. I think it would be fair to say that we have been very much in action over the last few months on this question, but we have not been emphasising the right to freedom of speech; we have been emphasising the way in which the balance in relation to it is established either under the current legislation or under the bill that is now proposed for the future.

Senator BRANDIS: But Professor Triggs—

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, lots of senators want to ask questions here.

Senator BRANDIS: I will just be a few more minutes, Madam Chair. But, Professor Triggs, that is the problem. You are not meant to be the agency that warns about the limitations of freedom. You are meant to be the agency that advocates for freedom.

Senator PRATT: Balance, Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: No! There is nothing in the act or the covenant that talks about balance. You are meant to be the agency that advocates for freedom, just as you are meant to be the agency that advocates for egalitarian rights as well. Let the political process and public discussion find where the balance is, but it seems to me, with respect, that you go into this discussion with one hand willingly tied behind your back, not as the advocates of freedom but as the discussants of freedom.

You are not meant to be the discussants. You are meant to be the advocates. That is your statutory charter.

Whereas your commission is a dedicated and committed advocate of antidiscrimination principles, I do not see the commission being a dedicated and committed advocate of freedom principles. You have think tanks, like in the Institute of Public Affairs, which has something called a ‘freedom project’. I do not see a freedom project in the Human Rights Commission.

CHAIR: Senator Brandis—

Senator BRANDIS: Can I have an answer to my question, please, because I am inviting the witness to respond.

CHAIR: I was not sure whether it was a question or the opening paragraph of your next speech. If that is the case—

Senator BRANDIS: We are entitled to put observations to the witnesses and invite their response.

CHAIR: I am not sure about observations. We have a Senate chamber where you can do that. We are really pressed for time today so I am going to move to the next senator in minute.

Senator BRANDIS: Thanks, Madam Chair—

Prof. Triggs : I wonder if I could have a very brief attempt to answer this question.

Senator BRANDIS: Sure.

Prof. Triggs : The right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

Senator BRANDIS: Neither is the right to be free of discrimination.

Prof. Triggs : Exactly. Our role—and my role as president of the commission—is to state the law as accurately as we can, and as we can understand it. I am talking about human rights law as defined by the act. We attempt to do that. I think in the main we get it right. We have a obligation not only to state the right to freedom of expression but also to state the law that exists, in legislation and in the treaties, that prohibits racial vilification.

Senator BRANDIS: Sure.

Prof. Triggs : So, when we present these arguments we are attempting to understand that we have rights that must be balanced against each other. And we have to, perhaps, advocate for ways in which we think that balance can be achieved. You are not happy about the way in which we are finding that balance, and I will certainly take your question back to the commission and ask for some discussion about it. But I think it is wrong to say that we have not been out in the public arena playing a role in this discussion. Indeed, if I may say so, I think we stimulated it in early December.

Senator BRANDIS: My last question. Your commission does seem to have a superabundance of discrimination commissioners in various areas. Should the Human Rights Commission have a freedom commissioner whose particular brief is to promote the kind of balance of which you speak so that within the commission there is a person whose particular job is to promote freedom, just as, within the commission at the moment, there are, I think, five commissioners whose particular job is to promote antidiscrimination? Would that not be a desirable balance—one freedom person versus five anti-discrimination people?

Prof. Triggs : We would be delighted to have a new commissioner to deal with notions of freedom. It is highly unlikely in the current climate. As I said, in all good faith we will take your question and look at it back in the commission to see if, maybe, we can put some more thought and resources into the liberal concepts or principles that lie behind the freedoms that you have been describing.

Senator PRATT: Small ‘l’ liberal.

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144 Responses to From Hansard: Brandis lifting his game

  1. C.L.

    7 out of 10 for Brandis.

    Prof. Triggs : The right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

    Yes it is, a-hole.

  2. Brandis has redeemed himself a bit. I still wouldn’t trust him not to say one thing and do another (the history of Liberal governments), but at least he knows what should be done. Too many of his colleagues have no idea.

  3. tbh

    I have to confess that I didn’t read the whole thing, but at least Brandis seems to mostly get it. Freedom of speech is so incredibly important that we can’t have idiots “in charge” of it.

  4. Andrew

    Well done to Brandis, that was very good.

  5. Jarrah

    These transcripts are changing my opinion of Brandis. He seems to be asking the right questions, and making the right points.

    “Yes it is, a-hole”

    How so?

  6. MT Isa Miner

    Sink the boot in son!
    Don’t let her get under your guard. She’d sell Australia down the UN river as soon as blink.

  7. Craig Mc

    That’s an excellent grilling from a minority position on a committee. The drone in charge now know what’s in store for them after the election.

  8. Andrew

    Human Rights Commission would receive government funding? Say a couple of million dollars? More savings for Abbott.

  9. Samuel J

    I say we flood the commission with complaints about infringements of free speech. “I was going to say XYZ but Wayne Swan’s outrageous slurs stopped me speaking out”…

  10. manalive

    Senator BRANDIS: What has the commission done to promote freedom of speech and expression in the last year?
    Prof. Triggs : Nothing.

    What’s needed is an Anti-Prolixity Commission.

  11. Infidel Tiger

    Prof. Triggs : The right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

    Eat a dick, commie scum.

  12. Jarrah

    “Eat a dick, commie scum.”

    Since Brandis agrees, is he also commie scum?

  13. Token

    “Eat a dick, commie scum.”

    Since Brandis agrees, is he also commie scum?

    Isn’t it clear the Brandis is on probation?

  14. Grey

    #@$% George Brandis, running around the country stirring up apathy.

  15. Abu Chowdah

    Those getting angry about the no absolute right comment are forgetting that there are criminal law restrictions on speech that is assault or that promotes political violence.

    So, he’s right.

  16. Harold

    Brandis: “How have you promoted freedom of speech?”

    HRC: “We’ve had discussions about where the line should be drawn”.

    Yeah, like they get it.

  17. C.L.

    No, he’s not right. And we’re not forgetting anything.

    Neither Brandis (nor I) are talking about the time-honoured criminal sanctions against defamation and slander. Left-wing fascists are always wheeling out this facile distraction to justify attacks on freedom of speech – which freedom, notwithstanding the aforementioned sanctions – is absolute.

  18. Splatacrobat

    Prof. Triggs : We would be delighted to have a new commissioner to deal with notions of freedom.

    No need to find a new one just get one of the other five blockheads to shift his focus thereby not costing the Commission another zac.

  19. Pedro

    Umm, if you are not free to speak some things, then speech is not absolutely free. But then, I think we can sophisticated enough to argue for free speech without having to say it is absolute.

