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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Freedom of speech

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I refer to Mandy Nolan’s Freedom of Hate Speech (Echo March 20). The purpose of legal rights and freedoms is precisely to preserve those rights that, when exercised by others, are contrary to our own opinions or inclinations.

That we would be in favour of freedom of speech, but only so long as we agree with what others are saying – or for that matter, that we only say what others will agree with – is antithetical to the nature of free speech.

Readers who skim this letter without much reflection might conclude that I’m promoting hate speech, but that’s wrong. Reading Mandy’s views, I empathise with the outrage she feels at all those who promote hatred and bigotry. Where we disagree is solely in their right to express it, and I write in defence of that right (which is actually absent in Australia).

Whereas Mandy’s view is that ‘We need to shut them down’, my own view is that we need to speak out against them – and here I support Mandy entirely. A proper defence of freedom of speech deserves much more argument than can be expressed here, but a good starting point might be John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, a classic treatise on the subject.

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  1. It is time for free speech in this country to be front and center. I agree that fighting hate speech is best done with words and not censorship. Currently in WA there are murmurings about getting tougher with hate speech by introducing blasphemy laws within the hate speech law. This is going backwards not forwards. Our hate speech laws need to be abolished before the crazy anti-free speech mob continue introducing more restrictions on free speech. We need to MARCH, PROTEST and DEMONSTRATE now. Time is running out.


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