Sunday, July 20, 2008

Freedom of speech defended in Australia

The Federal Court of Australia has shown the worth of a written constitution by throwing out a law passed by the NSW Parliament as "unconstitutional". That law was specifically designed to criminalise "annoyance and inconvenience" to those attending World Youth Day hosted by the Roman Catholic Church.

Appallingly, the NSW state Parliament passed the law to minimise protests during the Pope's visit. NSW is not a theocracy. It is utterly absurd to try to limit protest against an organisation against which there are so many reasons to protest. Germaine Greer in the Observer is supporting the Court.

Greer rightfully said: "Freedom of speech cannot be maintained in a society where nobody ever says anything subversive or inflammatory. Academic freedom is only real if academic institutions exercise it. Freedom of the press cannot exist if newspapers censor themselves. In order to keep freedom of speech alive, the citizens must keep saying things that offend people, often deeply. Agitated though we might feel by some of the things people say, we have got to go on defending their right to say them. If we don't, our freedoms gradually shrink."

Indeed.

"Every few weeks, the British get into a bate about what it means to be British and how we might teach the foreigners who keep on turning up in our midst 'British values'. The most important legacy the British left the old Empire, now the disappearing and despised Commonwealth, is the package of British liberties, of which most important is probably habeas corpus, by which no one is to be imprisoned without trial. The Australian Federal Court justified its action in striking down the NSW law against annoying pilgrims by reference to the 'common law', the most precious inheritance any Briton can claim."

What is more disturbing is that not a single MP in the NSW Parliament could even start to defend this. Labour, Liberal, National, Democrat? Useless, every single one of them.

2 comments:

ZenTiger said...

Thank goodness this was thrown out. I fully supported the World Youth Day event, but the last thing I'd want to see is the occasion of the event being used to push this sort of nonsense.

libertyscott said...

Indeed Zen, methinks the regulation itself had the opposite effect, and fired up protestors to be even more disruptive than may have otherwise been the case.