Limiting free speech is now a bipartisan effort in Australian politics. We knew that the modern left had contempt for the principle of free speech but the Coalition at least still put up a defence of free speech, although failed to ever legislate its protection.
But in this federal election a vote for the major parties is a vote against free speech. Ever since the Christchurch massacre Scott Morrison has been on a mission to remove from Facebook and other social media outlets so called “hate content”. It is suspected that his meeting with Facebook executives is what led to several popular right wing Facebook pages being deleted.
Then on Sunday Scott Morrison promised tougher jail sentences of up to five years for social media “trolls” citing the trolling of journalist Erin Molan and AFLW player Tayla Harris as justification for why such laws were needed.
While posting comments that say ‘ I hope you kill yourself’ are quite contemptible, we should always be wary of laws aimed to combat “bullying”, they usually end in the curtailing of free speech. We have seen this in the UK with thousands arrested each year for offensive social media posts, many ending in jail sentences.
Scott Morrison has also decided to stop defending the free speech of Rugby Player Israel Folau for his sinners Instagram post claiming that free speech needed to be respectful and we had to balance freedom of religion with freedom of sexuality
However the Coalition is still not as bad as Labor when it comes to limiting free speech. It was the Labor Government who introduced 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and established the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Labor are entering the 2019 federal election promising to beef up the power of the Human Rights Commission to police “hate speech”, to expand 18C to include sexual orientation and gender identity and establishing a LGBTI Human Rights Commissioner.
The worst of all is of course The Greens as Andrew Bolt revealed this week that their leader Richard Di Natale had told a crowd of supporters back in March he wanted to make criminal offence for “people like Andrew Bolt, and Alan Jones, and Chris Kenny” to divide Australians with their “hate speech”.
When Labor and the Greens were last in government they held an inquiry into “news media” that proposed a “News Media Council” which would regulate all media published in Australia including online blogs.
We saw all the major parties in New South Wales work together last year to pass new hate speech laws that made it illegal “publicly threaten or incite violence” on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex or HIV/AIDS status with penalties of up to three years imprisonment or an $11,000 fine.
It seems it is only the minor parties this election who are willing to defend free speech in its entirety. Hate speech is an entirely subjective term and usually refers to speech someone doesn’t like, and therefore should not be permitted. If your opinions fall outside those shared by the major parties, beware.