.

  • Written by Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation

Because we are so saturated in American culture, very few Australians realise that free speech in this country isn’t really a thing. It is not merely not protected – it’s far worse than that. If you read any of the vast array of laws that protect government secrets, disclosure in the public interest is discouraged, criminalised, punished, and deplored.

The closest we have ever come to having any positive protection of free speech is a series of High Court decisions which say that our Constitution creates an “implied freedom” to communicate so we can be informed citizens. But it is weak. It can be cancelled out by any law that is reasonable and proportionate to achieve another government objective. Former High Court judge Michael Kirby put it bluntly on the ABC yesterday: Australia has less protection of free speech than most Western countries.

Journalists have cared about this sorry state of affairs for a long time, but their pleas have been dismissed as mere self-interest. Yes, journalists are often victims of laws that protect secrecy and target whistleblowers. But what we want, and what everyone should want, is a healthy system of government that can serve the public interest by bringing important matters to light.

The journalist and academic Denis Muller expresses the anger felt by many when he writes that Australian Federal Police, in conducting raids on the ABC and the home of News Limited journalist Annika Smethurst, have allowed themselves to become a tool of “secretive, ruthless and vindictive executive government”. Michelle Grattan writes that Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a keen defender of freedom when it comes to religion, is now faced with the perception that Australia is hostile to a free press.

Meanwhile, Peter Greste, now a Professor of Journalism at the University of Queensland, has long been advocating for greater media freedom as part of a group called the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom. In May they put out a paper suggesting we should create a law that enshrines media freedom as a positive aspect of our democratic system. Such a law would improve the balance between press freedom and national security, as well as provide a measure of protection from future legislative incursion. (Disclosure: I was part of a round table discussion during which this idea was developed.)

It’s an idea that warrants serious consideration. It’s not a First Amendment, but it could take what many of us already imagine to be the case and turn it into reality.

Authors: Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/australia-doesnt-protect-free-speech-but-it-could-118448

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the family law inquiry - and the UN climate change summit

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Leigh Sullivan discusses Scott Morrison’s new family law inquiry with Michelle Grattan. They also speak of the developments in the Tamil family from...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Climate explained: why don't we have electric aircraft?

CC BY-ND Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change. If yo...

Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney - avatar Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney

Be excellent: how ancient virtues can guide our responses to the climate crisis

What would Socrates say about coal mining? Or recycling? www.shutterstock.comAs world chiefs and youth leaders gather in New York at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, many of us as individua...

Roger Crisp, Professorial Fellow, Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University - avatar Roger Crisp, Professorial Fellow, Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

A shot of hope in the face of climate despair

We have a path forward through climate change. Ellie Barr/Unsplash, CC BY-SAHope, like a slinky, springs eternal. While rage, fear and disgust are all appropriate responses to the realities of climate...

Madeleine De Gabriele, Deputy Editor: Energy + Environment - avatar Madeleine De Gabriele, Deputy Editor: Energy + Environment

It's safest to avoid e-cigarettes altogether – unless vaping is helping you quit smoking

The recent vaping-related deaths in the US have brought the issue into the spotlight around the world. From shutterstock.comHealth authorities in the United States are investigating 530 cases of lung ...

Coral Gartner, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland - avatar Coral Gartner, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland

What is the charge of concealment of birth and why is it still happening in Australia?

There has been a long history of women being charged with, and prosecuted for, concealment of birth both within WA and the rest of Australia. ShutterstockIn August, a 24-year-old woman appeared before...

Amanda Gardiner, Lecturer, Edith Cowan University - avatar Amanda Gardiner, Lecturer, Edith Cowan University

We want to learn about climate change from weather presenters, not politicians

Melbourne's ABC weather presenter Paul Higgins discussing a trend towards warmer April days. ABC/MCCCRHOne of the great paradoxes of climate change communication in Australia is that politicians comma...

David Holmes, Director, Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University - avatar David Holmes, Director, Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University

Another stolen generation looms unless Indigenous women fleeing violence can find safe housing

In Western Australia more than half the children placed in state care are Aboriginal. The state government committed this month to reducing this over-representation, in a move that parallels the Closi...

