Hello. Russell Broadbent here. Member for Monash.
Yesterday I mentioned that Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, had warned that ‘Labor’s proposed laws to combat online misinformation could undermine democracy, erode public trust and jeopardise free speech’.
That’s a big call – and she’s spot on!
As the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, I’m not only pleased to hear her say this, but downright relieved.
It’s unusual for the Human Rights Commissioner to make such strong public statements against a government Bill. So it’s telling that Ms Finlay felt the need to do so on this one.
The silence and complacency from others who should also be shouting and standing up against this Bill is ominous, and their indifference disturbs me greatly.
Ms Finlay cut to the crux of the issue – the Bill’s dangerously broad definitions of ‘misinformation’ and ‘harm’. She also acknowledged that even without this Bill, information has already been ‘opportunistically labelled as ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation to … justify censorship’.
We saw this in recent Freedom of Information documents which showed more than 4000 social media posts had been secretly censored by (our) government during the height of the pandemic, including posts that simply stated “no masks”.
Ms Finlay also made the critical point that “In Australia…we have some really challenging (and) complex issues that we’re negotiating… and we need people to be able to speak frankly and freely about their thoughts or views.”
She also echoed my concern that the government is exempt from its own laws – meaning that government information cannot be considered misinformation or disinformation under the law!
Yes you heard correctly.
Have no doubt…this is a slippery slope which threatens to seriously harm our already fragile freedoms and democracy.
As Ms Finlay said “People not only need to be able to speak freely, but they need to believe that they are able to speak freely.”
To have democracy we need free speech, and this Bill needs to be binned.
That’s justice I see it.