Parliamentary support for free speech continues to grow.
In a opinion article for the Federal Young Liberal Policy Journal, Liberal senator Eric Abetz has said that laws which prohibits insults and offensive speech is “anathema to the kind of free and open society that we should be promoting.”
As reported in The Australian today, Senator Abetz also encouraged his party to throw their support behind the Senator Bob Day’s amendment, which seeks to remove the words “offend” and “insult” from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. From The Australian:
“It will be a sad day if Liberals have to cross the floor to protect one of the great human freedoms — free speech.”
… Senator Abetz said while he was constrained as a minister in the Abbott government to support the party’s position, his “new-found freedom” as a backbencher allowed him to express support for Senator Day’s bill.
He also took aim at Malcolm Turnbull for maintaining Mr Abbott’s position on section 18C, despite previously expressing support for the change.
“With the new-found freedom I have been generously given, I don’t mind saying that I agreed with the then communications minister’s assessment that Senator Day’s bill was broadly supported and it wouldn’t have any negative impact.
“It is disappointing that the now Prime Minister appears to have changed his view,” he says. “It is still my hope, though, that the partyroom decides to support this bill as a whole.”
Senator Abetz joins the growing list of current senators who are on the record in support of amendments to section 18C. The now 14 senators in support of change are as follows:
- Eric Abetz (Liberal, Tas)
- Chris Back (Liberal, WA)
- Cory Bernardi (Liberal, SA)
- Joe Bullock (ALP, WA)
- Matt Canavan (Nationals, Qld)
- Bob Day (Family First, SA)
- Sean Edwards (Liberal, SA)
- David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrat, NSW)
- Ian Macdonald (Liberal, Qld)
- James McGrath (Liberal, Qld)
- Linda Reynolds (Liberal, WA)
- Scott Ryan (Liberal, Vic)
- Zed Seselja (Liberal, ACT)
- Dean Smith (Liberal, WA)
UPDATE: Link to the Federal Young Liberal Policy Journal, featuring Senator Abetz’ article, can be found here.