Speaking freely

Individual rights and personal liberty is not a law of nature but is a hard won outcome of centuries of debate and conflict with the result that a few very fortunate places on the planet now have an inherited and legislated right to say in public what they please about any public issue. It is a set of circumstances that can disappear because the one certainty is that governments – the people with political power – never like it. And they are the very ones most capable of denying the rest of us the right to have our views put in public.

Liz Broderick is a Human Rights Commissioner and her interview on the ABC the other day with Tim Wilson has had a bit of comment made about it but what really struck me about what she said was this:

We are a vehicle for those people who are marginalised who ordinarily would never have a voice in this country to step up and have their say about things.

Human rights is not about “the marginalised” whatever that might be. This is a product of the usual leftist mindset where some individuals are seen to have power and the rest of us are at the periphery somewhere. The example she gave of those who have been marginalised are the aged. I’m do in any way understand why being old is a form of being on the margin but that is by the way. It is not contrary to our human rights to find ourselves getting old and it is not the role of the Human Rights Commission to worry about whether the aged are able to have their views heard although apparently according to Ms Broderick this is an issue that is now well in hand. I have an article, “If I May be Allowed to Speak Freely” at Quadrant Online that addresses what I think the role of a Human Rights Commissioner should be.

But now that the problem of free speech amongst the elderly has been resolved, how about dealing with some other issues, such as, perhaps, the attempts by the present government to limit free expression through the media. Or about some of the vile and repulsive statements emanating from some of our new Australian minorities. Or defending the ability of journalists to make observations about the manner in which government grants are distributed to those who might not have been the actual intended recipients as originally conceived.

We are in dangerous times because there is so little appreciation of what is at stake since change is taking place incrementally. The right to debate any and every public issue is different from a licence to abuse individuals. We should make sure we all understand the difference and guarantee our right to say in public anything we believe is relevant about any and every public issue.

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