Oz Blog News Commentary

Where are the free speech warriors now?

April 16, 2019 - 10:57 -- Admin

It was mostly members
of the coalition who railed against the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and in particularly
Section 18C of that act1. This campaign got going in earnest when
one of their mouthpieces, Andrew Bolt, was found guilty of breaching the Racial
Discrimination Act after he was sued by nine Aboriginal people for two articles
he wrote in 2009. These articles maintained that pale-skinned people who
identified as Aboriginal did so for personal gain2. The Coalition, then
in opposition and after 2013, in government, used the pretext of free speech to
argue for the repeal of Section 18C. In this they failed3.

The free speech
warriors of the Coalition are only really concerned about their free speech,
and the free speech of their ultraconservative mouthpieces like Bolt. This was
perhaps exemplified by Tony Abbott: firstly, by his reaction to the Bolt
decision. He said at the time (in 2011) that freedom of speech was a “sacred
principle” and that he believed in “the right of people to say what you don’t
like, not just the right of people to say what you do like”; and secondly by
his request to ban a popular song in support of same-sex marriage performed by American
rapper, Macklemore, at the Rugby League grand final in 2017. Even then Attorney
General George Brandis thought Abbott’s call to ban Macklemore was bizarre,
given that he assumed Abbott believed in free speech3. Brandis was
clearly under the misapprehension that Abbott has principles. Tony Abbott has
only one principle and that is anything goes, as long as he thinks it is to his

Why have I brought
this up? Because there is censorship happening on Twitter now. Several quite
moderate accounts have had their accounts terminated permanently or temporarily,
or been threatened with legal action. Those terminated are: John Wren, Ronni
Salt and Don Voegt4. I have only been on twitter for a couple of
years but I have never seen any of them post anything that I’d consider nasty,
racist, homophobic, or bigoted in any way. Indeed, Labor Party member John Wren
used to make up sometimes hilarious fake news items which were more along the
lines of The Shovel5 or the Betoota Advocate6, than the lies
you get in the Murdoch media. I have no idea why Don Voegt was temporarily
canned. He seemed to be the mildest of tweeters and even had a photograph of
himself, in a suit and tie as his avatar. Ronni Salt was temporarily canned
soon after she posted a partly unsourced assertion that there was some
nefarious activity by members of the Coalition government behind the buybacks
of water by the government7. Respected veteran journalist Margo
Kingston, who did not retweet the Salt attachment, was sent a letter
threatening defamation proceedings should she ever do so8. This was
presumably because Kingston has significant influence as she has some 35,000
followers on Twitter. She is also a supporter of decent independents such as
Rob Oakeshott, Keryn Phelps and others, including in Angus Taylor’s electorate
of Hume (see Nofibs9). Respected financial journalist Associate
Professor Michael West was sent a similar letter presumably because he has a
little over 23,000 followers. These legal letters were designed purely to
intimidate them, and only them (as they were headed ‘confidential and not for
publication’8) because of their influence. While I am small fry by
comparison (with only 1,670 followers), and am probably well beneath their
radar, I am a strident opponent of the government and all it stands for. If someone
as lowly as me disappears from Twitter, it will show you how desperate the
government is to silence criticism, and how hollow are the words of the free
speech warriors of the Coalition.



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