The Coalition: Where protesting free speech is only a right for the Right

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

The Morrison Government, for all its pretensions and rhetoric, has shown that its commitment to basic human rights – such as of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association – is paper-thin at best.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demonstrated his contempt for our democratic freedoms on many occasions. Most recently, by snubbing the UN Climate Change Summit, before summarily dismissing the most significant display of freedom of assembly of our era, in which 300,000 Australians took to our streets protesting climate inaction.

Morrison could hardly disguise his derision, as he insisted Australia’s response to global warming was just fine and declared that climate protests were causing “needless anxiety” in children.

Democratic freedoms, as far as the openly Pentecostal PM is concerned, only refer to so-called “religious freedoms”. The most recent manifestation of this commitment to “freedom” involves the establishment of religious freedom legislation — which seeks to give special rights to those who refer to themselves as religious to say whatever they like to whomever they like, while not extending the same “freedom" of speech to their non-denominational counterparts.


Meanwhile, that beacon of the “freedom of speech” brigade, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, now wants to cancel welfare payments for anyone exercising such freedoms by protesting climate inaction. Dutton has called for mandatory gaol terms, as well as urging others to “name and shame” protesters on Newstart. Senator Michaelia Cash, unsurprisingly, supported this view.


And now, Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson explains, for all our ignorant benefit, the difference between “good” protests and “bad” protests.

In 2016, when his Government subjected LGBTI people to a same-sex marriage plebiscite, Wilson cried, with dramatic effect, but backed it anyway. Today – fresh from enjoying the LGBTI community’s campaigning while he toed the party line on marriage equality – Wilson is now practically a rebel.

Suddenly, so interested in the democratic right of free speech is Wilson, that he went to the Hong Kong protests and “joined in” with pro-democracy activists — along the way ensuring to take plenty of selfies for his social media campaign.

Wilson then resorted to the old “I’m-the-adult-in-the-room-logic” when, in a train-wreck interview on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, Patricia Karvelas questioned his commitment to freedom of speech, asking him:

“Is it just some protests you like and not others?”

“That’s a sort of childish assertion, frankly,” he replied. “Firstly, people have a right to protest and I’ve always argued that.”

Got it. Unless, of course, you count the time, only eight short years ago, when Wilson tweeted about protesters:

‘Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters ... send in the water cannons.’

A garbled explanation followed in which Wilson claimed he had been “joking” about the water cannons and that the

“The Occupy Melbourne protest wasn’t just a protest it was an ‘occupation’… You can’t just take over public land…”

Hong Kong represents “good protesting”, it seems, while protesting of any description in Australia is extremist, disruptive and not to be tolerated. Apparently, the distinction is in the “occupation of public land”!


For the record, as the former IPA policy director for “climate change policy” and “intellectual property and free trade”, Wilson was an active critic of the Human Rights Commission — presumably until a convenient act of cronyism saw him appointed as its Commissioner.

Key policies pertaining to democratic freedoms from that little gem, 20 Policies to Fix Australia’, include the following:

  • Repeal Section 18C of the 'Racial Discrimination Act (1975)';
  • Remove all references to race in the Constitution;
  • Do not introduce new anti-discrimination laws; and
  • Do not hold a Referendum to divide Australians by race … [as this would] undermine national unity.

Naturally, Tim took these fundamental principles to his role as Human Rights Commissioner, where he enthusiastically advocated for changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and referred to the prosecution of Andrew Bolt for vilification of Indigenous Australians, as an “infringement” on Bolt's right to freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech for the Morrison Government is a right, but only for the Right.

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You can follow executive editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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