It was a Flanery of a day, 18 March 2013 (St. Patrick's Day), when 60 hearty Melbournians braved the cold, dismal weather to rally together at Senator Conroy's office in the name of free speech. The rally was organised by The Australian Taxpayers' Alliance and Free Speech Australia. Tarun Singh from Free Speech Australia kicked off the rally and had a number of speakers organised to discuss Conroy's legislation. Singh, in his opening statements pointed out that a free press is required for citizens to make informed decisions.
Victorian State MLC Bernie Finn started the rally by stating that the government should not be able to regulate what you can hear, see or read. He pointed out that this legislation was being rushed through the senate prior to the election.
Victorian State MLC Bernie Finn
Senator Scott Ryan, in an impassioned speech, discussed that this is the first time since wartime that a government has tried to regulate news papers.
Senator Mich Fifield stated that people have a tendency to underestimate the principals that freedom are based on such as freedom of association and freedom of the press and in this case, that the Labour party is undermining the freedom of the press. He talked about how only dodgy people had to worry about a free press. His response to the Labour party giving parliament only three and a half days to scrutinise the legislation was “wrong way, go back!”
Victorian Liberal MLC Andrew Elsbury pointed out that he had some unflattering photos printed of in him in the paper last week but he expressed the need for a free press.
Victorian Liberal MLC Andrew Elsbury
Earlier in the week Sky News reported on Senator Conroy's reforms include the ability to approve or block media ownership, a rewriting of the ABC and SBS charter, a decrease in the fees for free to air channels, and most contentious a public interest media advocate. Sky quoted News Limited Chief Executive Kim Williams as saying “this government will go down in history as the first Australian Government outside of wartime to attack freedom of speech by seeking to introduce a regime that effectively institutes Government sanctioned journalism.”
Once the rally had finished I had the opportunity to hang out with a couple members of the Sex Party and Free Speech Australia to discuss philosophy and politics an the local TAB.
Cameron Mottus (Melbourne Freedom Network) and Siobhan Harris (Free Speech Australia)