Senate denies Free Speech inquiry

An historic motion for a Senate enquiry into enshrining the right to free speech in the Australian Constitution was narrowly defeated this week thanks to Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers.

Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts moved the enquiry on Monday and while there was little surprise that Labor and the Greens voted it down, there was disappointment that independent senators David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie, Lydia Thrope and David Van didn’t even turn up to vote.

One Nation proposed an enquiry that shouldn’t be controversial by any reasonable measure. But here we are in 2024, when the duly elected government of Australia is perfectly comfortable being seen voting against the protection of freedom of speech.

This enquiry—and a wider debate in the Australian community—on freedom of speech is urgently needed. The Albanese Labor government is determined to suppress our freedom of speech with its ‘misinformation and disinformation’ legislation.

Australians are afraid to express their views, beliefs and opinions in public settings or at work, yet this right is absolutely essential to a functioning democracy.

In some respects, Australians cannot be blamed for being afraid. After everything that happened to Senator Hanson for speaking her mind, they have every reason to be cautious. This situation is only going to get worse unless we can somehow enshrine the right to free speech in the Constitution and protect it against government attempts to suppress it.

Free speech is a right that’s foundational, inalienable and essential. It deserves the protection that only our Constitution can provide. The inquiry sought by One Nation would have looked at the implications, the necessary resources and funding, and the timing of a referendum, preferably held at the same time as an election to save on costs.

But here we are in 2024, where the woke left go to the most extraordinary extremes to silence, censor, de-platform and gag any view that does not meet their approval. Those senators who did not support the enquiry are condemned as opponents of freedom of speech in Australia.