  20. Fisky

    What the Left mean when they say “free speech is never absolute” is not that it is restricted by laws on defamation and incitement, but that it should be restricted on political grounds. Please remember that this is the Left, not normal people, we are talking about. Their priorities are to shut down the opposition using the law.

  21. cohenite

    A commissioner for freedom of expression; exactly.

    Of course reality is more complicated than that; for instance, anyone can stand on a street corner and berate the punters passing by.

    Real freedom of speech means having access to the major information outlets. Take the abc; currently any opinion outside the green narrative doesn’t get a look in. The same situation at fairfax.

    The abc which is funded by government money is different from a private media outlet which can push any barrow it wants and pay the consequence in revenue.

    How to ensure balance at the abc? On one subject, AGW, the chatterers have suggested that on the basis of the consensus that the ratio of pro-AGW to anti-AGW published viewpoints should be 97:3 or worse.

    The argument of the consensus is inappropriate to science and is even less appropriate on other such issues which are the darlings of the left such as asylum seekers.

    One remedy would be to force abc reporters and leading commentators to declare their position on controversial issues and why they hold that view.

  22. Milton Von Smith

    Very sad. She’s supposed to be some kind of wonderful scholar and human rights, and yet plainly does not understand anything about freedom of speech. She just doesn’t get it.

  23. Pedro

    Fisky, and this blog is a hot-bed of normal?

  24. Pedro

    “Real freedom of speech means having access to the major information outlets. Take the abc; currently any opinion outside the green narrative doesn’t get a look in. The same situation at fairfax.”

    Cohenite, that’s got nothing to do with whether there is freedom of speech. It’s kinda the opposite.

  25. .

    Umm, if you are not free to speak some things, then speech is not absolutely free. But then, I think we can sophisticated enough to argue for free speech without having to say it is absolute.

    It is Pedro. Or it ought to be. Exceptions like shouting fire in a crowded theatre are not ever expressly banned or treated as a major criminal offence. Likewise I’m probably not allowed to go to a meeting of a soccer club and make a point of order, take the floor, then stand nearly face to face with the President and call him a c**t to his face at the top of my lungs for five minutes…however, free speech still exists.

    In a liberal democracy, the national security directive is based on an agreement to have access to such information under secrecy. You are free to discuss any topic besides those you have agreed to keep quiet about. In a properly applied, liberal democratic sense, the restriction is self imposed and not permanent.

    The exceptions are extremely rare. They don’t exist on your own property – nor in any case does free speech absolve you of committing a crime or a tort.

    Free speech is absolute – the concession made otherwise is manipulated by fascists or socialists. They do not discuss the exceptions with any honesty or intent to keep speech as free as possible.

    A rule without exception is that fascists and socialists will always use the reasonable exceptions to force a general rule of oppression.

    This is truly out most fundamental right.

    Free speech is sacred.

  26. William Bragg

    As usual, Cats continue under the delusion that freedom of speech is an absolute right. Never was; never will be.

  27. Infidel Tiger

    As usual, Cats continue under the delusion that freedom of speech is an absolute right. Never was; never will be.

    You’re also under the delusion that you’re not a complete berk, so we all have our cross to bear.

  28. .

    Yes it was, has been and should be.

    You are denial of this as you support the oppressive laws cooked up by the fascist gang of Roxon, Gillard and Dreyfuss.

    You are prepared to destroy a fundamental freedom to curry favour with the ALP.

    You are a broken individual, Bragg.

  29. Pedro

    Sorry mark, but Bragg is correct and it should be that way. Clearly there are a very few situtions in which particular speech should be prohibited. But that is irrelevant to the argument for freedom of speech. In the same way that the fact that there must be some govt is not an argument against limited government.

    It’s the same stupid thinking as gay marriage is the slippery slope to walking your beagle down the isle, and not surprisingly it’s come from the same fount of unwisdom.

  30. Alfonso

    With the standard very long established at law caveats of defamation, copyright, threat, plagiarism, fraud etc free speech must be absolute or we got nothin’.

    There is no right not to be offended.

    Brandis will still not guarantee complete repeal of all of S18C ,neither will Abbott….for there is much in that Statist bit of control legislation they both like…. you can trust neither on free speech.

  31. .

    But that is irrelevant to the argument for freedom of speech.

    People like Bragg will never, ever admit this. They argue the complete opposite.

  32. cohenite

    Cohenite, that’s got nothing to do with whether there is freedom of speech. It’s kinda the opposite.

    One hand clapping in a fucking forest is not freedom of speech; freedom of speech goes hand in hand with access to an audience, otherwise you are just talking to yourself.

  33. William Bragg

    otherwise you are just talking to yourself

    And that would be a pointless activity in your case, Cohenhite, assuming that you were wanting an intelligent conversation.

  34. Sinclair Davidson

    Fisky, and this blog is a hot-bed of normal?

    Pedro – what you saying? 🙂

  35. Jc

    As usual, Cats continue under the delusion that freedom of speech is an absolute right. Never was; never will be.

    Define what you mean by absolute right, Braggs, you idiot. Define eggsactly what you mean.

    Most leftwing idiots seem awfully confused by both the definition and the right to free speech from the imbecility we see here from them/you.

    Go!

  36. cohenite

    That’s funny Braggs; now say something intelligent.

  37. .

    Pedro

    The current electoral cycle has seen many of my friends take a sharp and acute interest in politics, and many of them swearing off the ALP and Greens.

    We’re avant garde.

    If you take away free speech, “normal people” will fucking notice and they’ll go apeshit.

    It’s not as though you have to explain trade theory to show how much tariffs screw people over.

    Unlike a tax or an economic regulation, banning free speech is pretty damned explicit.

    Can you imagine normal people with little disposable income and little contact with politics or law going before a magistrate?

    The bench won’t be happy and the people who are sent there will be outraged they falsely believed they were living in a free country.

  38. Harold

    Prof. Triggs : The right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

    Senator BRANDIS: Neither is the right to be free of discrimination.

    Prof. Triggs : Exactly.

    What it comes down to is, the more you bang on about something being important (as the HRC does), the more priority it gets. At the moment the discrimination drum is banged an awful lot, and the freedom of expression one sits idle.

  39. Jc

    and the freedom of expression one sits idle.

    Sits idle? Are you kidding? It’s been thrown onto a trash heap… see the absolutely disgusting Finkelstein report and the attempt by Von Roxon to stifle free speech through discrimination laws.

  40. manalive

    As usual, Cats continue under the delusion that freedom of speech is an absolute right. Never was; never will be …

    There was a time the Left were on the front line, at the barricades, in defence of free speech.
    In 1949 ‘Lance’ Sharkey was sent to prison for uttering the words “if Soviet Forces in pursuit of aggressors entered Australia, Australian workers would welcome them”.
    He was carried shoulder high by demonstrators through Martin Place at his trial.
    The following year William Burns, publisher of the ‘Tribune’, was sentenced to nine months hard labour for a similar offence.
    At his trial the ‘Tribune’ predicted “the largest crowds since peace-fighter Lance Sharkey was charged last year”.

