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Greg Hunt’s for Free Speech

Thursday 19 April 2018

The first headline that attracted my attention yesterday was “Greg Hunt interview goes off rails over ‘free speech’ and gay conversion therapy.”

Now I was well aware that the conservative fight against homosexuality didn’t end with the success of the marriage equality legislation. Plus I was also aware of the “gay conversion therapy” that the Liberal Party was trying to foolishly promote.

What aroused my curiosity though was the “free speech” angle. Apparently in an interview in which he defended Victorian Liberal members’ plans to debate gay conversion therapy at the next state conference the Health Minister, Greg Hunt told Radio National presenter Patricia Karvelas he “does not support gay conversion therapy” but when asked if he was concerned about the motion his lips remained sealed.

“Look, it’s not something I support, it’s not federal government policy, it’s not going to be federal government policy and we’re not about to change our position on that.”

“The health minister added “people are entitled to have different views, views that I disagree with”.

“What I do worry about is this constant view that nobody is anywhere allowed to have a different view. As a journalist, I would hope you would believe in freedom of speech.”

It was then that (to use the language of my childhood) that a donnybrook developed and Hunt began to question the journalist Patricia Karvelas about her attitude to free speech.

When she said she believed in it he continued to attack her demanding she outline her concept of what it was.

Anyway, there are a few things to be noted here. One is the fact that the Conservatives intend to continue their fight against legalised homosexuality. Even if young gays commit suicide when being treated with this crazy therapy. Two, you don’t require any extension of free speech to make your point in this instance. Three, it was probably just a ploy to appease the growing far right of the Liberal Party and four, it is also a message to the members that an extension of free speech is still on the books.

Hunt would know that our Constitution does not guarantee free speech. It only implies that we have it. That being said, we assume that anyone has a right to express a view. There are some, like Andrew Bolt, who despite us supposedly living in an enlightened society want to enshrine in law the right to hate each other.

Free speech to people of a far right ilk assumes that you can say anything you like to anyone regardless of the consequences. I have always contended that it should. I am happy with the way things are I don’t need anymore flexibility in the law to be able to use the language of hate.

Let me make it absolutely clear: I abhor racism with all the intellectual and moral righteousness that has been bequeathed to me by good people. Something unexplainable within me has its way when I am confronted by nefariousness and I speak out.

I come from the viewpoint that if as a society we are advancing intellectually, that we become more enlightened as one year meanders into the next then we shouldn’t need legislation to make it lawful to hate one another and put it in writing. If we are becoming more enlightened then the thought shouldn’t even enter our heads.

From another of my posts

Surely this is not what an enlightened society means by free speech? Does it demonstrate our cognitive advancement? Is this what well-educated men and women want as free speech. Do we see free speech as being nothing more or nothing less than the right to tell the truth in whatever form we so choose.

One has to wonder why the so-called defenders of free speech feel they are inhibited by what they have now. I don’t. I have never felt constrained in my thoughts or my ability to express them. I’m doing it now. But then I don’t feel a need to go beyond my own moral values of what is decent to illuminate my thoughts.

Why is it then that the likes of Abbott, Bolt, Jones, Brandis, Bernardi and others need to go beyond common decency, and defend others who cannot express themselves without degenerating into hate speech? The answer has nothing to do with an honourably noble sort of democratic free speech. What is it they want to say that they cannot say now?

Why does this demand for open slather free speech always come from the right of politics and society? They seem to have an insensitivity to common decency that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

They simply want the right to inflict hate, defame with impunity, insult, and promote bigotry if it suits their purpose. And behind that purpose can be found two words. Power and control.

The way we presently view free speech simply perpetuates the right to express all those things that make us lessor than what we should be.

Debate, in whatever form, should not include the right to vilify. It is not of necessity about winning or taking down ones opponent. It is about an exchange of facts ideas and principles.

Or in its purest form it is simply about the art of persuasion. The argument that bigots are entitled to be bigots or that unencumbered free speech exposes people for what they are, doesn’t wear with me. It simply says that society has not advanced. That our cultural ethical intellect has not progressed at the same rate as our technological understanding.

The fact that so many people agree with the free speech argument highlights the tolerance we have for the unacceptable right to hate each other, which to me is the sauce of everything that is wrong with human behaviour.

And we want to make it acceptable by legislating to condone it

Are we really saying that in a supposed enlightened society that we should value, love, decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the others point of view. That we need to enshrine in law a person’s right to be the opposite of all these things.

