The fight to repeal section 18C continues

The Institute of Public Affairs will never stop fighting to restore free speech in Australia. We will continue the fight to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

As an IPA supporter you’re invited to be a part of the IPA’s next step in the fight for freedom of speech in Australia. Together with the Menzies Research Centre, the IPA is hosting The Ultimate Freedom? Professor Frank Furedi, in conversation with John Roskam and Nick Cater, will talk about how to restore freedom of speech in Australia, and the current and emerging threats to the ultimate freedom.

Professor Furedi is a world-leading expert in education, risk and culture in the West. He has published 17 books, including Wasted: Why Education is not Educating and First World War: Still No End in Sight. His articles have been published in New Scientist, the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. Read Professor Furedi’s excellent Spiked article on the importance of freedom of speech here. And click here to view his website. The event will be filmed and available to view online.

Details of the event are:
Monday, 6 October 2014
5.00pm for 5.30pm – 6.30pm
CQ Functions, 113-123 Queen Street, Melbourne

The event is free for IPA members, and $10 for non-members. Click here to book or contact Sarah Wilson at or on (03) 9600 4744.

IPA members tell Tony Abbott about the importance of free speech

This statement was placed in The Australian by the IPA after the Abbott government announced that it was abandoning its election promise to repeal section 18C. Thank you to the 501 IPA members and donors who together contributed $60,294 to make the statement possible. 20 lucky donors have been sent a copy of the statement personally signed by Andrew Bolt.

On 6 August 2014, in a radio interview on the day after the government’s announcement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the proposal to restore freedom of speech by repealing section 18C had become a “needless complication”.

Even worse, the political class now see freedom of speech as being a ‘right wing’ issue. IPA Executive Director John Roskam explained this trend in his must-read Australian Financial Review column last Friday:

“A commitment from public commentators in this country to the importance of freedom of speech and a free press would once have been taken for granted. Now a belief in freedom of speech is regularly labelled as ‘ideological’ and even, bizarrely, as something that’s ‘right wing’.”

The IPA is continuing to fight to restore free speech in Australia.

Later this year, we will release a briefing paper on the experience of other Western liberal democracies in dealing with laws against offensive speech. Australia is moving in the wrong direction on free speech and it is out of step with some of our closest cousins. Canada repealed its own version of section 18C back in June 2013. The United Kingdom also repealed laws against offensive speech last year. The United States has never had hate speech laws.

Australians want section 18C to be repealed. The Abbott government’s decision to drop its section 18C repeal bill does not reflect the opinions of the Australian electorate. As a 2011 poll demonstrated, when Australians are asked to choose between freedom of speech and the right not to be offended 82% of them will choose freedom of speech.

We are also committed to demonstrating that the restriction on freedom of speech imposed by section 18C goes beyond the case against Andrew Bolt. The Bolt case was the most egregious use of section 18C. But there are dozens of other examples where section 18C has been used to limit the fundamental human right to freedom of speech.

IPA member Senator Bob Day to introduce bill to restore free speech

South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day is proposing to introduce a private member’s bill to amend section 18C. Day’s bill will remove the words “offend” and “insult” from the provision that was successfully used against News Corp Australia journalist Andrew Bolt in September 2011.

We are delighted that Senator Day has committed to amending section 18C. Removing the words “offend” and “insult” from section 18C is a worthy reform, and his bill deserves the support of every member of parliament.

If you’d like to send Senator Day a message to congratulate him on this excellent initiative you can send an email to him at [email protected].

Although it’s disappointing that the government decided to abandon its reforms, it is encouraging to see Coalition backbenchers step forward to take a principled stand on free speech. South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has committed to co-sponsoring Day’s bill. Queensland Liberal National Party Senator James McGrath has also said he will support changes to section 18C. Western Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith has said that he is “strongly considering” supporting the proposed changes. Senator Smith reinforced his commitment to freedom of speech in an important speech he gave in the senate on 27 August.

Western Australian ALP Senator Joe Bullock has also flagged his personal support for the repeal of section 18C. Bullock’s maiden speech included this gem:

“Today, tolerance appears in some quarters to be a misunderstood concept. The politically correct place tolerance on a pedestal among virtues but hold that it requires that all sincerely held views—provided that they are not politically incorrect—be held to be equally valid with respect to the holder of them. This is not tolerance but rather a flawed doctrine of moral equivalence. To be tolerant of your views I do not need to pretend that you are just as right as I am but rather to accept that you have a perfect right to hold a view I believe to be wrong, even if I find your view offensive.”

Labor hypocrisy on press freedom

Bill Shorten surprised everyone recently by coming out strongly in favour of press freedom. This is what he said when asked about the Abbott government’s proposal to imprison journalists for ten years for revealing information about “special intelligence operations” at a doorstop on 27 August:

“We fundamentally believe in the liberty of the press, and the freedom of the press. …Labor is very mindful of making sure we maintain the freedom of the press. We will work through the details of whatever they’re proposing with the Government, but we certainly have uppermost in our mind that our journalists should be able to carry out their work.

This commitment to freedom of the press was absent when the Gillard government proposed massive new restrictions on the news media in 2013. I highlighted Shorten’s hypocrisy in a recent piece published in the Australian Financial Review:


Abbott government’s copyright reforms revive the internet filter

On 30 July 2014, the Abbott government released a discussion paper entitled ‘Online Copyright Infringement.’ The discussion paper outlines three proposals the government is considering in a bid to tackle online piracy. The IPA’s Chris Berg and I made a submission to the government on the proposed changes, which you can read here. You can read the Sydney Morning Herald‘s coverage of our submission on 2 September 2014 here, and an opinion piece I had published in the Daily Telegraph on 10 September 2014 here:




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