  41. William Bragg

    The Left have managed to evolve. You guys are still stuck in the dark ages.

  42. Infidel Tiger

    The Left have managed to evolve.

    Yes, much like the steak dinner that evolves into a stinking pile of shit.

  43. .

    The Left have managed to evolve. You guys are still stuck in the dark ages.

    Yes, they aim to be gaolers of those who speak out rather than union organisers who speak out and get gaoled.

    You guys are still stuck in the dark ages.

    Ah yes, stuck in the “dark ages” where freedom is cherished.

    You’ve devolved, Bragg, into fascistic, pig-like oiks.

    Roxon being the primary example.

  44. William Bragg

    Yes, much like the steak dinner that evolves into a stinking pile of shit.

    Once again, in trying to demonstrate that they are a wit, a Cat is only 50 percent successfull.

  45. Splatacrobat

    The Left have managed to evolve.

    The Left have managed to evolve into morlocks.
    There fixed it for you Billy Boy

  46. .

    I can’t believe someone is proud to be associated with the repression of free speech, and wants the public to accept that any political party is more important than the most fundamental right of all.

    It’s a totally sick and polluted mindset.

  47. manalive

    The Left have managed to evolve …

    Kim Beazley Sr. put it a bit more pungently.

  48. William Bragg

    The Left have managed to evolve into morlocks.
    There fixed it for you Billy Boy.

    Fair enough Splat, taking yous together with Imbecile Tiger’s hilarious contribution, I now do acknowledge that you Cats have a wit between you.

  49. cohenite

    Still waiting for something intelligent from you Braggs.

  50. William Bragg

    Sorry, but I draw on my intelligence to make comments on a needs-only basis, Coh, and at present I am simply rebutting the views of Cats.

  51. Fisky

    The Left have managed to evolve. You guys are still stuck in the dark ages.

    Canada has just repealed your favourite anti-speech laws, after it was revealed that their Human Rights Commission staffers were actively spreading racist and homophobic propaganda.

    But that’s history now, because the Left have been comprehensively defeated intellectually and in parliament on the issue, never to recover.

    I would be embarrassed to be associated with such a doomed cause if I were you.

  52. johanna

    Brandis, while making some excellent points, is an academic lawyer. The Coalition needs Brandis to advise someone who has political savvy and a killer instinct to be the shadow A-G, and then the A-G.

    If Brandis is appointed to the job, he will spend months agonising over conflicting judgements and bits of jurisprudence. He is totally captured by the legal mindset.

    When I was a public servant, we had (briefly, thank goodness) a Minister who was a distinguished lawyer who had been mentioned for high judicial office. Every bit of paper that went into his office was examined like a legal brief, with delays in decisionmaking that lasted over a year.

    Tony Abbott needs to find a lawyer who is also a decision-maker to be Attorney-General. How hard can that be?

    P.S. Not Malcolm Turnbull. Thanks.

  53. jupes

    He is totally captured by the legal mindset.

    Good point Johanna. And yes, certainly not Malcolm Turnball.

  54. cohenite

    No, that’s unreasonable Braggs; we only have your word you have another gear.

    The same principle underpins Roxons proposed anti-discrimination law; that is, it is sufficient that someone says they are offended and the poor bastard doing the offending has to prove the dickhead saying they were offended wasn’t offended.

    So if you think I’m going to prove you’re intelligent guess again; I’m not Roxon, so some evidence thanks.

  55. Jc

    The Left have managed to evolve. You guys are still stuck in the dark ages.

    Yea right. They evolved alright, into specimens like this thing.

  56. Part of the problem is the lack of definition of what precisely is “freedom of speech”.

    Freedom of speech is, in my view, simply the freedom to express opinion. Moreover, I believe that freedom of speech, as a freedom to express one’s opinion, is an extension of one’s freedom of thought. As only a truly repressive regime can contemplate, let alone enact, restriction on the freedom of one’s thought, the capacity to express one’s thoughts as opinion or “speech” is truly a human right.

    The “social progressives” who conveniently describe themselves as simply “progressives” in order to project their agenda as human progression, think of such profound expressions of thought such as the Magna Carta as nothing more than a quaint notion of a bygone era. However, for modern humanity to be considered to have progressed from times barely out of the middle ages, we need to adopt such notions of freedom of speech as a foundation of humanity, not something to be cast aside in a fit of misguided fashion.

    In a different environment, such as, say, 1950’s USSR, how mainstream would Gillard and her cohorts be considered to be? More importantly, how much further would they go without the constraints of liberal and free Australian society?

    Of all political considerations, freedom of speech is the foundation of all possibilities, as the alternative is repression of any view not adopted by the powers that be.

  57. johanna

    Eloquently put, Beer Whisperer.

  58. brc

    Freedom of speech is, in my view, simply the freedom to express opinion.

    You need to beef that out.

    You need to be able to express your opinion in any way, and the government, in any, way, shape or form, cannot persecute you for it.

    Freedom really means freedom from being oppressed for your opinion.

  59. brc

    Oh, and I’m appalled and fascinated at the same time by the people who would put shilling for the corrupt ALP above any notion of the need to preserve freedom of speech.

  60. “Prof. Triggs : The right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.”

    Then he considers it a privilege. As any parent knows, privileges are there to be taken away upon unacceptable behaviour. To starve your child for bad behaviour is to render being fed a privilege. This implies that TPTB can morally and ethically take away your legal capacity for free speech. I call bullshit on that.

    If it ain’t absolute, it ain’t a right. It’s then a privilege, but of course that’s the way they want it – to be taken away whenever someone dissents from their dictated position on anything. They can go and get well and truly…

  61. “As usual, Cats continue under the delusion that freedom of speech is an absolute right. Never was; never will be.”

    So you consider it a privilege. To be taken away upon what “transgression”? Go on, show your true totalitarian colours.

  62. The right of freedom of expression is not absolute inasmuch as one is exposed to the risk of slander and/or libel suits if one says bad things about people that aren’t true. But these are civil matters, not criminal, and the onus is on the plaintiff to prove their case.

    The nebulous crime of “giving offence”, coupled with the onus of proof being upon the defendant, is something I never thought I should see in Australia. Labor is unforgivable after this, and so are the Greens. Never, ever, ever will I listen to a good word about them again. They’ve done their dash.