If that is the case then we are not educating. We are not creating a better social order and we are not teaching enlightenment at all. The fact is that free speech in any democratic system should be so valued, so profoundly salient, that any decent enlightened government should legislate to see that it is not abused. That it carries with it sacrosanct principles of decency that are beyond law and ingrained in the conscious of a collective common good.

After all the dignity of the individual (or individuals) within the collective is more important than some fools right to use freedom of speech to vilify another.

My thought for the day

“An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.”

41 comments

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  1. Pappinbarra Gox

    Yes

  2. paul walter

    Well, what did Karvelas say next? It seemed to wander a little after that point.

    I guess I say this because Karvelas is one individual, a Murdoch journalist over past times, who now has a tv show on their ABC where she grills people like Tanya Plibersek some what harshly.

    I can understand Hunt being frustrated because of Karvelas and because of his long suppressed claimed small l liberalism, so it would have been interesting to have that angle explored a bit further, but wont grumble for now, because I want a closer read of the second part first.

  3. New Englnad Cocky

    Yawn!! It is observed from the back blocks that there has been a migration of LIarbral Party gay rights proponents and supporters into the offices of the National$, resulting in many successful state and Federal nominations, pre-selections and elections to Parliament over the last decade at least. But that is OK because the Barnyard antics are said to balance up the books.

  4. Peter F

    “it was probably just a ploy to appease the growing far right of the Liberal Party and …, it is also a message to the members that an extension of free speech is still on the books.”

    Yes, John, well said.

  5. johno

    Well said John Lord.

  6. Möbius Ecko

    Free speech to people of a far right ilk assumes that you can say anything you like to anyone regardless of the consequences.

    That should be rewritten to state that, “free speech to people of the far right ilk assumes that they can say anything they like regardless of the consequences.”

    If anyone using free speech to say something the far right doesn’t agree with all hell breaks loose, even to the point of them being drummed out of their job, Yassmin Abdel-Magied anyone. The same goes for Murdoch, who leads the freedom of speech push, but then uses every resource at his disposal, including lies, to harangue anyone of influence who speaks out against him.

    For the hypocrites of the far right, the freedom of speech argument is a one way street.

  7. Kaye Lee

    It is all very well for individuals to hold whatever opinion they desire but to debate something at an organisational level gives it a legitimacy that is unacceptable. What if a Young Liberal wanted to debate gassing Jews? Would that be ok too in the name of free speech? Or are some things just so wrong that these cosseted young dilettantes should be told how abhorrent their ridiculous suggestion is. I know…how about we send these Young Liberals to offshore gulags for “thought retraining”.

  8. helvityni

    Educated people are not necessarily enlightened or civilised….

    What on earth is “gay conversion therapy” ? Those Liberals might have had an education, but what does someone like Dutton mean by “civilised”… Methinks some poor Sicilian peasant has more civility in him than our Immigration Minister.

    I was trying to count how many creases does our very concerned Minister Hunt has on his forehead…are they increasing….? Deepening?

  9. Matters Not

    If you want to look at the bigger picture, understand that these motions which were on the Agenda came from Branches aligned with Kevin Andrews. He’s not giving up because he knows he’s right

    Clearly he’s an avid reader of Psalm 23:3, where we are told that He guides me in paths of righteousness.

    I think Andrews should be applauded and encouraged. The size of the fifth column within the Liberal Party grows daily. Donate now.

  10. helvityni

    oops, have , not has…still thinking in Finnish…

  11. Matters Not

    Re;

    Educated people are not necessarily enlightened or civilised …

    Not enlightened or civilised? Then, by definition, they are not educated but (perhaps) simply over schooled. Something about leading horses to …

  12. helvityni

    Thanks MN, “schooled” is the right word here…

  13. Jaquix

    Agree Paul Walter. Pat Karvelas (like Leigh Sales) has one manner for interviewing Liberals, and an entirely different one for Labor guests. She continually interrupts Labor guests, interjecting with Lib-like “assertions”. Yet Liberals get the free ride. As in Greg Hunt, not interrupted once, until the end when he got very upset about conversion therapy. Her Murdoch training definitely shows. What is particularly galling is that she gets this new program, and the superior interviewer Emma Alberici got shunted into a backroom ! I sincerely hope she is writing a journal, documenting what is going on in the ABC these days. You can pinpoint when the ABC started going downhill, with the appointment of Michelle Guthrie as MD in May 2016. First act was to axe Fact Check, so convenient for Turnbull just going into a tight election!

  14. Zyg

    If they want the right to vilify me verbally I want the right to punch them on the nose as my form of free expression.

