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Abbott government’s changes to Racial Discrimination Act a win for freedom of speech – Institute of Public Affairs

“The Abbott government’s announcement this morning that it will amend the Racial Discrimination Act is a victory for freedom of speech in Australia,” said Simon Breheny, Director, Legal Rights Project at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs in August 2012 the then Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott promised to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

“Today’s announcement is almost as good as a full repeal of section 18C of the Act. While a full repeal of 18C would have been preferable, the government’s proposal goes 95% of the way towards ensuring what happened to Andrew Bolt won’t happen again,” said Mr Breheny.

Under the government’s proposals it will no longer be unlawful to offend, insult, or humiliate someone because of their race. It will also be a defence to a claim of racial vilification that the comment was made in the course of discussion of political, social, and cultural matters.

Mr Breheny said that the Abbott government should be congratulated for standing up for freedom of speech and not giving in to the left-wing human rights lobby that opposed any change to the Racial Discrimination Act.

“Freedom of speech is a core element of political freedom in this country – those who wanted no change to the legislation showed they were willing to sacrifice Australians’ political freedom,” said Mr Breheny.

Available for media and comment in Canberra:
Simon Breheny, Director, Legal Rights Project, 0400 967 382,
James Paterson, Director of Communications, 0423 502 147,

For media and comment in Melbourne:
Chris Berg, Director of Policy, 0402 257 681,

New cyber regulator not the answer to bullying

“The government’s proposed anti-cyberbullying laws represent a serious threat to freedom of speech and digital liberty,” Chris Berg, Policy Director with free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, said today.

The government proposes to set up a ‘Children’s e-Safety Commissioner’ which would have the power to remove ‘harmful’ content from social media sites.

Mr Berg placed a submission into the Commonwealth government’s discussion paper on the Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children. It was co-authored by the Director of the IPA’s Legal Rights Project Simon Breheny.

“Let’s call the government’s proposal for what it is: a new censorship power vested in a Canberra bureaucrat,” said Mr Berg.

“Bullying is a very serious problem. But the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner will do nothing to assist children who are being bullied.

“There are a large number of existing laws which already cover any conduct which could be considered cyberbullying.

“The Commonwealth Criminal Code already prohibits menacing, offensive, and insulting conduct on the internet. On top of that there are defamation laws, anti-stalking and harassment laws, and laws which protect against threats of harm,” said Mr Berg.

“Children and their parents need better education about what remedies and protections are already available to them, not a new bureaucracy.

“The Abbott government maintains it was elected to pursue a ‘freedom agenda.’ One of the best things the government could do for freedom right now would be to abandon this worthless but dangerous social media censorship scheme,” said Mr Berg.

The IPA submission to the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner inquiry is available at

For further information and comment: Chris Berg, Policy Director, 0402 257 681, cberg [at] ipa [dot] org [dot] au

High Court ruling on NSW campaign law a win for free speech


Free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has welcomed today’s decision by the High Court to throw out the New South Wales government’s restrictions on campaign and election spending.

“The High Court’s decision today is a win for free speech,” said Chris Berg.

Mr Berg is Policy Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, and author of the 2012 book In Defence of Freedom of Speech: from Ancient Greece to Andrew Bolt.

“The Institute of Public Affairs may disagree with Continue Reading →

Tim Wilson appointed Human Rights Commissioner


The Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs, John Roskam, welcomed today’s announcement by the Commonwealth Attorney-General, George Brandis that Tim Wilson, Policy Director at the IPA, will be Australia’s next Human Rights Commissioner.

“Tim Wilson is a proud, passionate, and uncompromising voice for a classical liberal approach to human rights. Australia needs his voice in public debate now more than ever,” John Roskam said.

“Tim Wilson’s appointment offers the Australian Human Rights Commission an opportunity to prove it can Continue Reading →

Low income earners hurt as Abbott keeps tax hikes: IPA


Reports that the Abbott government has decided to retain the former Labor government’s tobacco excise increase is a pre‑Christmas blow to the budget of low income earners, according to free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

“The Coalition has capitulated to the paternalism agenda by accepting the previous government’s tax increase on cigarettes and other tobacco products, a massive jump in the excise rate by 60 per cent over the next four years,” said IPA Senior Fellow Dr Julie Novak.

“It is well known that increases in commodity taxes are Continue Reading →

Heads must roll over malicious pursuit of innocent farmer


“The Western Australian government must launch an immediate inquiry into the WA Department of Environment and Conservation after the disgraceful way in which the department pursued an innocent farmer,” said Simon Breheny, director of the Legal Rights Project at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

Peter Swift, a farmer from Manjimup, Western Australia, won his case against the department after they charged him with clearing native vegetation from his land and pursued him through the courts for three years. The land had in fact been cleared prior to Mr Swift’s purchase of the property. Evidence that exonerated Mr Swift in court had been presented to the department but Continue Reading →

NSW graffiti laws criminalise hopscotch


“Laws that make criminals of children chalking hopscotch courts are an outrage,” said Simon Breheny, Editor, FreedomWatch at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

The Graffiti Control Amendment Bill 2013 (NSW) would make it illegal for people “to intentionally mark any premises or other property” without the consent of the “person in charge” of the building or premises. Individuals face fines of $440 for offences under the proposed law.

“The proposed legislation is so broad that it would criminalise the most routine of acts. Children could be fined for chalking hopscotch squares on footpaths, without first getting approval from bureaucrats at their local council,” said Mr Breheny.

“The bill allows police discretion as to who they will prosecute for offences committed under the act. Police should not have arbitrary power to decide how the law should be applied,” said Mr Breheny.

“It is good that the NSW government is taking steps to protect private property from vandals but this bill is not the answer. The proposed legislation should be abandoned as it criminalises behaviour that poses no threat to the community at all,” said Mr Breheny.

For media and comment: Simon Breheny, Editor, FreedomWatch, 0400 967 382,


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