  63. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Well worth reading throughout. Oh how they wriggle when put on the end of a forensic pin that keeps putting them squirming into the public corkboard. Brandis did well there, particularly because he was using legal tactics to tackle a deliberate legally-gramed obfuscation.

    I do however take Johanna’s point that top legal types can be hopeless in day to day quick decision making, because they are caught up in the fine print and detail of everything that is written and placed before them.

  64. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    ooops. Legally-framed.

  65. James

    ABOLISH the commission, fire everybody who works for it, demolish the building it resides in, and ban everybody who worked for it from ever working for the public service again.

  66. Fisky

    In a different environment, such as, say, 1950?s USSR, how mainstream would Gillard and her cohorts be considered to be? More importantly, how much further would they go without the constraints of liberal and free Australian society?

    The Left have been itching to turn the clock back to pre-1989 for some time now. For about a decade and a half after the fall of Communism they felt chastened and were kept in their box to some large extent, mainly because people could still remember what they were like when in total control. Not anymore. Now they are out as fully-blossomed totalitarians, calling openly for the opposition media to be shut down, demanding the return of official Communism (only this time through the mechanism of equal carbon rations), and so on.

    I don’t believe the Left by and large can ever be a non-totalitarian movement. The dissenters, such as on Harry’s Place, are the minority.

  67. John Mc

    Well done to Brandis for bringing this out and having a go at something that most consider a basic Liberal principle.

    Now we need a discussion on what these valid limitations to freedom of speech really are. Because absolute freedom of speech would deliver better social outcomes than what we currently have. Debate is subtly stifled in this country, and even though people can feel and suspect that may be the case, it’s not at the fore of their conscious enough to demand it be set free.

  68. John Mc

    I don’t believe the Left by and large can ever be a non-totalitarian movement.

    Well, how can you force people to live ‘right’ if you’re not prepared to bring in a heavy hand to make them behave?

  69. .

    Now we need a discussion on what these valid limitations to freedom of speech really are.

    Limited and rare. Outside of these, the right is absolute.

    People like Trigg and Bragg never want to say that. They will use the handful of exceptions as a sleight of hand to end free speech.

    As always, it is still sacred.

  70. wreckage

    Just appointing a Freedom Commissioner – an aggressive and eloquent one – would make a huge difference. Brandis hinted at this, and Triggs welcomed it. It’s a great idea.

  71. John Mc

    It’s the number one. Without it there can be no freedom, no progress, no peace.

  72. tbh

    Yep, terrific idea. There should be someone out there noisily defending the liberal principles our society was built upon. I mean all of us here probably do it in our daily lives, but wouldn’t it be great just for a change for a senior bureaucrat to come out and defend freedoms and civil liberties.

  73. William Bragg

    Outside of these, the right is absolute.

    Good to see the odd Cat acknowledging that freedom of speech is not an absolute right. Alas, so many other Cats continue to maintain that is it. That’s not surprising, really, given the propensity of Cats to seek to defend the indefensible in so many areas, as their ideological fervour leads them to maximise, rather than optimise, the application of libertarian principles.

  74. Fisky

    Sorry William Bragg, I don’t think you have come up with a credible defense of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s involvement in promoting neo-nazi propaganda. You must defend it, as you have defended the laws that empower these unaccountable commissions, but you have yet to try openly.

  75. Abu Chowdah

    No, he’s not right. And we’re not forgetting anything.

    Neither Brandis (nor I) are talking about the time-honoured criminal sanctions against defamation and slander. Left-wing fascists are always wheeling out this facile distraction to justify attacks on freedom of speech – which freedom, notwithstanding the aforementioned sanctions – is absolute.

    I was discussing criminal law assault, a limit on speech. Also the criminal code provisions on expression that encourages violence to achieve political ends. Again, a limit on speech.

    I was not referring to the tort of defamation. I was not wheeling out a ‘facile distraction’. Just pointing out that the common law has limited speech for centuries.

    I am an advocate for freedom of expression, and fine with limited criminal regulation to prevent intimidation and proselytizing for violence. Okay?

    Now carry on.

  76. Abu Chowdah

    Senator BRANDIS: I do not think the barons at Runnymede had friends like Mr Eddie Obeid and Mr Ian Macdonald, unlike our foreign minister, who speaks with eloquence about the Magna Carta, at least.

    Superb.

    And his comment that there is no absolute right to be free of discrimination is also accurate.

  77. wreckage

    H’mm, but that limit (assault, incitation of violence) is not on opinions, only on formats of acceptable expression. You can think or say that Gillard is reprehensible or “that guy seems white”, but you can’t do so by interpretive public sex or calling for a stoning.

    So speech is not limited, as the left and Bragg here would have it, by what it is permissable to say, only what it is permissable to advocate or do. (And there is no provision for people feeling offended. We here at the Cat hang out in the Religon thread offending each other all day. Under offense laws the words “Jesus” and “Hitchens” would both have to be stricken from history.)

  78. John Mc

    Good to see the odd Cat acknowledging that freedom of speech is not an absolute right. Alas, so many other Cats continue to maintain that is it.

    That’s because so many of the Cats (actually all of them) approach freedom of speech from the perspective of a someone with honest intentions seeking truth, in which it effectively is an absolute right.

    There are only three morally justifiable limitations on free speech:

    – intentionally, knowingly spreading misinformation to hurt someone else i.e. yelling fire in a crowded theatre when you know there isn’t one (largely dealt with under other laws), defamation

    – intentionally misrepresenting something to someone else’s disadvantage to gain an advantage for yourself i.e. fraud (and largely dealt with under contract theory)

    – coordinating a criminal act. note: this isn’t ‘inciting violence’, it’s saying you get the explosives and i’ll get the material and we’ll make a suicide vest for that pre-school over there (again mostly dealt with under other laws)

    You’ll note that in all of these situations the truth is a defence. i.e. you can prove the person you accused could reasonably be considered to be deceitful, or there really was a fire in the crowded theatre, or you’re product was as you represented it, or you weren’t going to blow up the pre-school in the name of Allah.

    And if you think about it, when these things are applied objectively their application would be extremely minimal, making free speech approach something like an absolute. I imagine fraud would be the worse, and it would be dealt with with it’s own laws.

    The Left want to use these things to restrict other areas of speech and to eliminate truth as a defence, e.g. if you offend someone but what you said was actually factual, you should still be prosecuted.

    It’s only Teh Left that believe if free people act with good intentions it’s not enough for a ‘good’ society. They believe that to make society ‘right’ you need to control what they say and think to at least some degree. You can see the propaganda machine through every leftist movement in history.

  79. Toiling Mass

    I don’t think a Rights Commissioner would be an effective champion of rights for very long. They would eventually be captured by the constraints of government patronage. Besides, it ought to be intuitively suspect to abdicate resposibility for our freedoms to another party. Just hack back at the opponents in the goevernment (whatever stripe).

