Is this truly what passes for “a helpful guide” to free speech. It is rare to see such un-syllogistic prose.
The piece starts, as it continues, with the citation of data that has no bearing on the conclusion that the writer infers and the use of words without meaning. What does the writer mean when she calls for a “sensible debate?” The piece repeatedly just “begs the question.” By which I mean, fails to answer or clarify by (puerilely) re-stating what she thinks is “sensible.”
It is not “sensible”, indeed it makes no sense, to compare a restriction on releasing confidential information learned while employed by the State with a restriction on political discussions.
A restriction on public debate about what Australian Law should be, on any topic, is completely different to breaching a law on the release of information.
Far from being “hypocritical” it is proper, indeed necessary, to distinguish these different kettles of fish.
If you want to argue that “whistle blowers” should be able to reveal government secrets with impunity. Let’s have that argument.
If you want to argue that political debate about changes to Australian Laws should be stifled lest it “offend”. Let’s have that argument.
The two arguments are different.
The writer leaves the worst until last. “You just have to think, 'is there a way of putting my point across that doesn't involve severely insulting or hurting another person?' If there isn't, then don't say anything at all.”
Do not say anything politically if someone may feel hurt!?
You have got to be kidding?
A helpful guide to free speech!? No. It is garbled, emotional and illogical and so far from being “grown up” it is frightening that editors let it be published under that title.
John Bolton Gawler SA 0417862201
A helpful guide to free speech: don't be a dick
By Corinne Grant
Updated yesterday at 3:24pmWed 17 Feb 2016, 3:24pm
Photo: As Australia becomes more diverse, it's time we had a sensible debate about freedom of speech, says Corinne Grant. (Flickr: Newtown Grafitti)
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Do we really have freedom of expression in this country? Look at immigration, and now marriage equality. Corinne Grant argues there's only one guiding principle: be a grown-up.
Australia's population has just hit 24 million, and for the past 10 years immigration has grown faster than the birth rate.
As our country becomes more diverse, it's time we had a sensible debate about freedom of speech.
More than that, we need to have an honest, dispassionate discussion about who really has a voice when free speech is discussed, and who doesn't.
There is no absolute freedom of speech in Australia, and many of those who demand greater freedom are the very same people who ignore draconian laws that prevent others from speaking out.
For example, section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act contains one of the most draconian limits on free speech we've ever seen.
The effect of the clause is to render any information disclosed by employees, contractors and those engaged by the department in the course of their work an illegal act leading to up to two years in prison.
Not only that, but the effect of Australia's criminal law means that journalists could also be caught in the same net if they aid and abet or incite such a disclosure.
In this context, everyone from the farmer who provides vegetables to an offshore processing centre through to those who care for children who have been assaulted could be jailed for two years if they disclose that information to a journalist.
Second, any journalist who prints that a farmer supplied two tonnes of fresh lettuce to Christmas Island could also be jailed for two years. While this example is a little facetious, it shows how ridiculous and far reaching this law is.
It says a great deal about the lack of maturity in this debate when those with power and influence demand the right to say whatever they like, but at the same time demand no-one should be able to answer back
In this context, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is arguing for a suspension of discrimination laws in the lead up to the national plebiscite on same sex marriage.
Never mind the fact that laws that criminalise incitement to hatred or ridicule against people because of their gender or sexuality do not exist at federal level, and do not exist in all states and territories; the ACL wants the laws put on hold.
It is more than a little hypocritical for a Christian organisation to demand the right to be free from prosecution for inciting hatred and ridicule of same-sex couples, while remaining completely silent on reports of the abuse of children and babies in offshore detention and the effects of section 42.
We see these same hypocrisies turn up time and time again. Not only is there no absolute freedom of speech in Australia, certain curtailments upon that freedom are actively supported by most Australians.
There are anti-terrorism laws, laws that make it unlawful to incite violence or breaches of the law, laws that make it illegal to disseminate child pornography — the list goes on.
Any debate on freedom of speech needs to be 'informed and reasoned'
There are arguments to be made that all of these existing laws are either too weak or too harsh. While most of us would agree that child pornography is abominable, for example, there is the real risk that teenagers who engage in sexting can be prosecuted for disseminating, producing or accessing child pornography under current laws.
In other words, issues surrounding freedom of speech are complex and any debate needs to be informed and reasoned. Sadly, that is not currently the case.
If we look to our newspapers and current affairs programs, we only talk about the need for freedom of speech when it turns to the 'right' to make unfettered comments about Muslims, asylum seekers, Indigenous people, women, transgender and same-sex attracted people.
We need to examine that. This is not really about freedom of speech — it's about a particular desire to say awful things about specific groups of people, while at the same time refusing to allow them to respond.
Photo: Andrew Bolt leaves the Federal Court in Melbourne on March 29, 2011 after facing racial vilification charges. (AAP: Julian Smith)
It says a great deal about the lack of maturity in this debate when those with power and influence demand the right to say whatever they like, but at the same time demand no-one should be able to answer back.
We need only look to Andrew Bolt and Mark Latham as two people with very large platforms who constantly complain they are the victims of free speech laws and political correctness.
The term 'political correctness' in this context should really be read as the right of those attacked to respond to Bolt and Latham.
While empathy is not a skill shared by all, learning to be considerate is far more achievable. Put simply, to be considerate only requires one thing: don't be a dick.
You don't have to imagine yourself in another person's shoes, you don't have to imagine what it would be like to be in a detention centre, or in love with a person of the same sex as you.
You just have to think, 'is there a way of putting my point across that doesn't involve severely insulting or hurting another person?' If there isn't, then don't say anything at all.
That is not a denial of your freedom of speech, it's called being a grown-up. And if we all grew up, maybe we'd make meaningful headway on becoming the country we want to become.
Topics: discrimination, immigration, laws
First posted yesterday at 3:23pmWed 17 Feb 2016, 3:23pm