David Leyonhjelm guest post on free speech

Free speech is under threat in Australia, although few realise just how seriously. Politicians of the left point to our national security legislation and its unnecessary restrictions on speech, while politicians of the right point to over-reach in anti discrimination legislation. Both are correct, yet neither recognises the big picture.

I am trying to do something about it, with four weighty bills to remove unwarranted restrictions on free speech from Commonwealth law. Three of these were introduced in the final sitting week in June.

My first bill repeals section 18C of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act — which bans acts that offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate where the acts are done, at least in part, because of national or ethnic origin, race or colour. The general ban on intimidation in State and Territory law would remain.

Those who support retaining S18C correctly point out that there is a defence for acts done reasonably and in good faith. However, the courts have interpreted this defence as only providing protection if the values of the Racial Discrimination Act are honoured conscientiously, with sufficient care and diligence taken to minimise offence and guard against the reinforcement of racial prejudice. Such a straitjacket on language might be fine when writing in an academic journal, but it is not much use when writing a social media post or newspaper column, as Andrew Bolt discovered. It should be legal for anyone to argue against affirmative action policies, even if their argument is flawed or insensitive.

My second bill removes various other bans on speech that people find insulting or offensive. Thus it would repeal bans on insulting various parts of executive government, such as tribunals dealing with bankruptcy, copyright, defence personnel, veterans, competition law, environmental regulation or workplace regulation. The bans on disrupting the effective operation of these tribunals would remain.

This bill also removes a ban on offensive conduct online, while maintaining the ban on menacing and harassing online content.

Both of these bills should be supported for the same reasons: they legalise insults. Taking offence at insults is a personal matter and should not be a matter for the law. Those who advocate making it legal to insult on the grounds of race, but not to insult in other contexts, are probably racist.

My third bill will be loved by the lefties but hated by the right. It removes restrictions on journalists and everyday Australians from reporting on and discussing the operations of security agencies, provided that such reporting or discussions does not endanger anyone’s health or safety.

If security agencies want to keep secrets, it is their responsibility to do so and not the responsibility of journalists or the public. Our security agencies serve us, not the other way around. Thus if there are matters that these agencies intend to remain secret but are nonetheless aired, this represents a failure within the agencies, not criminal activity by journalists or the public.

This bill also removes a bizarre criminal offence confronting anyone who is detained under a preventative detention order and is allowed contact with a family member or associate. This person faces five years’ imprisonment if they tell the family member or associate that they are being detained. This is particularly oppressive given that people detained under preventative detention orders are not charged and may not be suspected of any crime.

My fourth bill will remove the government’s power to ban publications, films and computer games based solely on the grounds they might offend against standards of morality, decency and propriety. This ban is an excessive restriction on what adults can choose to read, watch, play and listen to. Bans on material that depicts child sex or promotes, incites or instructs in crime would continue to be banned, while dealing in child pornography would remain a serious criminal offence.

This bill would also remove a ban on pornography in select parts of the Northern Territory that is legal in the rest of Australia. This ban is, quite simply, straight out racism.

Free speech is fundamental to our democratic society and a key part of what makes life enjoyable. Importantly, it doesn’t mean you are under any obligation to politely listen to what others have to say.

If those on the left and right could find a rare point of agreement on the importance of free speech, we’d all be better off.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats

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39 Responses to David Leyonhjelm guest post on free speech

  1. A Lurker

    It will be both instructive and illuminating to see who in our Government and Opposition support Senator Leyonhjelm’s Bills.

    I’d suggest that those who support the Bills should be likewise supported at election time, and those who fail to support them, are ignored or delegated to the bottom of the ballot sheet.

  2. Craig

    Won’t happen David, the left hate you and your ideas and principles. Strip away such laws would weaken their grip on power and there is no chance in hell they will let that happen.

  3. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Good luck with all those Bills. Perhaps we need a third house, one that scraps laws! Or all bills should have a three-term limit, and need to be renewed every nine years, or less, if the bill’s supporters like that bill. That way, politicians would have their hands full re-enacting legislation, and not have time to make new laws!

  4. Cassie of Sydney

    Question to Senator Leyonhjelm…..will the Labor lite party aka Turnbull Liberal party support you?