    Freedoms arise from the people, or at least from their culture. Government is where we make agreements and compromises. We accept limitations on some freedoms to foster an environment of greater freedom. I cannot just take something another person has produced. By thus protecting property rights we can have the confidence to produce larger amounts and everyone benefits. I can’t just hit someone on the head, and similarly I don’t have to walk around in a permanent posture of defence.

  80. .

    Good to see the odd Cat acknowledging that freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

    Yes it is. You are just playing childish word games.

    Now fuck off you slimy, fascist turd.

    Who would want to restrict speech? Someone with an agenda to rip off the populace or control them.

    You’re sick, demented fuck, Bragg.

    You think you know better than other people and ought to make decisions for them, and they shouldn’t be free to speak out.

    I am being genuine – you are a mental defective and the kind of person that would be attracted to working for Beria’s NKVD.

    You ought to be unmasked and your repulsive views made public.

  81. Harold

    I agree opinions should always be free but we do need to watertight the definition.

    I foresee an issue, demonstrated with “In my opinion, that Mosque should be burnt down”. If that came from a leader to his minions then it needs to be classified as incitement. Or think of some thug who cleverly directs his lackeys to create public mayhem.

    I struggle to find the terms but there must be a way of defining an opinion which acknowledges the difference between matters of opinion and matters which more pertain to the tangible world. And acknowledge the difference between direct impacts and indirect; you don’t silence speech because indirect impacts are identified.

    I do want people to be permitted to hate and openly voice their hate e.g. hate against races, religion, republicans, people in wheelchairs, whoever.

    (too many “I’s” sorry)

  82. Barry

    The Australian ‘Human Rights’ Commission: the government’s very own GetUp!. Home to law graduates with contrived Oxford accents.

  83. William Bragg

    Sorry William Bragg, I don’t think you have come up with a credible defense of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s involvement in promoting neo-nazi propaganda. You must defend it, as you have defended the laws that empower these unaccountable commissions, but you have yet to try openly.

    Actually Fisk, while it is typical of Cats to issue various challenges to me to rebut their (often illogical) extrapolations of the implications of points I make, it is in fact not incumbent on me to do so at all.

    The point I made on this thread is that free speech is not an absolute right. The words of various Cats in this thread indicate I am correct (even though, amusingly, at the same time they often continue to insist that I am wrong).

    Your question about what some Commission in Canada may be up to may well be an interesting one, but I have said nothing about it and my argument does not rest in any way on what a particular institution in some far off land to our north may be getting up to. Nor, anywhere, have I said that I support Roxon’s recent bill, and nor does the veracity of my argument depend on whether I agree with or disagree with Roxon’s recent bill. Yet, again, some Cats seem to think that a valid basis to rebutting my general point about free speech not being an absolute right is to show that there are some cases in which speech has been curtailed that are wrong. That is amateur hour logic, of course, but we seem to get several examples of such logic each hour here on the Cat.

  84. .

    The point I made on this thread is that free speech is not an absolute right.

    Yes it is. I will ignore any law restricting free speech whenever I please.

    The words of various Cats in this thread indicate I am correct (even though, amusingly, at the same time they often continue to insist that I am wrong).

    Because you take the exceptions to produce a dishonest conclusion that the Government can and ought to restrict free speech where your political proclivities lay.

  85. JC

    I asked for you to define/ explain eggsactly what you mean by your statement , Braggs.

    Then again don’t even bother as Dot assessment about you seems to me right. You fascist goon.

  86. JC

    There is nothing in established common law that would not suffice in protecting people in a crowded theatre or verbal assault.

    As I said, you’re a fascist goon Braggs and my hope is that finkelstein is passed so and the right teaches the leftwing one big giant fucking lesson for all time.

  87. dd

    Brandis is getting a hard time for his response to Triggs saying “The right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.”

    Brandis could have gotten into a head-to-head argument about whether free speech was an absolute right but this wouldn’t really have gone anywhere, and would have been a bit tangential. Instead, he brought it right back around to his main point. With his response, he quickly asserted that any failing or limitation of free speech as a ‘right’ could just as easily be applied to other rights.

    This wasn’t a bad response.

  88. .

    I agree DD.

    He couldn’t have defended free speech on its own so robustly and attacked the stupid idea of a right to be offended giving rise to a right to shut other people up.

  89. brc

    Bragg why do you ignore fundamental rights to shill for the ALP? That is the pertinent question.

    If it was howard or bush or Menzies drafting the laws, you’d be screaming about your right to freedom of speech. But instead youre trying to twist a fundamental human right to freedom of speech with no interference by a government into some sort of table of accepted behaviors as handed down by a central authority. Why?

    Of course, you could prove us all wrong by denouncing the alp/ greens attacks on press freedom and freedom of speech. Go ahead, we’ll be waiting.

  90. Fisky

    Your question about what some Commission in Canada may be up to may well be an interesting one, but I have said nothing about it and my argument does not rest in any way on what a particular institution in some far off land to our north may be getting up to.

    It is simply shocking that you have failed to condemn the Canadian Human Rights Commission for spreading nazi and anti-homosexual propaganda, despite being invited to do so.

    et, again, some Cats seem to think that a valid basis to rebutting my general point about free speech not being an absolute right is to show that there are some cases in which speech has been curtailed that are wrong.

    I don’t care about your rhetorical position on free speech. If you believe there are limits to free speech, you should just state what you think they are.

  91. Louis Hissink

    Freedom of speech actually means freedom of thought, for all action is preceded by a thought.

  92. William Bragg

    In yet another example of amateur hour logic, brc, you extrapolate without a logical basis from the points I have made and issue a challenge to me that, even if I bothered to meet it, would neither prove nor disprove the point I made. I typically ignore such air swings because, unlike JC and most of the Cat regulars on this thread, one suspects, my opportunity costs are positive.

  93. Tintarella di Luna

    Freedom of speech actually means freedom of thought, for all action is preceded by a thought.

    For everyone but Union-Labor-Greenfilth-Independent ‘government’. To them plotting is thinking so freedom of thought and speech mean nothing to them.

  94. .

    Bragg why do you ignore fundamental rights to shill for the ALP? That is the pertinent question.

    Answer it.

    I don’t care about your rhetorical position on free speech. If you believe there are limits to free speech, you should just state what you think they are.

    Exactly. He won’t say so because he just wants Dreyfuss to have a segue to restrict free speech.

  95. tbh

    So for the people who would disagree that freedom of speech is not absolute, please enumerate the ways in which it is not and why.

