Freedom of association

Tim Wilson on the importance of the “forgotten freedoms”

tim-wilson

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson last night delivered an excellent speech to our friends at the Sydney Institute. Wilson outlined the agenda for his time at the commission, and spoke about the importance of the four “forgotten freedoms”:

I will be taking discussion about human rights back to their origins and will Continue Reading →

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Human rights lawyer vs freedom of association

There has been a call this week for Queensland to strengthen its anti-discrimination laws.

The attack on the current regime has come after a tattooed man was refused entry to a Gold Coast nightclub.

The man says a number of clubs have refused him entry due to a ‘no visible tattoos’ policy.

Human rights lawyer Ron Behlau, of Nyst Lawyers, said these polices were “inherently discriminatory” and called for an overhaul.

But calls such as these are in direct opposition to the right of individuals to freely associate with a community of people who share their values and preferences.

It should be the right of any private business owner to decide for themselves who their customers will be. No individual should have the right to use the power of the state to force their patronage on any business.

To do anything else is an affront to freedom of association.

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Freedom of Association trampled by NSW consorting laws

My Drum column this week is on NSW’s revamped consorting laws and their long, disreputable history back to the razor gangs of the 1930s.

The first person was convicted under the amended laws last week. Yet he was not a bikie, but a 21-year-old man the NSW police admits has no link with motorcycle gangs.

It was the same in the 1930s. The police found consorting laws useful to clear the streets of prostitution, but not so useful in clamping down on razor crime. Consorting laws are good for smoothing the wheels of prosecution – if you think the goal of a legal system is to maximise prosecutions. But its ability to prevent or punish serious criminal activity is limited.

Freedom of association is too important to be casually thrown away. But it has been eroded by ill-conceived law and order legislation for some time. In a 2008 edition of the IPA Review, Greg Barns wrote about the problems with anti-bikie laws then being passed in South Australia. Unfortunately – as those, and similar laws have failed – the response of state governments has not been to rethink their justification, but to double down.

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