Wednesday, 2 August 2023
Statements by Senators
Freedom of Speech
Voltaire famously said, 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' This famous quote was an expression of the Western world's commitment, on both the left and the right, to free speech. In fact, Voltaire used to be a darling of the Left. Not any more. Now the Left's position seems to be, 'I disapprove of what you say, and I will condemn you to silence for saying it'. We see that in the government's misinformation laws. Enclosed in these laws is a view that government can never be wrong. Any content from any level of government cannot be disinformation. The same protection does not apply to non-government parties or regular Australians discussing the same matters. Statements made by academics are exempt, but not statements made by non-academics on the same issues. Statements made as part of professional news content are exempt, but if a journalist made that same statement on a personal podcast then it could be caught as misinformation.
I go back again to Voltaire's statement: 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' This quote itself could be considered misinformation under the law, because Voltaire didn't say those words. It was an attribution, describing what Voltaire thought, made by historian Evelyn Hall. These laws are wrong, these laws are flawed and I will oppose them.