    Libel and slander don’t count in this case, because the truth is a valid defence. If you make a factual statement then you cannot have broken the law or at least ought not to.

  96. Harold

    tbh lies are speech too, so you’ve just provided an exception yourself.

  97. tbh

    But should those lies be prohibited by law? Pursuing defamation is a civil matter is it not, covered by paying damages and not punitive means?

  98. William Bragg

    Sorry Dotty and Fisk, but you do not dictate my agenda. The point I made is that free speech is not an absolute right, and I do not need to define the exact limits of free speech to sustain that point. Nor do I need to express my views on the doings of some Canadian Commission, whether invited to or not.

    The words of Cats themselves, in the thread above, demonstrate that free speech is not an absolute right. You can keep issuing me with irrelevant challenges if you wish, or trying to extrapolate from the points I have made, and the issues I have chosen to address and those I have chosen to ignore, but all your amateur hour logic amounts to is a series of air swings.

  99. Jc

    TBH, Dot

    Braggs is not going to answer any questions because deep down he’s

    a) a coward

    b) a moron and

    c) a fascist goon.

    This bullshit that free speech isn’t absolute is basically a ruse and becoming a leftist talking point to avoid the obvious fact that the Left is becoming more totalitarian.

    Fuck you Braggs.

  100. tbh

    So Billy what you are bloviating about is that you have no counter argument to the notion that free speech is absolute. You just know that it isn’t somehow. OK, got it. Ta.

  101. Jc

    Sorry Dotty and Fisk, but you do not dictate my agenda.

    Lol. Coward, moron and fascist goon wannabe.

    The point I made is that free speech is not an absolute right, and I do not need to define the exact limits of free speech to sustain that point.

    No one asked you to define the exact limits, you dishonest illiberal lunatic. We asked you to define exactly what you mean. Even bullet points would do.

    Nor do I need to express my views on the doings of some Canadian Commission, whether invited to or not.

    Shut up.

    The words of Cats themselves, in the thread above, demonstrate that free speech is not an absolute right.

    No, dickhead. “The Cats” say it is and have made the point numerous times on this thread. Liar.

    You can keep issuing me with irrelevant challenges if you wish, or trying to extrapolate from the points I have made, and the issues I have chosen to address and those I have chosen to ignore, but all your amateur hour logic amounts to is a series of air swings.

    There no issue here over logic here. We’re not asking you to prove 1+1 = 2. We’re simply asking you to define your terms. You’re piking out for the obvious reason that you’re a cowardly turd and always will be.

  102. Harold

    No tbh I don’t think lies per se should be a crime, definitely not. We’d all be criminals if they were!

  103. Jc

    Braggs again beaten to a pulp at the Cat…

    The Cat – the leftie killing field. There are bodies strewn everywhere and at some stage the moderator will have to task a brave soul to go pick the cadavers and dispose of them in a mass unmarked grave.

  104. Jc

    No tbh I don’t think lies per se should be a crime, definitely not. We’d all be criminals if they were!

    TBH is suggesting that in reference to libel and slander.

  105. tbh

    That’s right. The question is should lies be considered free speech and is the treatment under the defamation act(s) enough? I would argue yes in both cases.

  106. Harold

    In a sense you are permitted to defame people.

    And they are permitted to seek compensation for damages if you were dishonest.

  107. .

    Sorry Dotty and Fisk, but you do not dictate my agenda.

    …and low, mealy mouthed scum like you, Dreyfuss and Roxon, Finklestein and Adolf Hitler will never tell me what I can say, think or put to press.

    The words of Cats themselves, in the thread above, demonstrate that free speech is not an absolute right.

    It is in my case. But you have no backbone, Bragg, so you wouldn’t know.

    Your views are loopy and disturbing. You think you can make decisions better than everyone else, even regarding personal preferences. You think patients receiving blood donations are free riders (I give blood and I do not think that [do you even give blood you fascist prick?]) and then you will not define what the limits on free speech ought to be because you simply want a segue for scum like Roxon and Dreyfuss to declare what is “right” speech and what is not.

    You can’t even deny the last point, rather you just keep on misrepresenting the view of say pedro or DD – you just want an excuse for incompetent fuckwits like Ludwig to hush up the press whenever the ALP inevitably fucks up.

    Another policy failure! Another blanket media ban and state of emergency! You useless, worthless sell out.

    You are a social retard with views about as popular, sane and and as rational as the dutch pe-do party.

    I have two great uncles who were ALP MLAs and State Cabinet Ministers.

    The fascist cabal you belong to has nothing to do with respectable people like that. The bizzare, “elitist” and delusional wing of the ALP you belong to and support has no support in the public. Stupid fuckbrained idiots such as yourself wonder why entire families like mine no longer vote ALP when they are trying to outlaw free speech.

    No one in the Parliamentary ALP has ever had a real job.

    You are the disease, the public is not a symptom. We are the victims of your egos.

    You are megalomaniacal little prick with pretensions of being a big intellectual boy – and every time you have been found wanting, refusing to answer questions, being downright dishonest or coming up with crakpot, fuckwitted conclusions about your own imaginary, fantastical deity like abilities.

    You are cowering creature, like Sir Richard Rich.

    Why William, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Julia Eileen Gillard?

  108. tbh

    In a sense you are permitted to defame people.

    And they are permitted to seek compensation for damages if you were dishonest.

    Yep and I reckon that has the balance about right. One thing I would like to have explained to me is why politicians get an additional privilege in parliament to potentially defame people and members of the public appear to have no recourse.

  109. Rococo Liberal

    Those getting angry about the no absolute right comment are forgetting that there are criminal law restrictions on speech that is assault or that promotes political violence.

    So, he’s right.

    I can’t let this shite go unanswered.

    When are idiots going to effing realise that speech and deeds go together, and that it is the ddeds that are restricted by law not the speech?

    Say I take a tyre lever to an ALP hack whilst shouting out that her political philosophy is total rubbish. Would I be able to get off a charge of assault because of my right to free speech? Of course not. But would my right to free speech be limited by my prosecution? of course not.

    If I yell fire in a crowded cinema in order to cause a stampede, I am not merely speaking, I am also committing an act of deception that could lead to death or injury of others. SO there is no use saying that this is a legitimate example of the limit of free speech. Defamation is the same. It is not the speech that is the problem but the motive to harm another that causes the offence.

    This is all so obvious that it should not need stating. However, the anti-discrimination people have blurred the distinction, because if it were applied then the whole anti-discrimination greivance industry would be seen for what it is, an assault on our freedom to say and think what we like.

  110. Rococo Liberal

    BTW

    No-one is an expert in any area of law, unless he or she has a practising certificate. This triggs woman is a mere academic, so Brandis, an SC, calling her an expert in Human Rights law, was I hope being ironic.

