Attorney-General's Department. CC-BY

Attorney-General George Brandis. Image copyright Attorney-General's Department (CC-BY)

EFA is disappointed that the Attorney-General has ignored the major threats to freedom of expression in Australia in framing the terms of reference for the parliamentary inquiry he announced today.

The extremely narrow terms of reference for this inquiry mean that it is not ‘an inquiry into freedom of speech’ as the Attorney’s media release claims.

There are many serious threats to free expression in 21st century Australia, including our archaic and inconsistent defamation laws, section 35P of the ASIO Act, censorship of the Internet and the chilling effects of mass surveillance.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “if the Attorney wants to call his inquiry one into ‘freedom of speech’ then he needs to include the major threats to free expression in the terms of reference. The issues around section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act hardly qualify as major threats to free expression.”


  1. How can you possibly objective to this? EFA continues to disappoint by signing up to the predictable left-wing agenda and opposing things simply because they come from the right. Have a bit more independence and apply some proper critical thinking to issues like these and stand up for Australians for the issues that you claim to support rather than being yet another tired left-wing lobby group. If you want to remain relevant, then appeal to the broad spectrum of people who are interested in issues around electronic freedom and freedom of expression, issues that clearly transcend left and right political boundaries.

    18C is a huge governmental overreach that puts a very real and very large dampener on freedom of speech. The chilling effects of having a mechanism that can allow trouble makers and the professional hurt-feelings industry to easily drag political and ideological enemies through a bureaucratic and legal quagmire is a severe problem for freedom of speech in Australia. The recent examples of application of 18C, even by their failure to succeed, show how this law can be abused to silence opponents just because you don't like what they have to say. Freedom of speech requires that we make a space even for people who will say things we don't like.

    If you really did care about "digital freedom" then you would support any moves to de-fang 18C. Our defamation laws and the other egregious tools that can be used to silence and intimidate are part of the battle, yes, but 18C is a proven terrible law that goes far beyond its initial stated attempt and is being actively abused.

    This statement from the EFA should read "The EFA supports this enquiry and encourages the government to expand its scope". The fact that you can't even bring yourself to go this far simply shows your sad and ineffective biases that prevent you from getting broader buy-in from the public you assume to serve.

    Comment by Roger on 8 November 2016 at 16:28
  2. Hi Roger

    I didn't say that 18C wasn't an issue, just that it's not a major threat to free expression when compared with the other issues mentioned.

    I think it's unfortunate that you feel that is a partisan position.


    Comment by Jon Lawrence on 8 November 2016 at 16:48
  3. Bloody oath Roger.

    Unfortunately it is now common place that supposed "freedom" associations resonate to the sound of political correctness. Leftist agenda isn't exactly the groundwork for freedom for all.

    Get your heads into gear EFA and start working on spreading sense not sentiment.

    Comment by Lachlan on 8 November 2016 at 16:55
  4. 18C is hardly offensive to reasonable folk. The EFA is right on this one, there are far more pressing issues (a number of which were sadly implemented by this government in the first place)

    Comment by Ash on 9 November 2016 at 05:44
  5. Even we in the Pirate Party think that, while Section 18C is a restriction on freedom of speech that should be fixed, the that it should be way down the priority list of anyone who claims to actually care about freedom of speech.

    As it stands, s18C has very little (but not none) chilling effect, and it has some positive effect on protecting the right to dignity.

    The same sort of case cannot be made for internet censorship, mass surveillance the war on whistleblowers, etc. That's where any legitimate inquiry would focus most of its effort.

    Comment by David Crafti on 9 November 2016 at 07:49