Kyllie Cripps, Scientia Felllow and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law UNSW Sydney, UNSW - avatar Kyllie Cripps, Scientia Felllow and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law UNSW Sydney, UNSW

Ignoring young people's climate change fears is a recipe for anxiety

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. Thousands of school students across Australia are expecte...

Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of the Sunshine Coast - avatar Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of the Sunshine Coast

Friday essay: on the ending of a friendship

Shutterstock Friendship is an incomparable, immeasurable boon to me, and a source of life — not metaphorically but literally. -Simone Weil About eight years ago, I went to dinner with a de...

Kevin John Brophy, Emeritus Professor of Creative writing, University of Melbourne - avatar Kevin John Brophy, Emeritus Professor of Creative writing, University of Melbourne

We don't need another inquiry into family law – we need action

Over the next 12 months, a joint parliamentary committee will examine Australia’s family law system. It will be led by conservative Liberal MP Kevin Andrews and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson...

Miranda Kaye, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Miranda Kaye, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney

Procurement’s role in climate change: putting government money where policy needs to go

Governments can choose to spend money in ways that support climate change policy, including a shift to electric vehicle fleets. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDThis story is part of Covering Climat...

Barbara Allen, Senior Lecturer in Public Management, Victoria University of Wellington - avatar Barbara Allen, Senior Lecturer in Public Management, Victoria University of Wellington

Why do men have nipples?

Men have nipples because of a quirk in how embryos develop. But that's only part of the story of this seemingly redundant body part. from www.shutterstock.comWomen’s nipples have long been a sou...

Michelle Moscova, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, UNSW - avatar Michelle Moscova, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, UNSW

Your brain has 'landmarks' that drive neural traffic and help you make hard decisions

The human brain has an estimated 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion neural connections. shutterstockBrain regions exchange information by sending and receiving signals through a network of nerve co...

Caio Seguin, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne - avatar Caio Seguin, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne

It's Newstart pay rise day. You're in line for 24 cents, which is peanuts

The extra 24 cents per day can buy an extra 36 peanuts per day, more if you buy in bulk. ShutterstockNewstart recipients and other Australians on benefits get their half-yearly pay rise today (and als...

Peter Martin., Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University - avatar Peter Martin., Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

The big budget question is why the surplus wasn't big

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann unveil a budget outcome as good as balanced on Thursday. Lukas Coch/AAPThe budget was for practical purposes in neither deficit nor in su...

Warren Hogan, Industry Professor, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Warren Hogan, Industry Professor, University of Technology Sydney

Vital Signs: NBN's new price plans are too little, too late

Lack of speed kills: finally NBN Co is thinking about a genuinely 21st century offering for customers. www.shutterstock.comThis week NBN Co announced pricing changes for the National Broadband Network...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Grattan on Friday: Morrison government solid on industrial relations reform but bootlicks One Nation on family law

John Howard is remembered by his Liberal tribe as a reformer, but his legacy is mixed. The GST has endured but he essentially doomed his government when he let his ideological obsession with industria...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

How rising temperatures affect our health

The first half of 2019 is the equal hottest on record and summer is set to be a scorcher. Chayathorn Lertpanyaroj/ShutterstockThis story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more...

Liz Hanna, Honorary Senior Fellow, Australian National University - avatar Liz Hanna, Honorary Senior Fellow, Australian National University

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Yvonne Allen: Eight ways to super impress someone on a first date

According to Yvonne Allen well known relationship mentor, psychologist and matchmaker, a first dat...

Picking The Right Crystal Yoni Egg: Tips And Instructions

When you are ready to pick your own crystal yoni egg, you need to decide what you will use it for...

Top 5 Tips for Paddleboarding In Whitewater

Paddleboarding can be relaxing as well as intense. If you occasionally want to do something differen...

3 Most Promising Career Occupations for Graduates in 2019

Studying in college is a great adventure which opens up lots of career opportunities. Yet, at times...