  111. Fisky

    Sorry Dotty and Fisk, but you do not dictate my agenda. The point I made is that free speech is not an absolute right, and I do not need to define the exact limits of free speech to sustain that point.

    Mr Bragg, you cannot keep asserting “free speech is not absolute” ad nauseam without providing reasons and parameters. You have yet to actually make an argument on this thread of any relevance to the topic. Again, could you please explain what restrictions should be placed on free speech, otherwise you are wasting our time.

    Nor do I need to express my views on the doings of some Canadian Commission, whether invited to or not.

    You have not objected or said anything disapproving of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s employees being involved in neo-nazi movements, despite thrice being invited to do so. I must assume you’re fine with their activities.

  112. .

    R.L. and Fisky

    Very well said.

  113. William Bragg

    Ho hum, so many Cats feverishly beating away with their invisible hands again. I admit that they are not all air swings though; it’s just that thing thing that you’re beating isn’t me.

    Thus, we have JC responding to me with “No one asked you to define the exact limits”, while Dotty castigates me because “you will not define what the limits on free speech ought to be”. LOL – you guys need to get your story straight.

    We have tbh challenging me for counter-argument to the notion that free speech is absolute when, as reflected in the comments by Cats above (for instance, Dotty’s 12.31 clanger that ‘outside of these [woops!], the right is absolute’), various Cats have already acknowledged the point. Game over.

    And of course, unable to convincingly defend their simplistic Libertarian nostrums, and lacking the wit to do otherwise, we have the usual tirade of empty abuse and profanity, plus misrepresentation of my views and earlier statements, from Cats.

    Last but not least, of course, we have JC doing another Black Knight impersonation, claiming that the thing he has been beating to a pulp are lefties, when in fact the cause of his constant frothing on this site is much closer to home.

  114. Gab

    So what are the odds Bragg will make an actual argument any time soon?

  115. John Mc

    What Braggs wants is to to be able to say “free speech is not absolute” as leverage to impose further restrictions for social engineering purposes on free speech.

    No dice, you silly old poof. The rational caveats on free speech are so minimal they are irrelevant, especially when other laws already deal with things like defamation, fraud and public order.

    Secondly, there is a stronger cost-benefit argument for going to an absolute free speech model than your retarded social engineering model. So if in doubt, we should always be moving to more free speech, not less.

  116. C.L.

    5:53 pm

    RL more professionally nails the point I was making earlier – to wit, anyone who starts on about there being no absolute right to free speech is always a left-wing fascist looking to figleaf their desire and/or plans to criminalise the opinions of their political enemies.

    They must always be ruthlessly attacked, ridiculed and destroyed.

  117. John Mc

    If you’re in doubt about the cost-benefit argument for going to more free speech rather than trying to social engineer some sort of left-wing fantasy, consider laws regarding free speech restrictions on conspiracy to do criminal stuff. It’s like the freedom of association laws to deal with bikies. Just think of the how high the risk is those laws might be abused or have unintended consequences compared to other means to deal with exactly the same problem.

  118. .

    Yes, exactly John.

    Everyone has said that with different degrees of eloquence, Bragg trots out his usual psychotic, antisocial rhetoric to change such a position into a blank cheque for Gillard, Roxon and Dreyfuss to destroy freedom of speech.

    Bragg – a final word. Psychotics like you will never silence some people such as myself who believe in free speech, despite how loyal you are to an antisocial, anti worker and anti freedom ALP, or whatever sanctions you try to impose.

    Like Gen McAuliffe said to the General von Luttwitz – “NUTS”.

  119. wreckage

    Such “limits to free speech” as contained in lawes versus incitation to violence, conspiracy, fraud and defamation and generally approved by libertarians, are actually restrictions on action.

    It is legal to opine that an investment scheme is worth a billion trillion – unless you convince someone to act, and by doing so, harm them. And because it’s illegal to succeed it’s illegal to try.

    It is legal to say that corporal punishment should be available and applied – but not to convince someone to commit an act of violence. And since it’s illegal to succeed it’s illegal to try.

    Again for conspiracy; legal to have the opinion that so-and-so should be shot, illegal to actually set that plan in motion. And therefore also illegal to verbally undertake to do the deed; illegal to succeed, illegal to try.

    And if you can demonstrate you weren’t, or if you can demonstrate that you were truthful in some cases, then there’s no crime. Because you can SAY what you like, but when you begin working towards unjustifiable and material harm, it’s an act, not a word.

    So, in fact, freedom of speech is absolute. Freedom to cause criminal harm is restricted. PS: offence is not harm.

  120. .

    RL more professionally nails the point I was making earlier – to wit, anyone who starts on about there being no absolute right to free speech is always a left-wing fascist looking to figleaf their desire and/or plans to criminalise the opinions of their political enemies.

    They must always be ruthlessly attacked, ridiculed and destroyed.

    I have done that with vigour and passion. We mentally own this contemptible, utterly predictable fucktard.

  121. tbh

    So still no counter argument then, just waffle.

  122. William Bragg

    So what are the odds Bragg will make an actual argument any time soon? (Gab)

    So still no counter argument then (tbh)

    Why would I need to provide an argument when Cats themselves have affirmed my conclusion.

    We mentally own this contemptible, utterly predictable fucktard. (Dotty)

    LOL. More invisible hand movement from one of the usual suspects, but still nothing touching me.

    As I said, because of what you said, game over. Thanks for c#ming.

  123. tbh

    No, I want to hear what argument YOU make against the notion that free speech is not absolute. You can even enumerate the alleged points made by other Cats upthread and merely say you agree with them. All you’ve done so far is waffled and claimed victory.

    So come on Billy, let’s hear it. You know you want to.

  124. Fisky

    Mr Bragg, the longer you hold out on presenting your actual arguments, the more we will suspect that you are hiding your intentions deliberately, and the greater the justification for “misrepresenting” your position (it is hard, though, to misrepresent a non-entity).

    Now again, what do you think are the limits to free speech and how did you arrive at that position? Please provide specifics. Also explain why you are unable to condemn unethical behaviour by officials of the paramount human rights body in Canada.

  125. jumpnmcar

    People, Braggs is using a troll tactic to annoy and frustrate.
    A very effective one it appears.

  126. .

    It is in the interests of fascists to declare negative rights as invalid, and then never declare what positive rights we have.

    He’ll never fess up because he genuinely believes the extent of our rights should be what Bill Ludwig thinks they ought to be. The idea of the tragedy and foolishness of selling out any general principle about freedom to the current, unpopular leadership of the ALP (selling his arse, as they say nowadays in politics) is completely lost on this fascist disptick.

