Freedom of speech is fundamental in a democratic society. The free exchange of ideas and opinions allows these ideas and opinions to be tested, with the more robust being accepted. Speech that is agreeable and popular is protected by default. The most important function of free speech is to protect unpopular speech.
Continued government attacks on free speech because it is "offensive" or "hate speech" simply shrink the window of allowable opinion and set a precedent for further, even more puritanical censorship. This is awful for democracy and the pursuit of a free society – it harms both the people being censored and those people who are denied the right to hear forbidden words.
A free speech constitutional amendment. Free speech is too important to be left to the whim of politicians. The Liberal Democrats would campaign to add the following to the Australian Constitution: "Parliament shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Abolish Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and all similar legislation. Legislation such as 18C makes it unlawful to “offend, insult or humiliate”, and hauls those who fall foul of it up before secret kangaroo courts, headed by bureaucrats at the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is a gross affront to free speech and the idea of a fair trial.
Stop internet censorship. A decade and a half ago the consensus in the West was that it was necessary to censor radical propaganda, but this has led to an internet filter consisting of thousands of blocked websites for a wide range of reasons. Some of these may be well intentioned, but putting this power in the hands of government can rapidly turn into the banning of anything that does not suit their political agenda.
- Encourage a free and open internet. Much of the increasingly political censorship imposed by tech companies is done in fear of further regulation being targeted at them to tackle “misinformation” or “fake news”. This is particularly true in Australia where platforms and page owners can be held liable for what is posted by other users. A clear framework of no internet censorship by the government would take away much of the incentive for tech companies to censor their own content.