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Freedom of Speech Lawyers Australia

The ability to express ourselves freely is an ancient and sacred right. The open sharing of diverse ideas is an essential element of a successful dialogue, as well as a successful society.

In Australia, the Constitution incorporates a freedom of political communication, and freedom of speech and express is also protected in various statues as well as in the common law.

Unfortunately, there is currently an attack on free speech on the basis that certain ideas and expressions might be dangerous, and must therefore be suppressed. At Maat’s Method, we believe this is a mistake.

Misinformation laws are, among other things, infantilising. They are predicated on the idea that most people are too stupid to form their own opinions based on a free market of ideas, as a result, it is necessary for an elite, intelligent class to filter the information on their behalf. Anybody who supports this idea is:

  1. Ignorant of history (this has never, in thousands of years of attempts, been effective and never born of genuinely good intent); and
  2. Themselves arrogant enough to think that they must know better than those they disagree with.

Those supportive of such laws need to be seriously questioned as to what specific outcome they believe such laws will achieve, how specifically they define “misinformation”, and what evidence they are relying on to assume such laws will achieve their desired intent.

The recent Misinformation Bill proposed by Government was an absolute dog’s breakfast because the above questions are very difficult to answer without simply admitting (even if implicitly) that you are simply trying to control the flow of information to achieve your own desired outcomes.

How We Can Help You With Freedom Of Speech Laws

Free speech can be a confusing topic under Australian law, and it can get even more complicated when it comes to the workplace and online social media platforms.

Over the past few years, Australians have experienced an unprecedented level of censorship over their speech, particularly in their workplaces and on social media platforms. Many have been disciplined, fired, even arrested for the words they typed, the speeches they’ve made and  the opinions they’ve shared which often resulted in their accounts being deactivated by social media companies and the Police knocking on their door.

There have also been several highly publicised Australian cases arguing for the right to freedom of speech for employees, notably within academia.

Your right to free speech & its limitations

In Australia there is no express Constitutional or legislative protection of free speech or the freedom of expression at the federal level (in contrast to human rights legislation in force in the Queensland, ACT and Victoria). Despite this, the courts have an important role in interpreting legislation consistently with human rights where possible.

What we do have is an implied constitutional freedom in relation to our political communication or political speech, but it’s fairly limited in its scope. Implied freedom of speech means that Australians don’t have free reign to say what they wish, but they do have certain protections. Importantly, the High Court of Australia held that an implied freedom of political communication ‘is an indispensable incident of the system of representative government which the Constitution creates’. 

Your right to freedom of opinion and expression

Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is contained in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

See also articles 4 and 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) , articles 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The right to freedom of opinion and expression may also be relevant to:

  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in article 18 of the ICCPR
  • the right to peaceful assembly in article 21 of the ICCPR
  • the right to freedom of association in article 22 of the ICCPR
  • the requirement to provide information to persons with disability in accessible formats and technologies in article 21 of the CRPD.

The right to freedom of opinion is the right to hold opinions without interference and cannot be subject to any exception or restriction.

The right to freedom of expression extends to any medium, including written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. However, this right is not absolute. It carries with it special responsibilities and may be restricted on several grounds. For example, restrictions could relate to filtering access to certain internet sites, the urging of violence or the classification of artistic material.


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Nicole Turnbull - Director at Neon Shed

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