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Freedom of speech? You gotta be shitting me


In 2013 Tony Abbott described marriage equality as the “fashion of the moment”. Now he says it would lead to religious intolerance, the stifling of free speech, and a regime of paralysing political correctness.

Just to be clear, political correctness is “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

Tony seems fixated on protecting the Aussie right to sink the boot in and to keep the bastards out of our pubs – oh no, wait…. that was women and Aboriginals.

Tony’s concern for religious freedom comes from the man who thought the burqa should be banned, the man who called for a “religious revolution” inside Islam, declaring “all cultures are not equal”, the man whose government insisted the school chaplaincy program must not fund non-religious counsellors, the man who insists that our laws and our school curriculum should be based on some “Judeo-Christian” heritage.

Freedom to follow Tony’s religious beliefs?

Tony is concerned that businesses will be forced to serve gay people. Fine. Dean Smith’s Private Members Bill gave wedding related businesses the right to refuse to serve gay couples if the business could show a religious affiliation.

Master stroke I thought. You have to fill in forms to deny customers. What business owner in their right mind would want more paperwork so they could get less work?

His concern about the church’s rights seems misplaced. Perhaps Tony is not aware that the Catholic Church routinely refuses to marry people – people who aren’t Catholic, people who are divorced, for example. So no issues there.

Somehow I think they might just come on board rather than lose numbers.

As for freedom of speech, you gotta be shitting me.

ABC journalists and commentators have been instructed they may not use the term “marriage equality” for fear that the public might actually realise this is discriminatory.

Public service employees have been warned that their social media feeds may not show any opinion critical of the government even if they didn’t write it. They must spend their time deleting others’ comments.

Legal aid groups have been told their funding will be axed if they engage in advocacy.

Environmental groups have had their charitable status threatened and their ability to launch legal challenges curtailed.

NGOs have had gag clauses reinserted in their funding contracts.

Professionals working on Manus and Nauru, along with journalists, have been threatened with prosecution if they speak about the intolerable abuse that is occurring.

How on earth could allowing your sister to marry her partner compete with that for stifling free speech? In fact, how can it stifle freedom of speech at all?

When Tony Abbott mobilised forces to vote against Australia becoming a Republic, he used his usual sloganeering.

Don’t know? – Vote ‘NO’

No say! – No way! – Vote ‘NO’

Keep the status quo! – Vote ‘NO’

What will they be this time?

Tykes against dykes?

One can only shudder in anticipation.


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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    Most NGO also have a advocating role. How can they carry this out if gagged.

  2. Ill fares the land

    In a world that wasn’t dominated by “drivel”, Abbott’s comments would be far more widely seen as the deranged and baseless utterances of a lunatic. As it is, he still has people who are listening to the utter claptrap he spouts and the media, accustomed as it has become to simply printing or posting a story for the sake of a story (anything will do in a world awash with white noise) rather than examining substance or checking facts allows him to make comments that are simply absurd without asking him how he thinks that the right to freedom of speech for all Australians is under threat as a result of marriage equality.

    The legacy of decades of neo-liberalism is we now live in a society where democracy for all has been usurped by freedom of the rich and powerful to dictate how society will bend to assist them achieve even more power and more wealth and to demand license to exploit society for their own ends. Even worse, it has engendered an extraordinary degree of personal selfishness and commensurately, a divided, divisive and alienated society where the groups that put air in the tyres of people like Abbott thrive. We are already seeing the cliched tripe being spouted by the Christian lobby and it will only get worse.

    I watched the rather pompous Emma Albericci on Lateline interview Labor’s Andrew Leigh on the “postal vote” on Thursday 10th and the degree of personal bile and viciousness she displayed, to my mind at least, was extraordinary. Interjections demanding an answer when it seemed to me that Leigh was clearly answering the question struck me as indicative of two things. One is the general breakdown of civil discourse whereby rude and arrogant interviewers believe they have the right to interject (and presumably think that display of aggression is de rigeur in the sick modern era) and two is how nasty and destructive the marriage equality debate will become – it must because that is the nature of debate now – people of intractably opposed views butting heads and getting aggressive in an attempt to “win” at all costs.. We are, I fear, about to suffer a period where we will display the absolute worst side of ourselves and our democracy, and the tattered remnants of our democracy will be damaged even more.

