Flat White

We can’t pick and choose when freedom maters

18 June 2019

7:59 AM

18 June 2019

7:59 AM

The AFP raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist are alarming, but the discussion needs to go beyond press freedom. We must examine how we can better protect the fundamental freedoms of all Australians.

These raids have generated a tremendous response, and after being live-tweeted by an ABC journalist, were picked up in international media.

A meeting to discuss the implication of the raids has been held between ABC Chair Ita Buttrose and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Many politicians and pundits have called for greater protection for freedom of the press.

It is great to see journalists unifying to fight for a common cause. However, we also need greater unity for the freedoms of all Australians. Because — as recent history has shown — we have much work to do in this area.

The Australian Human Rights Commission, through various legal instruments — most notably Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act — has overseen the prosecution and attempted prosecution of journalists, cartoonists, and university students. Where were the protests?

Israel Folau was recently sacked because he expressed his religious faith on Instagram. Where were the protests?

James Cook University fired Professor Peter Ridd because he raised questions about climate research. Where were the protests?

Whether you agree or disagree with what these people said or did is not the point. People should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, question scientific research, and express their faith.

Whether you use the language of ‘national security’ or ‘offend and insult’, the result is the same. We lose a little bit of our freedom of speech.

Our basic freedoms are not partisan. If you want to enjoy free speech, freedom of religion — or any other of our basic freedoms — you need to accept it for everyone.

Monica Wilkie is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies.

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