No, Senator Xenophon, this is not about free speech

There are many real threats to freedom of speech in Australia in 2013.

But South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon sees threats to freedom of speech where there are none. He believes that broadcasters should have no choice over whether they run political ads during election campaigns – anyone who can pay the going rate is entitled to see their ad aired on their broadcaster of choice. The proposal would effectively extend the current laws that give political parties ‘equal time’ during election campaigns.

In the coming fortnight Senator Xenophon has promised to introduce a bill that would force broadcasters to run all political advertisements:

“This is fundamentally an issue of free speech,” Senator Xenophon said. ”If the major parties are as committed to free speech as they claim, they must support this bill.”

Xenophon is very confused.

This is fundamentally not an issue of free speech. Freedom of speech doesn’t entitle you to the use of broadcasters’ property to air your views. It is threatened only when the state seeks to impose restrictions on speech. There are plenty of free speech issues that Xenophon could commit himself to. This isn’t one of them.


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