  5. Egor

    Nice sentiments indeed, but you’re fatally flawed Dave.
    Your open borders dogma means you can’t be trusted as far as I can drop kick you soaking wet.

  6. Boambee John

    Nicholas

    Or all bills should have a three-term limit, and need to be renewed every nine years, or less, if the bill’s supporters like that bill.

    Don’t know if it still applies, but not too many years ago the British Army Act had to be debated and re-passed every year.

    A hangover from Oliver Cromwell’s time as Lord Protector.

  7. Delta A

    Yes, good luck. All sensible bills… which, I’m afraid, means they probably will be thrown out.

  8. stackja

    Need a majority in parliament. Unlikely ever.

  9. Anon Mahnà

    Perhaps we need a third house, one that scraps laws!

    We already have a third (and primary) part of Parliament whose duty is to check that every new law is just, needed and enforceable: the Governor-General who represents the Queen. See the Constitution:

    1. The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called The Parliament[.]
    51. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have powers to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth[.]
    58. When a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament is presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent, he shall declare, according to his discretion, but subject to this Constitution, that he assents in the Queen’s name, or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the law for the Queen’s pleasure.
    The Governor-General may return to the house in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendments which he may recommend, and the Houses may deal with the recommendation.
    61. The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.

    Unfortunately, Australia has had for over a century too many Governors-General (and, for far more than a century, Governors of States) who have failed to fulfil that basic duty of ensuring good government.

  10. 2dogs

    We should extend section 80 of the constitution to guarantee trial by jury on all laws where speech is restrained. At the moment, only section 18C violates this principle.

  11. Dr Fred Lenin

    All laws inspired by the u.n.communist fascist should be repealed as soon as we resign from the u.n. and all t-related fascist groups and withdraw funding from them ,we should also check if we can get the money giliard gave to the clinton gang without the peoples consent,charges of fraud should be laid against all concerned.

  12. .

    Great stuff Senator Leyonhjelm.

    Will we see this in the Australian, SMH or AFR?

  13. .

    2dogs
    #2768673, posted on July 20, 2018 at 5:23 pm
    We should extend section 80 of the constitution to guarantee trial by jury on all laws where speech is restrained. At the moment, only section 18C violates this principle.

    Section 80 is actually a dog of a law, despite looking great on paper

    You cannot choose a judge alone trial if you want one then there is the odious habit of making up very expensive “civil penalties” in Federal “semi-criminal” law. Furthermore, and more obviously, it only applies to Federal criminal law.

  14. stackja

    So we need to change the constitution. Easy! Just get parliament to agree.

  15. Roger

    This ban is, quite simply, straight out racism.

    Paternalistic, perhaps, but racist?

  16. Leo G

    This bill would also remove a ban on pornography in select parts of the Northern Territory that is legal in the rest of Australia. This ban is, quite simply, straight out racism.

    The ban on pornography is not “straight out racism”. It may be an indiect form of racial discrimination. Racial discrimination does not necessarily imply racism.

  17. C.L.

    My third bill will be loved by the lefties but hated by the right. It removes restrictions on journalists and everyday Australians from reporting on and discussing the operations of security agencies, provided that such reporting or discussions does not endanger anyone’s health or safety.

    Twenty or thirty years ago – or even ten – you would have been spot-on about opposition to this from the right, David. Not any more. As a rightist, I say more power to you. The ongoing coup attempt against Donald Trump, revelations about domestic spying in the US, hysteria here promoted by the government of national unity (LNP /Labor) and ASIO about ‘foreign interference’ supposedly jeopardising our democracy and way of life (LOL), charges brought against a legitimate whistle-blower (and his lawyer) – the latter presided over by the one-time advocate of Peter Wright … all of these prove that so-called security agencies need to be held severely to account by the media.

  18. Frank

    Racial discrimination does not necessarily imply racism.

    In reality yes this is true, in practice and in the current social landscape, no.

  19. cohenite

    These proposals by the Senator are both sensible and in the normal course of events be superfluous in a mature democracy. But as Trump is finding out there is no such thing as a mature democracy.

    Senator Leyonhjelm will be in my voting mix. If he got rid of open borders and took an equally reasonable approach to islam he would be number 1.

  20. Spring is coming

    Have we learnt nothing from the Left? It’s not ‘Freedom of Speech’ we are fighting for its ‘Communication Equality’.