  15. Kaye Lee

    At a fundraiser for Kevin Andrews and Michael Sukkar in 2016 where Tony Abbott gave the main address, a leaflet was distributed that said: “Saints, Swans and the AFL. Who do you think you are? By support for the same-sex attracted agenda with a Pride Game you are saying that you don’t support natural marriage. Two men cannot replace a child’s mother. Two women cannot replace a child’s father.”

    The dinner at the Veneto Club in Bulleen was organised by the Menzies-Warrandyte Young Liberals, a new socially conservative branch of the party. President Stephanie Ross is well-known for her anti-abortion views though she distanced herself from the pamphlet.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/more-news/leaflets-opposing-afl-pride-match-handed-out-at-liberal-fundraiser/news-story/37b40a72edac8ea0fed397327c22e60e

    So much for free speech. Liberals will defend anyone’s right to agree with them but those who don’t must shut up.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ch2LBNbUoAAPDxz.jpg

  16. helvityni

    I’m missing Emma and Yassmin, they are too enlightened for the LNP, they prefer the likes of the un-educated, (un-schooled) Paulines…

  17. wam

    Well done. All that bulldust over a voltaire defending ‘your right’ is not my cup of tea, either. The legislation to allow bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism and state supported education indoctrination is already there. The boys just want it available to everyone.

    A little worry over racism as in our day Aborigines in cities were ‘unseen’ by the same people who were ‘outraged’ by lynchings and the overt American racism and ignorant of the covert insidious nature of our unacknowledged racism towards the ‘haven’t they died or been bred out yet’, Aborigines
    Some of these were uncomfortable by the racism of the british raj. With a very few even aware of the history behind townsville and mackay.
    The sad thing being racism is a learnt trait and can be unlearned but the stereotype racism against Aborigines is reinforced daily and the ‘unlearning’ is untaught.
    Until Australians admit the institutionalised racism and are active in the unlearning process, the covert status quo will be blight on Aboriginal recognition for their input over the last 230 years.
    All politicians
    I was lucky enough to have Aboriginal students(urban and community) in my classes for the last 30 years of my working life and to have worked with Aboriginal men and women. Invariably, when I was with an Aborigine seeking information, the public servant behind the desk would ignore the Aborigine and look at me when answering the question.
    The depth of the insult was illustrated yesterday when my wife and her friend. who has a sligh stroke induced speech impediment, when to re-negotiate the phone bundle and the telstra employee always gave the answers to my wife??
    To the world Australian Aborigines are handicapped and unable to comprehend.
    My pet hate is the ABC who employ jane barden who cannot speak english but puts subtitles on Community Aborigines who speak perfect English. The producer uses visual cues not audio. Could she/he be a racist?

    ps how is trump going in korea???

    pps Any thoughts on Unaarrimin?

    pps schooling may not be the education needed in the future??

  18. Matters Not

    helvityni – you from a freezing location. Decades ago, the good burghers of Toowoomba argued that their city was the ideal site for an institution of higher learning because everyone knows that cool climes is conducive to academic learning. And it did come to pass.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Southern_Queensland

    Similar arguments were employed re the establishment of the University of New England. That Barnaby Joyce was a graduate weakens the argument somewhat. Perhaps in his case, his penchant for alcoholic beverages might be more explanatory.

  19. bearbrooke

    Greg Hunt was right to quiz Patricia Karvelas about free speech. Patricia Karvelas, like Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast, is an abysmally poor interviewer. These, like so many media journalists, have abandoned the art of eliciting information in favour of point scoring and smartarse forms of squelching. It’s evident some Conservatives do intend to continue their fight against legalised homosexuality — but not all Conservatives per se. Like it or lump (and I lump it) they have a right to do so. A bit of intelligent probing by Patricia Karvelas might have provoked a more interesting from Hunt.

    Hunt’s retorts have provoked all sorts of speculation about his ‘ploys’, what he might or might not intend or mean or believe. It seemed to me he was in fact defending himself against an aggressive journalist. I am rather tired of reading whole paragraphs of commentary that can be summarised with a single derogatory adjective.

    The debate about free speech has become preposterous. If you favour free speech then you have to accept that people have a right to say anything they please regardless of the consequences — the alternative is to create punitive legislation. The best alternative is to counter, for instance hate speech, with forceful, factual, well argued rejoinders.

  20. Kaye Lee

    bearbrooke,

    I think you are missing the point. Yes the silly individuals can believe and say whatever they please but to give their outrageous views a public political platform gives them a certain legitimacy. What if they wanted to debate enslaving black people again because it would be good for the economy? Would that be ok?

