Emails to IPA members


| John Roskam and Simon Breheny

Emails to IPA members

From: John Roskam
Sent: Tuesday, 19 March 2013 5:19 PM
To: IPA members
Subject: Announcement to IPA members - former High Court judge, Ian Callinan AC QC to advise IPA on media laws

Dear IPA member,

I'm writing to let all Institute of Public Affairs members know that just a few minutes ago at Parliament House in Canberra, the IPA's Chris Berg and Simon Breheny finished giving evidence to the Senate hearing on the Gillard government's effort to regulate the media in Australia. They told the inquiry the proposed laws are an attack on freedom of speech and on freedom of the press - which are fundamental principles of democracy. You can read their opening statement here. As soon as I get the transcript I will put it up on the IPA's FreedomWatch website. We've produced this one page factsheet on the laws.

Chris and Simon said at the Inquiry that what's really frightening is that these laws come just a few months after the government tried to make it against the law to offend someone because of their political opinion, under the guise of Nicola Roxon's Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. The public outcry caused by the IPA has probably killed Nicola Roxon's attempt to shut down freedom of speech in this country. The IPA took the lead on the Human Rights Bill and we're taking the lead on media regulation - all in the name of protecting our basic rights.

  • Last Tuesday, on the day the legislation was released we produced this short video and put out this press release explaining how bad the laws are.
  • The next day the IPA's James Paterson had this devastating article in The Australian explaining the real motivations behind the government's attack on the media.
  • Since then, IPA staff have appeared everywhere in the media talking about the threats to freedom of the press including Tim Wilson here and James Paterson here.

As part of our fight for freedom of speech I'm pleased to announce today to IPA members that former justice of the High Court, Ian Callinan AC QC has agreed to provide pro bono advice to the IPA on whether the government's media laws can be challenged in the High Court. If the laws pass in the next few days we need to be ready to defend our freedoms using every avenue available to us. Mr. Callinan's important message about freedom of speech, that you can read here, received prominent nationwide media coverage.

I can't think of anything the team at the IPA does that is more important than to fight for freedom of speech. But even as I write those words I'm a bit incredulous to think that in this day and age in this country we actually need to be still fighting for something as basic and important as freedom of speech. It shows you. We cannot take our basic liberties for granted. And for proof that we can never take freedom for granted look no further than the Andrew Bolt case, the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, and now the Gillard government's media regulations. That's why now - in the IPA's 70th year - the IPA is needed more than ever. Thank you for your support for all that we do.



John Roskam
Executive Director

Institute of Public Affairs

Mobile 0415 475 673 | Phone 03 9600 4744 | Fax 03 9602 4989 | Email [email protected]
Web | Address Level 2, 410 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000

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From: John Roskam
Sent: Wednesday, 20 March 2013 7:54 PM
To: IPA members
Subject: Freedom, Freedom of Speech, and the IPA

Dear IPA member,

This afternoon in Canberra the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus officially announced the Gillard government has abandoned their dangerous draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill - the law that would have made it unlawful to express a political opinion that could offend someone. As the IPA's James Paterson explains in this new video, which we made straight after the announcement, the IPA has secured a major victory for freedom of speech.

I want to let you know exactly what we have been doing to fight for free speech since we got the tip off yesterday that this announcement was coming.

It was at about 4.10pm yesterday afternoon in Parliament House in Canberra. Chris Berg and Simon Breheny had just finished giving evidence to the Senate inquiry on the Gillard government's laws to control the media. They received a tip off that the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was going to announce that the government was dropping its proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill.

As you know this was the law that was going to make it unlawful to express a political opinion if someone was offended. This was the law that assumed you were guilty unless you could prove your innocence. This was the law that restricted the rights of defendants to legal representation. This was truly one of the most dangerous laws the country had seen. If the law had been enacted it would have struck a decisive blow against freedom of speech, and ultimately freedom itself. That's because freedom of speech is the freedom to both express an opinion and to hear that opinion. Freedom of speech is the freedom to make up your own mind.

Chris and Simon immediately rang me here at the IPA office to let me know. What we did then was prepare the IPA's media announcement if the story was true. As it turned out the story was true. When it was confirmed just after midnight that the government 'was not proceeding' with the legislation James Paterson organised for our media announcement to be released at 5.00am this morning. You can read it here. At 3.00am Simon was on the phone to the producers of the ABC's breakfast programs. This afternoon James Paterson recorded a video for IPA members explaining exactly what's happened.

(I've sent to every IPA member a detailed package of materials about our work on the laws. If you haven't received that package yet it's because you've only recently joined and I'll be sending it to you in the next week or so.)

Why did we do all of this overnight? After all the government had already finally conceded it was dumping the legislation and anything the IPA said after the fact wouldn't change what had already happened. There are two reasons.

