Last year a group called Liberty Victoria made headlines when it decided an appropriate recipient of its annual Voltaire Award for free speech was former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs. This was the same person who oversaw the gross mistreatment of the QUT 18C students accused of being racist and lamented she could not control what people said around the kitchen table.
Well Liberty Victoria is back with its 2018 Voltaire Awards. Taking out the top prize is comedian Magda Szubanksi for her activism in favour of same sex marriage. Many consider the movement for same sex marriage to be anti-free speech given that we needed emergency vilification laws passed for the postal survey and Szubanski herself stating she could have refereed people who trolled her to the police.
But the award that has received the most attention is the Young Voltaire Award which has gone to Yassmin Abdel-Magied. You get the impression now that Liberty Victoria must be some sort of troll organization designed to actually mock the values of free speech and other freedoms. Another previous winner was Project host Waleed Aly. Who will win an award next year? Tarneen Onus-Williams?
The free speech dinner where the awards are presented are certainly not free. Liberty Victoria’s Annual Voltarie Dinner is $175 a ticket.
But looking at Yassmin objectively she has certainly done her upmost to exercise her free speech, and she has offended and insulted as many people as possible with her tweets about the ANZACs and white Australians. However she has only humiliated herself with her speech such as saying Islam is a feminist religion, she was so unprepared for other Australians exercising their own free speech in response that she fled the country.
Liberty Victoria states that “those honoured have often gone beyond the call of duty or office by refusing to be cowed or silenced”. Yassmin was criticized for her inaccurate and often ludicrous statements but because they were on “race, equality and unconscious bias” she fit the criteria that the left would look for in a defender of free speech. If you are on the left and a minority you can pretty much say anything and the leftist protection racket will still rally around you. Isn’t a defender of free speech meant to be an unpopular person?
We doubt that Yassmin or Liberty Victoria would extend the same defence of free speech to someone on the right such as Andrew Bolt or the Bendigo Three. Nobody suggested that Yassmin should be locked up or taken to court for what she has said, nor has she fallen afoul of any of Australia’s laws (though a Human Rights Commission complaint was made against her), but if Yassmin is allowed such outrageous speech then surely it is good enough for other Australians?
Yassmin did lose her jobs at the ABC and DFAT and was criticized by other politicians, which the left argue was an attempt to silence her, but of course when you take a taxpayers’ salary a certain standard of behaviour is expected by the people who pay your wages. We would have no issue if she decided to go back to being an engineer. Nobody forced her to leave the country either, it was her choice, nobody ran her out of Australia, she certainly still comments on all issues Australian and is certainly not short of speaking engagements and media appearances.
Some more worthy recipients of the Young Voltaire Award have been suggested, such as Calum Thaiwaites, one of the QUT 18C students who is now a free speech advocate.
A proper free speech award would go to someone who has actually been persecuted by the Australian Government for their views and beliefs and supports the rights of others to have the same speech. Yassmin while certainly taking advantage of her right to free speech is certainly no defender of it.