Email: Freedom of speech under attack

The latest attack on free speech – this time in Tasmania

Freedom of speech is under attack in Tasmania after the state Anti-Discrimination Commissioner decided on 13 November that a complaint against Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous should proceed to a hearing.

In particular, the Commissioner has decided the Catholic Church has a case to answer in relation to a complaint made regarding a booklet outlining the Catholic teachings on marriage distributed to parents of students enrolled at Catholic high schools across Australia.

The IPA’s Chris Berg wrote in the Sunday Age yesterday:

To be offended by the booklet is to be offended by what was, until very recently, the mainstream view on gay marriage, and one still shared by a large minority of the population… For this reason if nothing else, the complaint ought to have been dismissed as laughably frivolous.

It should never be an offence to offend a person. This is particularly chilling in light of the proposed plebiscite on the definition of marriage. As IPA Executive Director John Roskam stated in October:

A vote in a plebiscite or referendum, in which one side is not allowed to present its case, is not a legitimate vote. That’s why both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage should be concerned by the complaint against Archbishop Porteous and the Catholic Church.

Global survey reveals Australia 7th out of 38 countries in support of free expression

On Wednesday, Pew Research Center published a global survey of sentiment towards free expression in 38 countries around the world. Check out how we compared to some of those countries:


The survey questioned respondents on their belief in free expression based on eight questions, five of which relate to an individual’s freedom of speech. Broken down by question, it looks like this:


Notably, the survey suggests the majority of Australians support the idea of people being free to make statements that are “offensive” to minority groups.

This is significant, as it suggests the 14 senators who have pledged to cross the floor in support of Family First senator Bob Day’s section 18C reforms – which propose to remove the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from the Racial Discrimination Act – reflect the views of the Australian people.

Academic freedom muscled out of American universities

You might have heard about the protests at the University of Missouri last week, where a group stopped a student journalist and cameraman from approaching a “safe space”, with a journalism professor going so far as to call on ‘muscle’ to remove the them.

As the IPA’s Chris Berg wrote in The Drum on Tuesday, education cannot be a “safe space”. He says:

Using the language of psychological harm, ideas are condemned, rather than rebutted. Students can receive “pain” from the decision of another person to write an email. It is wrong to “privilege” free speech, a mere “abstract right”, over personal emotional experience.

It’s hard to think of anything more contrary to the purpose of education – which is, in the broadest sense, the systematic exposure to ideas outside personal experience – than that.

Continue reading here.

Nanny State: A failure of regulation

In September, Dr Kesten Green of the University of South Australia appeared before the Senate’s Nanny State Inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra.

His conclusion from reviews of experimental evidence on the effects of regulations, such as mandatory disclaimers in advertising, is that the Iron Law of Regulation applies.

To find out more about the Iron Law, read Dr Green’s post on FreedomWatch here. You can also read his submission to the inquiry, Regulating choice: the need for evidence, here.

Three recent articles you must read

  • There is a crisis in Western universities: Read Ross Douthat’s article in the New York Times Saturday before last on how academia have brought it on themselves
  • In the Sunday Times, Niall Ferguson draws a compelling parallel between contemporary Europe to the 5th century Fall of Rome. You can read it here
  • And in the Wall Street Journal, Robert Kagan’s Saturday essay looks at the crisis of confidence and world order that currently has Europe reeling

Some other recent highlights from FreedomWatch

Kind regards,

Morgan Begg
Editor of FreedomWatch – Institute of Public Affairs


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