  3. Matters Not

    The cost of free speech is about to be realised.

    Remember everyone has the right to be a bigot. So says Brandis.

  4. helvityni

    Ill fares the land, the way Emma treated Andrew Leigh was most unprofessional; Leigh started the answer her question, and Emma prevented that by throwing in some her other inane questions…

    Leigh stayed cool and was the winner.
    I think Emma is trying to channel the eighties (?) darling of the commercial stations, Jana Wendt, not successfully though, as Jana had better manners. I’m getting mighty sick of their ABC, couldn’t handle the cute Annabel either whatever night she was on…and whatever she was on about…

  5. helvityni

    “In 2013 Tony Abbott described marriage equality as the “fashion of the moment”. ”

    In 2017 he is trying win brownie points by being photographed in a leather jacket, see how strong and masculine I look; leadership material….younger and STRONGER than Mal…

    Get real Tony and Mal, talking about leaders, only Obama has so far been able wear leather jacket with panache…

  6. susan

    Has anyone been game enough to tell Abbott to his face that he looks really really gay in that jacket?

  7. diannaart


    I don’t really care whether Abbott looks gay or not, in fact, I put your comment into the category of “you throw a ball like a girl”.

    I do care that Abbott remains in parliament still spouting the same old divisive bullshit.

  8. Miriam English

    Ill fares the land, it seems to me that only one side of the marriage equality “debate” is being rude and nasty. I’ve been talking to a number of homophobic anti-marriage equality people and have been entirely polite. I’m sure some on the side of marriage equality will attack the homophobes, but I haven’t seen it yet.

  9. Kyran

    “One of the key reasons that freedom of expression is so hotly contested in Australia, as elsewhere, is that it can be viewed from so many different perspectives. For some, free speech is a personal right, never to be abridged, no matter how offensive or dangerous the speech may be to others. Another view is that free speech is more of a structural or community value, capable of limits where its benefit to the community is outweighed by community harm. Sometimes again, it is helpful to think of free speech as a privilege, to be responsibly used.”

    “However free speech is viewed, I think it is important to recognise that most of the time the limits on free speech rest in personal morality, taste, and judgment. The role for the law to step in, to regulate free speech, should be limited to those cases where it is really necessary.”

    “My thesis today is that the Trump attacks on the media and on basic US institutions should be exposed for what they really are: part of a larger attempt by some in power in Western liberal democracies – including in Australia – to shut down one of the critical aspects of freedom of expression; that is the central part played by the media in the legitimate analysis and criticism of the work of governments, including work done in tandem with big business, lobby groups and vested interests.”

    “To understand whether s 18C is an angel or a devil, or perhaps something in-between, we should recall that the law has always recognised some limits on free speech. Precisely where those limits are to be drawn can vary between societies, and vary over time. But all proper limits have two things in common:
    • Speech is restricted only where the speech endangers some sufficiently important countervailing societal interest; and
    • That danger cannot readily be remedied merely by others engaging in their own free speech.”

    Justin Gleeson. Pen Lecture. It’s a long read, but well worth it.

    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

  10. mark

    Freedom of speech is the price we pay for honesty.mark

  11. paul walter

    Kyran to the rescue again.

  12. John Lord

    “Until you are a victim of free speech you will truly never understand what free speech means”

  13. Kaye Lee

    “To say this is an issue about political correctness does trivialise something that is a very deeply held belief by myself and many other members of the community,” said Abbott’s sister.

    “This is not about political correctness. This is about basic rights before the law. It’s about fairness. It’s about equality. It’s about respect. It’s about inclusion. It is nothing to do with political correctness. It’s something that I think most Australians think, should have happened some time ago, and they expect that will happen in the wash up from this vote.”

  14. Max Gross

    I said it before I’ll say it again. Abbott is deranged.

  15. diannaart

    I imagine that Christmas at the Abbott’s must be every bit as fraught as Christmas at the Costello’s.

