Victoria Decapitates Free Speech

Three members of the United Patriot’s Front (UPF) have been charged after posting a video on Facebook depicting an alleged mock beheading in front of the Bendigo council offices. The video was filmed over a year ago and was made to protest a new mosque development in Bendigo. They face charges brought against them by the Victorian Police, including behaving in an offensive manner in public, and serious religious vilification under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001. The Act makes it illegal to act in a way that incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group of people because of their race and/or religion.They are due to appear in court in March and face maximum penalties of six months jail or a $6000 dollar fine.

The video shows three men beheading an effigy made of pillows that spouts fake blood, the Read the rest

18c and the cult of victimhood

In a shock turn of events, the hunter has become the hunted in the QUT 18C case. Cindy Prior having lost her case against three QUT students accused violating 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has now been ordered to pay $200,000+ in legal costs. Cindy Prior who had been employed by QUT in its indigenous computer lab had accused several students of violating 18c when after being kicked out of the computer lab for not being indigenous they complained on a Facebook group saying, “QUT is fighting segregation with segregation”, “Where’s the white supremacist lab?” and “ITT niggers”. Since the incident, the complaint has gone to the Australian Human Rights Commission, several students settled the case paying $5000 each and Cindy Prior has been on stress leave from her job ever since. This case that continues three years after the initial complaint should demonstrate why the courts are not … Read the rest

LibertyWorks Submission to Joint Enquiry on Free Speech

9 December 2016

Committee Secretary
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
PO Box 6100,
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Committee Members

Submission to enquiry on Freedom of Speech in Australia

LibertyWorks is a registered not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Queensland. We advocate for a reduction in government control over citizens liberty and have since our inception held grave concerns over the limitations that the Racial Discrimination Act and the procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission (“AHRC”) places on free speech in Australia.

We refer to the Terms of Reference of the enquiry and call for the full repeal of Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act (‘the Act”). Our rationale is as follows:

The Act reduces liberty

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right owned by all citizens and that the ability to exercise that right is crucial to intellectual discovery, learning, enlightenment, science, law, free Read the rest

The argument against anti-defamation laws

Most people accept anti-defamation laws as a legitimate restriction on free speech. For a starters, the laws have always existed so it just seems normal to keep them. If we remove them then society would be plunged into chaos as everybody accused everybody of being a paedophile, a thief, or a murderous nutcase… and if those rumours are believed then they could cause lots of damage to the victims, such as loss of work and/or loss of friends. And that’s just not fair.

Perhaps. But before we give up on fully free speech we should fully understand the arguments.

Defamation involves (1) somebody lying about you, leading to (2) other people holding a bad opinion about you, leading to (3) a bad outcome for you because of lack of trade. None of these things are nice. But they are all voluntary and, all else being equal, none of them should … Read the rest

We Need To Take “Privilege” Out Of Our Public Policy Discourse

Writer Benjamin Law used the final Q&A for the year to claim discussion around 18C was just our privileged class claiming to be censored.

Among the chattering class, there is a prevailing belief that they are on the side of the disadvantaged and against entrenched privilege. A cursory glance of the major events of 2016 would tell you that that is no longer true. Nor can it be said that defence against 18C is a defence against the privileged.

The argument that 18C is needed to give power to the powerless has been blown out of the water with the QUT case. It saw a court case seven QUT students for comments they made on a Facebook forum about being kicked out of an indigenous only computer lab.

Four of the students settled out of court, but the three students — Alex Wood, Callum Thwaites and Jackson Powell — were Read the rest

QUT case dismissed: 18C not off the hook

The dismissal of Cindy Prior’s case against three QUT students on Thursday drew sighs of relief from freedom lovers across Australia. Justice Jarrett ruled that the Facebook comments made by the students did not represent a breach of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Many though are taking this opportunity to say ‘look, the case has been dismissed, therefore 18C is reasonable and nothing to worry about’. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The dismissal of the case only highlights the problems inherent in 18C.

Even though ultimately the students have been exonerated of any wrongdoing in the eyes of the law, it took three years to get to this stage. In a long drawn out case like this one, the punishment is in the process, and these students and their families have had three long years of stress and worry over their financial futures, not Read the rest

Free Speech and Corporate Social Media Policies: Where to draw the line?

When the internet first began in early 90s one of its defining characteristics was anonymity. People created Hotmail, Yahoo and Aol accounts with usernames like sexysmuff1977 or surferdude12. The old internet was very private and had little connection with one’s private, professional or civil life. That era is over, since the rise of Facebook and smartphones the three spheres of a person’s life have merged. Never before has one’s employer had such a direct view into one’s private life. Over the same period of time, organisations have never been so conscious of their ‘corporate responsibility’. The same organisations that will shamelessly outsource jobs and make long term workers redundant are desperate to seem inclusive and diverse. Many of these organisations require their workers to sign social media policies that significantly restrict what their workers can say on social media. How do these policies affect free speech? And what are the Read the rest

Who is a reasonable person anyway?

What limited protection we have in Australia for free speech, is based on the concept of the ‘reasonable person’. In other words, when it comes down to the crunch, the courts rely on this fictitious ‘reasonable person’ to determine whether words have hurt somebody’s feelings enough to warrant some form of punishment. But who is this ‘reasonable person’ anyway?

A ‘reasonable person’ is a legal fiction created in order to help set an objective standard of behaviour against which we can all be equally judged. It stands to reason then that this ‘reasonable person’ is not an average person, but an ideal and a vague one at that. They are somebody who is risk averse, and who has the ability to assess the most prudent course of action in any set of circumstances. They must also have a moral viewpoint, a set of beliefs that would deem certain types of Read the rest