Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4162


Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (15:48): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I table an explanatory memorandum and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Mr President,

I introduce the Freedom of Speech Legislation Amendment (Insult and Offend) Bill 2018.

Speech that someone finds insulting or offensive should not be against the law. These are simply subjective feelings varying enormously between individuals for which nobody else is responsible.

We have heard arguments about this in the context of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. But there has been little acknowledgment that the Commonwealth statute book is littered with bans on speech that someone finds insulting or offensive.

If we really care about people being free to express themselves, we should take a similar approach to all restrictions on speech that someone finds insulting or offensive.

Threatening to imprison someone who may not have intended to offend, simply because someone chooses to take offense, is unjust. It also adds great uncertainty to our understanding of the law and undermines public debate.

If you simply oppose section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, but are comfortable with the myriad other restrictions on speech that someone finds insulting or offensive, then you are probably just interested in your own freedom to express.

I have already introduced a bill that repeals section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. This bill removes restrictions on speech that someone finds insulting or offensive in 23 other Acts:

Restrictions on what we can say in a letter or on the internet;

Restrictions on how we can speak to diplomats or officials from New Zealand;

Restrictions on how we can speak to officials of the Australian Government when they are dealing with bankruptcy, competition, copyright, environmental, workplace, sex discrimination, judicial, royal commission, law enforcement, military and veterans issues;

Restrictions on how defence members can speak to their superiors, and how they can speak to anyone;

Restrictions on how we can refer to property that we may have an interest in;

Restrictions on how we can refer to the plants that we may breed;

Restrictions on how a victim can speak in court;

Restrictions on how a charity or business can refer to itself; and

Restrictions on how citizens refer to themselves.

Many of these restrictions are far more sinister than section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, because they are criminal offences which have the potential for imprisonment for the sin of saying something that someone else finds insulting or offensive.

The bill is a measured bill. It does not impinge upon our judiciary, and leaves in place bans on sending menacing or harassing letters or emails, disrupting tribunals, and insubordination by defence members.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.