  21. Keitha Granville

    A recent colourful discussion (!!) I became involved in on FB was eventually terminated by the page admin as many of the contributors had descended into abuse and vitriol. The admin was then rounded on by some, claiming he was shutting down their right to free speech, free ideas.
    It seems to be mostly those with hatefulness in their minds that claim to have their free speech stifled. Like you, JL, I have never felt constrained in putting forward an opinion.

  22. paul walter

    Jaquix, yep.
    Just watching the banks again, then thinking about the current behind the scenes mentality at ABC, where we pay the executives there to stuff up what was once our ABC.

  23. helvityni

    MN, as kids we sat in our IGLOOS, lit by a candle made of reindeer fat and read our books we got as Christmas presents ( we also got warm hand-knitted jumpers)….

    ( almost a true story)….

  24. Kaye Lee

    Keitha,

    I agree. I have never felt constrained in what I can discuss except by common decency and that constraint is self-imposed.

  25. Matters Not

    I think it was Hegel who argued:

    Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.

    The more rights there are, the more conflicts to expect. Then the way forward is down to judgement.

  26. New England Cocky

    Uhm … MN … I think it is very unfair to brand all UNE graduates with the Barnyard brush.

    For the record, UNE was initially proposed for Tamworth, about 110km south and at least 5C deg warmer, and almost happened … except for the intervention of some forward thinking and hard working individuals like P A Wright “Wongwibinda”, David Drummond MLA, various White family members and the Forster family who in donated their property “Boolaminbah” in kind to the cause of a College of University of Sydney.

    During WWII ‘Bool” was wanted as a Repatriation Hospital by the Australian Army. However, “research” on Ephedrine plants located behind the Booth Block (Mathematics) prevented this use and the College survived as an education establishment.

    Many staff of the day served in the armed forces. Perhaps the most notable was Consett Davis, a lecturer in Biology, who learned Japanese in six weeks and was a member of the two successful “Krait” raids on Singapore Harbour before the British Royal Navy neglected to pick up “those colonials”. The rest is history: capture, confession and execution by the Japanese.

    Barnyard is more of a “sport”, the type of individual that you would cull from a livestock breeding programme. There are many, many more fine graduates from UNE than this one confessed adulterer.

  27. diannaart

    Conflict between antagonists who both believe they are right, without any wish to compromise, reveals humans who remain in their infancy.

    Where some perceived ‘rights’ clearly cause harm, (an extreme example being paedophilia) it is not difficult to establish right from wrong or good from bad.

    Where we run into difficulties is the right of ideology over actual proven facts, the example here being climate deniers and the impact of polluting the environment. In such cases it is likely the person denying all evidence has vested interests – therefore, we can determine right from wrong in this case; lying to achieve a favourable outcome.

    Religious ideology is given a level of acceptance above and beyond reality (not getting into creating reality arguments here, MN) such as in schools where children are taught the Bible is true.

    Matters Not calls for “judgement” in very heavy type, indicating the import he gives to such a term.

    Who should be the judge, Matters Not?

    A priest? A scientist? A member of the judiciary? A politician?

    Who is to be the final arbiter?

    Someone who is well educated perhaps – depends on the depth and breadth of the education, just as being a good arbiter depends upon the depth and breadth of their experience.

    So much we held to be “good” has been infiltrated and undermined. Our universities now must prepare curriculum favouring all things military:

    The Australian government is undertaking its biggest defence build-up since the second world war. Research partnerships between Australian universities and defence industries raise major ethical concerns, and may be at odds with the principles of academic freedom.

    In its 2016 Defence White Paper, the Australian government committed to an 81% increase in the Defence budget over a decade. The paper also outlined plans to recruit 4400 new Australian Defence Force employees.

    https://theconversation.com/partnerships-between-universities-and-arms-manufacturers-raise-thorny-ethical-questions-93005

    Every day we are exposed to a corrupt MSM – can’t expect any objective assessment of rights from the 4th estate.

    What was that about “rights” again?

  28. Kaye Lee

    If you missed Richard Flanagan’s National Press Club address, I recommend you find time to either read it here

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/18/richard-flanagan-national-press-club-speech-full-politics-black-comedy

    or watch it here The tape runs for an hour including questions.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/national-press-club/2018-04-18/national-press-club:-richard-flanagan/9672524

    I would give an excerpt but it is all too good to choose a paragraph

  29. John Lord

    What Kaye said.

    I agree. I have never felt constrained in what I can discuss except by common decency and that constraint is self-imposed.

