The High Court is currently hearing a fascinating freedom of speech case with potentially significant implications:
Two evangelists have become the unlikely standard bearers for free speech in Australia as they fight a council ban on their preaching. The brothers’ fire and brimstone sermons had become a regular piece of street theatre on Friday evenings in Adelaide’s CBD…
The city initially fined the pair and then modified council bylaws to silence them by denying them a permit to preach. The brothers challenged the decision in court, explaining they believe public speaking is the only avenue open to them.
While these preachers may well be a nuisance, it is not clear that this justifies a local council restricting freedom of speech in what is obviously public space. Private property owners can reasonably set conditions of behaviour for anyone who wishes to enter their land without it being an infringement on free speech. But if we allow councils and other levels of government an unlimited ability to restrict free speech in public places, we leave virtually no space where people can speak freely.
This will be a case to watch closely.