Riots highlight how and why the rule of law is a better guide to freedom and liberties than is the notion of democracy, Prof Richard Mulgan writes. For that reason, Australian society should be underpinned by a human rights act which guarantees all key aspects of what we think of as the rule of law.
Just as the nation’s journalists revealed legitimate questions requiring answers of substance by government and power elites, down descends the black curtain of warrants authorising raids by AFP officers who should have no role in deciding where truth lies in the Australian democracy. Rebecca Ananian-Welsh explains how we’ve become the world’s most secretive nation.
Former High Court chief judge Robert French has delivered a less-than-innovative report on the issue of free speech on uni campuses. He proposes tinkering with new federal laws. But, says Law student Sam Coten, the universities themselves should take individual leads and live up to the promise on which the entire sector was founded nearly 1000 years ago.
Easter is a time of reflection, and of religious services for many. But CLA member Keith McEwan, a lifelong atheist who died this month aged 93, explained in an Easter missive to friends some years ago that you can “love thy neighbour” far away from prayers and churches.
The federal government is likely to keep inquiring into religious freedoms in the new parliament from May 2019, because it can’t make up its mind how to reconcile giving priority to Christian religious beliefs in a secular society mandated by the Australian Constitution. The latest of many inquiries has just reported, and it at least had the good grace to quote the sensible observations of CLA.
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.
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.