Address to the Free Speech Rally
Electorate Office of Senator Stephen Conroy
17 Mason St, Newport, Melbourne
17 March 2013
E & OE
Friends, I think we all have a tendency to underestimate the importance of those things that underpin a free and a democratic society. We know what they are. It’s the rule of law. It’s freedom of association. It’s free speech and a free press. And this government have systematically set about undermining each of those in turn. Labor, having systematically sought to undermine each of these elements, are now targeting freedom of the press.
Their plan is to have a Public Interest Media Advocate. I think we all know what that means. That is a political interest media advocate. Competent politicians who have faith in the strength of their arguments, who have faith in the strength of their ideas, who have faith in their capacity to mount an argument, have nothing to fear from a free press. Politicians who aren’t good at communicating, politicians who don’t have faith in their ideas, politicians who know that a majority of the public don’t actually agree with them, have everything to fear from a free press. Which is why Stephen Conroy has set about doing what he is seeking to achieve.
Having sought to gag the press, Stephen Conroy is now seeking to gag parliamentary scrutiny. I want to give you a comparison. The National Disability Insurance Scheme that all politicians agree with, that all politicians support is complex legislation, and the parliament dedicated three and a half months of scrutiny for that legislation. In contrast, these media laws the government are proposing only three and a half days of scrutiny.
I’ve got a message for Senator Stephen Conroy, as Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. My message for Stephen Conroy is, “wrong way, go back”. And to cite something which the other side of politics often says, “we shall not be moved”. We are not for turning.
I’ll just go back to where I started. The rule of law, Labor have abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission, we see what happens when the rule of law doesn’t apply. Then unionists having the right to march into businesses is an attack on freedom of association. Freedom of speech, we’ve seen what happened to Andrew Bolt when he simply wrote a column expressing his views. He was hauled off to court. We can only wonder what this fundamental attack on freedom of speech, if successful, will see in our community. Stephen Conroy, we shall not be moved.