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On 8 November 2016, the Attorney-General referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights for inquiry and report, whether the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (including sections 18C and 18D) impose unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech; and whether the complaints-handling procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission should be reformed.
Liberty Victoria has made a submission to this Inquiry.
There are two fundamental reasons why Liberty is committed to the value of freedom of speech. First, we believe that freedom of speech is essential for the maintenance of democracy and effective participation in it. Citizens cannot participate effectively in democracy unless they have a reasonable understanding of political issues and problems. So, open debate about political and governmental affairs is essential.
Secondly, freedom of speech is crucial to the pursuit of truth. Society will more effectively ascertain accurate facts and valuable opinions in an atmosphere of free and uninhibited discussion, criticism and debate.
It is also well accepted, however, that freedom of expression should, in certain circumstances, be limited. So, as the jurisprudence around freedom of speech has developed, a number of reasonable limits have been identified. Freedom of speech may be limited, for example, in the interests of national security, public order, for the proper enforcement of the law, public health and public morality.
Read our full submission below. Our recommendations are:
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights public hearing on 31 January 2017 - read the transcript of the appearance of Professor Spencer Zifcak, Past President, Victorian Council for Civil Liberties Inc.
You can read the final Inquiry Report released on 28 February 2017 here