Date: 
Thursday 15 May 2014

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has announced a national symposium on free speech to help build the case for reform and to provide a ‘road map’ for Government.

“The debate around replacing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has highlighted the importance of free speech. It has also highlighted a desperate need for this basic human right to be reasserted,” Commissioner Wilson said in a speech to the Sydney Institute.

“My objective in holding a symposium is to bring together the key interests in academia, civil society, the legal community and business to put all free speech issues on the table, identify where there are encroachments and attempt to build a new alliance on the need for free speech reform.”

Commissioner Wilson said the symposium, to be held in Sydney in July, will provide a roadmap for the Federal Government’s plans to advance free speech.

“In the second half of the year I will also be commencing a national consultation on human rights issues in Australia, with a particular interest on ‘the forgotten freedoms’. They are freedom of association, religion, expression and property.

“I’ll deliberately be getting outside of the Melbourne-Sydney-Canberra triangle, and going to the suburbs and rural and regional communities to understand the human rights concerns that they have.

“I want to hear if farmers feel their property rights are being undermined, whether freedom of association is being violated in suburban factories, and the extent that freedom of worship is being curtailed.

“I’ll also be seeking feedback from Australians about how they are advancing human rights outside of legislation.

“I want models for advancing a rights-based culture through instruments such as voluntary codes of conduct which promote respect for others, drive cultural change but don’t corrode human rights.”

Commissioner Wilson said the consultations will help inform him about the state of human rights in Australia and how to best advance a culture of rights and responsibilities.

Photo: Tim Wilson at The Sydney Institute © www.alfonso.com.au