House debates

Wednesday, 2 August 2023

Statements by Members

Freedom of Speech

1:33 pm

Photo of Keith WolahanKeith Wolahan (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am opposed to the government's draft misinformation and disinformation bill. 'Orwellian' can be an overused adjective. From Animal Farm to Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell used metaphor as a simple warning. You can become what you hate. Freedom of expression, especially about political issues, is the lifeblood of our democracy. Democracies should be filled with many voices, especially those that are different and those that are contrarian. We should not have gatekeepers for political speech. We should not have separate status for those who can contribute to political discussion. Our democracy should not be owned by any government, by any bureaucracy or, indeed, by any technology company.

The government has argued that the bill does not allow the regulator to regulate speech, but that is exactly what it does. If passed in this form, ACMA will decide whether a digital platform is doing enough to combat misinformation.

There's also no equality in the draft. You get special exemptions if you're in government and you get special exemptions if you're in academia—but not ordinary Australians. This bill directly involves government in political communications. If passed, it may see the censorship of political views. It is illiberal and undemocratic and should be opposed.