  16. kristapet

    Oh Susan I loved your question!
    Kaye Lee, I agree, “you gotta to be shitting me?
    A one-man-mobilized-army, against the freedom of choice for ALL Australians……of course, only Abbott’s choice will do……yabba yabba do ….
    I almost wish we could do a conceptual “Braveheart, ‘freedom’ moment at him, including baring our arses at his poxxy plebiscite dressed as a survey
    I am ‘straight’, but this man brings out the gremlin in me – he certainly makes my blood boil at his prurient obsessions, and, one-eyed intolerance of people being different
    I think the following two quotes from Kaye Lee, crystalises, why, Abbott’s misdirection, the subverting the parliamentary processes, misuse of language/ semantics, and the deliberate clouding of the civil liberties issues, at stake, is so repugnant, and against, basic, individual liberty, let alone, the pain it causes

    “To say this is an issue about political correctness does trivialise something that is a very deeply held belief by myself and many other members of the community,” said Abbott’s sister.

    “This is not about political correctness. This is about basic rights before the law. It’s about fairness. It’s about equality. It’s about respect. It’s about inclusion. It is nothing to do with political correctness. It’s something that I think most Australians think, should have happened some time ago, and they expect that will happen in the wash up from this vote.”

    There is a lot of poison in this man, Abbott

  17. Stephen

    When deranged conservatives like Tony Abbott make the call that “a thing” is politically correct they are in effect trivialising that thing. Whenever the corporate media reports about any issues of importance from social issues to larger environmental or legal concerns the inevitable inclusion of the opinion of a bigoted right wing politician or billionaire is sought. In this context the visible media figure is presented as having an expert opinion equal to that of anyone with actual expertise, academic qualification or real world data. They are used to help the reader see how ridiculous, frivolous and transient the opinions of social progressives are when compared to the constant, deeply held and entirely logical beliefs of a fictitious mainstream. If time allows the follow up is to create an alternative narrative and embed that into a fabulist overly simplified manufactured history.
    Always enjoy your thought pieces Kay 🙂

  18. Kaye Lee


    I went to university with Tony. We considered him an anachronistic bovver boy with an over-inflated opinion of his ability and importance in those days and dismissed him as inconsequential – a would be if he could be but with little to back it up. I have spent decades watching his rise with incredulity. Finally I got off my arse when he became leader of the Liberal Party, Sadly, my efforts were insufficient to warn the country of what I thought was bleedin’ obvious decades ago. Tony was a ‘second-grade footballer, third-rate academic and fourth-class politician.’

    PS My husband, who is the same age and went to a GPS school and to uni with us also played rugby. He never played against Tony at school or in later years because hubby played in the firsts 😉

  19. havanaliedown

    For all his faults, it seems Tony has gone quite far since being written off by the University “in-crowd”. He looks good in a leather jacket as well as his RFS gear and SLSC speedos, too.

  20. Kaye Lee


    I see your sartorial opinion is about as astute as your politics.

  21. Peter F

    Kaye, I have been more fortunate than you: I only heard about TA when he became a politician. I enjoyed your history lesson immensely , particularly the point about your husband’s good fortune.

  22. madeleinekingston


    Thanks for an enlightening article on Abbott’s early years a perspective on his incompetence, and blinkered perspectives. He was disastrous as a PM and is still pulling the strings from the backbench in consultation with Dutton and Co.
    It was refreshing to have the alternative slogans of Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster as pictured and your own inputs about the public statements she has made, in sharp contrast to those of her brother the former PM.

    Kyran – I have always enjoyed your posts and insights. Thanks for spotlighting the true meaning of structural and community values in the context of freedom of speech.

    As to exposure of the machinations of government institutions, I‘ have always had very strong views on transparency and accountability values. We are led to believe that we should expect less and less. I advocate for raising the bar much higher and demanding far more from our politicians, who are there only by grace and are funded by taxpayers. The current shambolic handling of the current SSM debate and the self-centeredness of the politicians, including those like Abbott and Dutton who aim to impose their views on society at large, and to control dissenters of all descriptions is one example only of how standards and expectations have slipped. We have to take some responsibility for voting these pathetic excuses of politicians into power.

    I will read Justin Gleeson’s speech with interest. Thanks for the link and the excerpt. I believe that there is no justification for permitting vilification or humiliation on any component of society in the alleged interests of upholding freedom of speech. To that extent freedom’s need to be curtailed to ensure especially that vulnerable members of society are not damaged in any way. I therefore favour amendments to the law and tighter control over what is permissible to say.

    Cheers, Madeleine

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