  21. Iampeter

    If those on the left and right could find a rare point of agreement on the importance of free speech, we’d all be better off.

    Anyone who doesn’t agree on the importance of free speech is not on “the right”.

  22. BorisG

    Thus if there are matters that these agencies intend to remain secret but are nonetheless aired, this represents a failure within the agencies, not criminal activity by journalists or the public.

    Even if publciaition of this information is likely to cause deaths?

  23. BorisG

    Your open borders dogma means you can’t be trusted as far as I can drop kick you soaking wet.

    Why lie? Show us where DL advocates open borders ?

  24. Clam Chowdah

    Google is a search application available on “the internet” and quite useful on these occasions.

    I have a question, what is the reason for the special porn ban?

  25. Mater

    It’s good to ‘see’ you again, Clam Chowdah.

  26. Would this remove pointless restrictions on photography at Ayers Rock??

  27. testpattern

    It’s Spy Quoll!

    ‘if there are matters that these agencies intend to remain secret but are nonetheless aired, this represents a failure within the agencies, not criminal activity by journalists or the public.’

    You idiot DL. When intelligence officers/contractors leave the agency they become members of the public. If they then conspire with a journalist to expose State secrets both should be prosecuted.

  28. Jannie

    Good work David. I voted for Wesley du Preez today, early vote since I am going overseas next week.

    Your immigration policy is not “Open Borders” as is so often stated by your enemies. You should make that clear to all. The problem is those countries who share our values etc are getting filled up with immigrants who don’t.

    I had a BBQ with a bunch of hippy cowboys in central Queensland last week, and they were mostly all enthused about this dude who told SHY to get #$%^ed. They had never heard of you before and they like you already. But the slightest suggestion of open borders would turn them off badly.

  29. Clam Chowdah

    Again, why the special porn law? What is the reason for it?

  30. testpattern

    ‘why the special porn law? What is the reason for it?’

    Because porn in some indigenous communities has been a causative factor in higher rates of pregnancies and std’s among an underage cohort. Prohibition of alcohol and porn applied to both indigenous and non indigenous liviing in those communities is essential.

  31. jupes

    It removes restrictions on journalists and everyday Australians from reporting on and discussing the operations of security agencies, provided that such reporting or discussions does not endanger anyone’s health or safety.

    Fair enough. As CL points out above, the security agencies have proved that they can’t be trusted.

    Nevertheless I would make it clear that reporting military secrets should still be banned. In the case of war time, the penalty for releasing them should be death.

  32. jupes

    Your immigration policy is not “Open Borders” as is so often stated by your enemies.

    No. As I have pointed out numerous times on this blog, it is indeed ‘Open Borders’.

    It would dismantle OSB and release all boat arrivals into the community at the earliest opportunity. The boats would start immediately if Australia was ever insane enough to elect the LDP.

    The LDP also don’t recognise Islam as a threat. Insane.

  33. testpattern

    ‘The boats would start immediately’

    Idiot. The boats have never stopped. Nor will they so long as OSB returns people smugglers rather than bring them to Australia for trial and punishment. Two months ago an old tanker was intercepted in Malaysia with 160 asylum seekers. Last month a boat from Makassar was turned back with the smugglers. When lines opened to Europe asylum seekers who otherwise would’ve headed south went to Turkey instead. If/when those lines to the EU are closed, they’ll look south again.

  34. Clam Chowdah

    Because porn in some indigenous communities has been a causative factor in higher rates of pregnancies and std’s among an underage cohort. Prohibition of alcohol and porn applied to both indigenous and non indigenous liviing in those communities is essential.

    Oh so the situation is far more nuanced than presented in David’s piece? The childhood innocence of indigenous children should instead be sacrificed on the altar of principle?

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I like that DL sticks it to SHY but am once again disappointed by his sociopathically literal approach to libertarianism. Until he achieves a nuanced appreciation of his community’s values he will never achieve orbit.

  35. Clam Chowdah

    DL has a tin ear when it comes to immigration and ethics.

    His literalist approach to libertarianism has the ring of Marxist cultural materialism. People and their condition are irrelevant to the grand experiment of the ideology. Fuck that, you psycho. Aboriginal kids living in hell deserve better.

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