  30. John Lord

    I suppose the “self imposed” part is the enlightened idealism I seek.

  31. Matters Not

    diannaart re:

    Who should be the judge, Matters Not?

    A priest? A scientist? A member of the judiciary? A politician?

    Who is to be the final arbiter?

    Because were are humans (for me) it goes without saying. Judgement cannot be outsourced – and neither can the responsibility for same. Yes many, if not most, don’t believe (or accept) that and try to transfer their responsibility elsewhere. As on your list.

    To choose not to choose (consciously or not) is not an escape. Just a temporary cop out.

    As you requested I won’t proceed down a certain ontological track. But a link might be in order.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology

    PS, I too recommend Richard Flanagan’s National Press Club address. Seems to me, he doesn’t responsibility outsourced to the other either. People are free to choose.

  32. Matters Not

    That should be – we’re humans. Or – we are humans.

    The proof reader ought to be sacked. I take responsibility – which (sadly) diminishes over time.

  33. Presser#1

    I happened to hear Hunt’s performance on Patricia Karvalis’ show and while she normally irritates the sh*t out of me I thought she performed quite valiantly attempting to get him to answer the actual question. Hunt was reduced to a naked display of the LNP’s standard Dalek- like technique of deflect, divert, distort and, if necessary, defame. And it didn’t work with Karvalis. Bravo!

  34. paul walter

    Re Richard Flanagan, the best statement of its kind for many, many years. You have to go back to Donald Horne and that speech succeeded in evoking memories of the National Project and a Fair Go Civil Society, against the deranged, dehumanised priorities of neoliberalism demonstrated in the conduct of our Burke and Hare bankers.

    The other revelation was the level of questioning from a couple of the younger Hitler Youth, Murdochised journalists. I am still trying to reconcile myself to the fear and loathing shown by these and wonder at what sort of cotton wooled from reality upbringing they must have emerged from.

  35. Zathras

    People should be free to debate whatever they want in a “free” society but that does not award them the right to claim discrimination or victimisation if others simply disagree with their opinions.

    Religions in particular have a fetish for claiming they are all under attack from somewhere or something at all times. It’s what fuels them and is part of their oppression and martyrdom complex .

    You are free to believe, for example, that tiny unicorns live in your shoes but that doesn’t give you the right to demand how I should wear my own shoes in order not to hurt the tiny unicorns.

  36. Harry

    I have not seen the interview (will try to watch on iViews) but Hunt is generally fairly urbane compared to Dutton and Motormouth Morrison so I suspect this performance is designed to shore up support from the right??

  37. Harry

    Zathras: well put. Disagreement, robust disagreement even, is not curtailing free speech. I agree religions are adept in claiming victim-hood.

  38. Glenn Barry

    I’ve had two encounters with Karvelas work, this issue, which has the audio recording here
    http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2018/04/rnd_20180417_1806.mp3 – listen from 10:30 onwards.

    The other instance was her on a small portion of national wrap.

    Her Murdoch lineage infects every fibre of her being, realistically she should have remained with Murdoch because she’s quite appalling.

  39. diannaart

    Matters Not

    I should probably wait until tomorrow before replying. Cranky & tired is not good.

    So here goes:

    Yes, I know we’re humans. Fact is many of us humans have known what is good, decent and fair since we first became proficient in language.

    Then there are some humans who think scoring points is more important than working towards solutions – which is a shame because solutions do exist. We can ensure our regulations and laws are upheld by investing in the people to run the checks and balances. We haven’t done that for decades, we only need look at our do-nothing parliament or the national ponzi scheme – I mean banks and finance sector.

    The business invested and politically enacted deregulation, free markets and other libertarian-speak for survival of the wealthiest and most powerful, has brought out the worst of we humans and seeks to silence the best – those “do-gooders” who believe in justice, fairness, equity.

    I do believe I am just wasting my precious time because what is the point in discussing something with someone who believes he creates his own reality.

    Here’s a challenge for you, Matters Not, create a fair and equitable reality, this current variant sucks!

    BTW

    I know what ontology is, having studied a little philosophy, I also know that such discussion is best had over cigars and coffee settled into overstuffed leather chairs by people who do not have to solve anything and who do not have to struggle for their next meal or a place to sleep.

  40. lawrencewinder

    Poor Puerile Hunt! A jumped up parochial facsimile of a ruling rabble intellect whose main contribution to any public utterance is content solely of more banal cant and which shows less imagination than his fellow Victorian shill The Gorgon, Downers’s in all her vacuousness.

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