    The game is up. The low rent moron can only declare he’s won after a robotic spiel of rhetoric about how the free market is bad.

    Of course the same guy who will never explicitly declare either what the Government can’t do, or what we can do, also believes that he can make decisions not only about public affairs better than anyone else, but can make personal decisions for other people better than them.

    He is an example of purebred arrogance, pomposity and a stupid little boy praised throughout life as a genius.

    Like C.L. said. Ridicule repeatedly.

    This guy is a nutjob and should be spurned in the same way the general public would spurn the Dutch Party for Neighbourly Love, Freedom, and Diversity.

    Like I said earlier: as a public servant, his name and views ought to be exposed, his ideas ignored and he ought to be sacked with retroactive pay cuts.

  127. Alfonso

    A referendum on freedom of speech would be nice….

    The old status quo with it’s ancient, well bedded in exceptions of defamation, copyright, threat, fraud etc or the comrade ideologically managed free speech based an Alinsky wet dream?

    C’mon punks, put it to the people….it could be Julia’s last act before the deluge.

  128. brc

    Jump we know Bragg is trolling but this issue is important and other leftwing wannabe fascists read these threads as well, it’s important to point out the complete idiocy and hypocrisy in their positions, in case some other fools try on the same thing elsewhere.

  129. wreckage

    It might be sharpening your claws on a dense hardwood post, but it still sharpens your claws.

    Trolls don’t infuriate me. Particularly ones who, in trying the deliberate illogic of trollery on, actually articulate the other side o this argument pretty well.

  130. Fisky

    The old status quo with it’s ancient, well bedded in exceptions of defamation, copyright, threat, fraud etc or the comrade ideologically managed free speech based an Alinsky wet dream?

    I don’t know why you are dragging Saul Alinsky into this discussion. He was not a noted opponent of free speech.

  131. Rococo Liberal

    Freedom of speech is absolute. Freedom of deed is not.

    The secret is learning to distinguish between the two.

    Most people on the left are so moronic and/or onanistic that they have difficulty with such fine distinctions. Let’s face it nuance and mental agiluty is not really the thing on the left. Most of them are just one step up from bogans, that is why they hate westies so much whilst surviving on their votes.

    Old Braggy seems to be one of these, a poor, benighted wee thing with a pair of nerd glasses across the nose that you know will be like that of a pug dog. A vacuosity seems to ooze from is writing like the puss from a carbunkle on a aadvark’s arse.

    But I digress. We need to apread the word, my friends. There is no limit to freedom of speech. The examples always given by lefty fascists (sorry that’s a tautology that still needs to be written) of the limits of free speech are all bunk, as they do not actually talk of speech at all, but of deeds.

  132. Fisky

    Braggs is like Nixon with his secret plan to end the war. Braggs, get over here and tell us what the limits on free speech are. We’re getting sick of waiting.

  133. William Bragg

    Sorry to have to break the news, Black Knight, but being called a coward by the you is about as scary or wounding as getting under your skin, or lopping another limb off your simplistic Libertarian arguments and nostrums, is challenging.

    I suggest that you give your invisible hand a rest for a while and stop beating yourself up, and down. Instead JC, perhaps put the tissues away and try to find some mental peace, to the extent your psychoses will allow.

  134. William Bragg

    And likewise Fisky, until you demonstrate how me specifying what the limits of free speech are is necessary to prove my point that free speech is not an absolute right – especially when Cats like Dotty have already acknowledged that point – then you are going to have to keep waiting.

    You do not set my agenda. Good night.

  135. Fisky

    And likewise Fisky, until you demonstrate how me specifying what the limits of free speech are is necessary to prove my point that free speech is not an absolute right…

    Bragg, I don’t need to demonstrate anything. If you are clamining that there are limits to free speech, the onus is on you to describe them, otherwise we shall assume there are no limits. One would have thought that this was obvious, but then, as an avowed facilitator and excuser of Nazis, your obtuseness should not come as a surprise.

  136. Abu Chowdah

    I can’t let this shite go unanswered.
    When are idiots going to effing realise that speech and deeds go together, and that it is the ddeds that are restricted by law not the speech?
    Say I take a tyre lever to an ALP hack whilst shouting out that her political philosophy is total rubbish. Would I be able to get off a charge of assault because of my right to free speech? Of course not. But would my right to free speech be limited by my prosecution? of course not.
    If I yell fire in a crowded cinema in order to cause a stampede, I am not merely speaking, I am also committing an act of deception that could lead to death or injury of others. SO there is no use saying that this is a legitimate example of the limit of free speech. Defamation is the same. It is not the speech that is the problem but the motive to harm another that causes the offence.
    This is all so obvious that it should not need stating. However, the anti-discrimination people have blurred the distinction, because if it were applied then the whole anti-discrimination greivance industry would be seen for what it is, an assault on our freedom to say and think what we like.

    You can engage in expression which encourages violence, with no intention of engaging in violence yourself, and you can find yourself in prison.

    So, to reiterate the point I was making, which was merely an observation on reality, there are criminal law restrictions on expression which mean that at present there is no absolute right to free speech.

    Now, don’t lump me in with the fuckwit lefties who want to control thought. Long time posters will no I am no Leftie totalitarian arsehole.

  137. .

    And likewise Fisky, until you demonstrate how me specifying what the limits of free speech are is necessary to prove my point that free speech is not an absolute right – especially when Cats like Dotty have already acknowledged that point – then you are going to have to keep waiting.

    You do not set my agenda. Good night.

    No fuckface, do not misquote me, you are engaging in a cheap rhetorical trick. I did not acknowledge such a thing. Rococo Liberal summed up my position much more eloquently than I could have on my own.

    Otherwise – do you support these Roxonian laws or tell us what restrictions on free speech you support, you slithering, fascist coward.

  138. tbh

    So still no counter argument then Billy. Not that I ever did, but it makes it hard to a person’s opinion seriously when they won’t even argue their case.

  139. Alfonso

    Maybe time to re read Alinsky F, part of his mo is manufacturing consent by normalising leftoid correctnesses. That involves shaping ‘acceptable’ speech in the media…..you see where that’s going.

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  141. Maxwell's demon

    Rococo Liberal:

    “Freedom of speech is absolute. Freedom of deed is not. The secret is learning to distinguish between the two.”

    Could I put that another way. Freedom of thought is absolute and necessarily includes the freedom to express and exchange thoughts in public.

    Some speech involves deeds other than expressing thoughts – committing fraud, revealing privileged information, harming a person’s reputation, stealing someone’s intellectual property, conspiring to commit a crime, etc, etc.

    These deeds can be restricted while still leaving the expression of thought and opinion completely untrammelled, because freedom of thought and freedom of expression of thought is absolute.

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