Tony Hearts Freedom?!!?? by Simone de Beaver

I don’t know if you caught any of Tony Abbott’s address to the Institute of Public Affairs on freedom of speech and the possibility of heavier media regulation back in August.

Actual Abbott:

The article for which Andrew Bolt was prosecuted under this legislation was almost certainly not his finest. There may have been some factual errors. Still, if free speech is to mean anything, it’s others’ right to say what you don’t like, not just what you do. It’s the freedom to write badly and rudely. It’s the freedom to be obnoxious and objectionable.

Free speech is not bland speech. Often, it’s pretty rough speech because people are entitled to be passionate when they are arguing for what they believe to be important and necessary. Speech that has to be inoffensive would be unerringly politically correct but it would not be free.

If it’s alright for David Marr, for instance, to upset conservative Christians, in his attempt to have them see the error of their ways, why is it not alright for Andrew Bolt to upset activist Aboriginals to the same end? 

The rallying cry attributed to Voltaire, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it’, should have been invoked to defend Bolt, no less than it has been to justify robust speech from different points in the philosophical compass.

Shorter Abbott: People like Andrew Bolt should be able to say whatever they like because freedom of speech and stuff, and the rest of y’all – especially all you brown people – should harden up and stop being such a bunch of sookie-la-las. Oh yeah, and vote for us, because we love freedom. 

I vomited a little. 

He also committed to repealing Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act – the same Act his party suspended entirely in order to introduce the Intervention in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory – if he wins Government. Section 18C prohibits statements that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” anyone on the grounds of race or ethnicity.

Given the above comments, I assume Tony Abbott and the Coalition would be absolutely fine with this appalling display of ‘rough speech’ in the interests of ‘fearless commentary’: trigger for this page. Please feel free to report it to Facebook.

Wait, it gets better.

“There’s the jihad against mining magnates”. HE REALLY SAID THIS. Ten points for cultural offensiveness and general stupidity. You couldn’t WRITE better comedy than this.

“There’s the claim that Gina Reinhart is a ‘danger to democracy’ because she dared to buy an interest in a newspaper group and refused to endorse the Fairfax group’s existing editorial culture.” Um, Tone? That ‘existing editorial culture’ is fairly standard among professional journos. It’s called editorial independence, and it’s about removing opinion and bias from the reporting of the news, to allow for what you might call fact and objectivity to shine through. Understand this may be a difficult concept for you to grasp though, given you were part of a government who put a gag order on any organisation receiving government funding to prevent them from making public comment on your shithouse policies.

He went on to proclaim that the Opposition ‘are the party of freedom’. And this, believe it or not, was where my what the fuck reflex kicked in. ‘Party of freedom’?! WUT?

The Coaltion loves freedom so much they initiated the aforementioned human-rights-fuckaround known as the Northern Territory Intervention, removing people’s freedom to control their own lives and communities. The Coalition’s so keen on freedom they presided over the Pacific Solution, the Tampa debacle, the children overboard myth and an alarming number of suicides, hunger strikes and asylum seekers sewing their lips together in Australian detention centres. Many of them were in detention for years.
Abbott personally also has a lot of issues with ‘freedom’, particularly when it comes to women and sex. This is the man who so believes in freedom he used his ministerial veto to restrict women’s access to abortion drug RU486, and who until recently didn’t believe in the freedom provided by a government-funded paid maternity leave scheme.
Really, looking at their record, the only conclusion I can draw is that Abbott and the Coalition seem keen on the idea of ‘freedom to’ rather than ‘freedom from’. There’s also a glaring disregard for accepted rights-based arguments to limit in some way the right to freedom of speech, i.e.: when that impinges on another’s freedom – say, the freedom to live free from discrimination and harassment.
The only freedom Abbott and his party seem keen on is their own. Senator Penny Wong put it best, with this tweet in response to Abbott’s address:
Says a lot that Tony Abbott’s priority is not victims of racial insults, humiliation and intimidation, but those engaging in such behaviours.
Simone de Beaver usually writes for Settle Petal the website designed, developed and run by the Equality Rights Alliance‘s Young Women’s Advisory Group. You can read more of her great work there and follow her on twitter!
Image taken from jcolman’s Photostream on Flickr under Creative Commons Licence
This entry was posted in Uncategorized by MsElouise. Bookmark the permalink.

About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

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