Abbott slams ‘political correctness enforcement agency’

Mr Abbott linked what he described as Labor’s plan to stifle free speech with section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits statements that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” another person or a group of people on grounds of race or ethnicity, promising again the coalition would repeal section 18C if elected. “Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive,” he wrote.

Tony Abbott

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has warned the new media watchdog proposed in the Finkelstein review would become a “political correctness enforcement agency”, urging the government to reject the proposed regulator.

In a speech to the Institute for Public Affairs, Mr Abbott launched a passionate defence of free speech as he recommitted a future coalition government to removing parts of the Racial Discrimination Act that make it illegal to make statements that offend based on race or ethnicity.

Mr Abbott also accused Labor of attempting to coerce media companies into greater self-regulation, accusing the government of leaving open the threat of enforced regulation.

“Any new watchdog could become a political correctness enforcement agency destined to suppress inconvenient truths and to hound from the media people whose opinions might rattle Phillip Adams’ listeners,’’ he said.

“Australia does not need more regulation of the mainstream media, but we do need a new debate about freedom of speech because it’s important for the current government to reveal its true colours. So far, a hung parliament hasn’t made this government more responsive. Instead, the constant struggle to survive has brought out its authoritarian streak.

“It is not the role of government to manage the day-to-day practices of journalism; to dictate who can and who can’t control Australian media outlets; or to “score” media coverage against unavoidably subjective standards of fairness.”


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