A case in the High Court crucial to freedom of speech in Australia will be heard in the next fortnight. Michaela Banerji was sacked for tweeting anonymous criticism of the Immigration Department when she worked there. Was the sacking fair, or does she have a constitutional right to anonymous comment? Two million Australians – and a general right to free speech – await the answer, Kieran Pender writes.
Darwinites gathered recently in a commemorative rally to recall the events of a century ago, when the tropical township was starting to earn its reputation as one of the revolutionary hotspots of Australia. CLA’s NY-semi-centurion, Rob Wesley-Smith, was moved to motivate the crown to further action, even as he recalled some of the key rallies, strikes, marches and dog-burning escapades of earlier years.
Hate speech is in the ear of the listener, explained CLA Vice-President Tim Vines in delivering the Margaret Barry memorial lecture to the Inner Sydney Voice group. A key question is who society allows to determine what is and is not hate speech, because who is and is not allowed into Australia to give public lectures has demonstrated how inequitable decisions can be. Underlying the issue is the inherent right of all Australians to free speech, which is under active attack in terms of how public servants use their free time, around reading books on euthanasia, and whether there is a right to call out inappropriate behaviour by government agencies to the benefit of commercial firms.
There’s a growing and worrying national trend to curtail people’s free speech. Firms, public service bodies and the like are restricting the freedom to speak out about what concerns you. Organisations are imposing restrictions in the name of their ‘social media policy’ or to ‘protect their brand image’, CLA Director Rajan Venkataraman warns.
Parts of civil society are actively rebelling against a ‘sham’ public consultation process by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that looks set to lead to a new Australia Card proposal or something very similar. Mr Dutton’s only public consultation meeting before pitching a new public ID and privacy system to COAG will be a 150-minute discussion on 22 October in Melbourne. The agenda is pre-determined for attendees to be spoken at, rather than being listened…and Dutton’s anti-privacy stance is well known from his very first speech to parliament.
Rob Wesley-Smith (RWS) knows the Timor Leste (East Timor) government as well as any Australian. He is personal friends with current and former Presidents and Prime Ministers of that country. He was recently awarded that nation’s highest honour, the Order of Timor Leste. He says the Australian government’s spying behaviour was unconscionable, and the current charges against lawyer Bernard Collaery and Witness K are appalling.
Australians with consciences who care about our democracy are beginning to speak out against this travesty of justice. “The Wilkie statement is now two days old: not a word from the government, the ALP, the ABC, today’s Fin Review. Is everybody running scared?” asks a former Labor MP. A major protest is being planned for the first mention of the charges in the ACT Magistrates Court on 25 July 2018. If you care about the rule of law in Australia, and stopping the process under way of Australia becoming a police state, please follow this story, and take action.
How constrained are public servants in expressing their private opinions in the lead-up to coming elections? Perhaps not as free from restraint as you might think, says John Wilson. 15 April 2016
Control of science and research in Australia now vests in the Department of Defence, which has a veto over communication and collaboration by Australian scientists with their overseas counterparts. 4 April 2016