The first reason was that I wanted IPA members to take the credit for what happened. The IPA survives because of the voluntary donations of our members and supporters. If it wasn't for those members and supporters I honestly believe the laws might have passed. You have to remember that for the first three weeks after the then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon revealed the proposed laws it was only the IPA that was warning the public about how dangerous the laws were.

Simon personally emailed every single member of the Commonwealth parliament within days of the legislation appearing, warning them of what was about to happen. However most of the media and legal commentators treated the laws as pretty ho-hum and they took Nicola Roxon at her word when she said the proposed laws were merely a 'consolidation' of existing legislation. If the IPA doesn't explain what we do, and why we do it we won't get donations and we won't continue to grow.

The second reason it was so important to declare the government's backdown as a victory for freedom of speech is that politicians need to know that people care about their freedoms. One of the most heartening things from all of the IPA's fight against the laws was not just the phone calls and emails from IPA members asking how they could help, but also all the calls and emails from members of the public who had seen what we'd said about the laws in the newspapers, or on radio, or on television and that they wanted to know how they could join the IPA.

When we fought against the Gillard government's laws we weren't just fighting for freedom of speech for the IPA 2,877 members. We were fighting for freedom of speech for every single Australian.

Back on Wednesday, 5 October 2011 when the IPA took out the full page advertisement in The Australian after the Andrew Bolt case that's exactly the point we made. The headline was 'Freedom of speech is fundamental to a free society. The Andrew Bolt case shows freedom of speech in Australia is under threat. It is alarming that in 2011 someone can be taken to court for expressing an opinion. We support freedom of speech for Andrew Bolt and every Australian.' That was in 2011. Since then the attacks on our freedoms have intensified - and the need for the IPA's voice for freedom has only grown.

Reflecting on everything that's happened between 20 November last year - which is when the laws were made public - and today, three points strike me:

1) The opponents of freedom - of which there are many - are funded by the government. The defenders of freedom - of which there are few - are funded by voluntary donations. Let's name some of the supporters of what the Gillard government was trying to do. In addition to government ministers themselves of course, there was, for example, the Australian Human Rights Commission (funded by taxpayers), various state-based Anti-Discrimination Commissions (funded by taxpayers), and the Human Rights Law Centre (funded by taxpayers). The IPA gets no money from the government. And we don't want any money from the government. In Australia today we face a dangerous situation whereby government gives money to organisations which promote the government getting more control over our lives.

2) This issue of government control needs to be explored more. Those who support more government control over what can and can't be said by private individuals and by the media claim that government control over speech and thought is necessary to promote tolerance and diversity, and that if the government doesn't control what people say and think then potentially a situation could arise as occurred in Europe in the last century. The Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus made this explicit point in a speech in November last year. Dreyfus and others misremember history - the tragedy of Europe of the twentieth century didn't occur because government had too little power over the lives of people. A free and open society where people are free to argue and to debate and to be proved wrong is the best, and ultimately, the only protection against hate.

3) The people who you would expect to defend freedom didn't. Overwhelmingly the political left supported what the Gillard government was trying to do. Once upon a time the left wanted to emancipate people. Now in 2013 the left want to control people. There is simply no understanding of how important and how fragile our basic rights are. And that's why the IPA's Foundations of Western Civilisation Program is so vital. We need to tell people about the battles for freedom throughout history. Right now under the Gillard government's National Curriculum (which by the way all the state governments have signed up to) our schoolchildren are being taught that all rights come from the government. The consequences of this approach is of course that if we assume all rights come from the government then what the government gives, the government can take away. Human rights like the right to freedom of speech is not the gift of politicians. Freedom of speech is basic and inalienable. (If you'd like to see what the left think about freedom in Australia today, if you haven't seen it already watch this clip from the Insiders program on Sunday.)

Finally I'd like to say just how proud I am of all of the IPA team and how proud I am of IPA members. After I wrote to you all and told you what an IPA member in New South Wales said to me I received many comments telling me how much others felt the same way. This is what IPA member, Chris Harrington said to me over the phone one day:

‘My two grandfathers didn't fight on the Western Front in the First World War; my father didn't fight in Burma in the Second World War; and my mother wasn't a fire lookout in South London during the War so that my children in Australia in 2012 would suffer under a law that makes it against the law to express a political opinion if you offend someone.'

My own personal experience is a bit different from Chris'. My parents came to Australia from Europe after the Second World War. My father from the Netherlands, my mother from Poland. Australia as a free country gave my parents, and millions of others everything. For that I will forever be grateful. And that's why I work at the IPA. My parents, my family, and my children have the freedom that Chris' grandfathers and his mother and his father fought for.

There will be other battles to fight and win. Right now in parliament there's the media laws. And before long there'll be others. Laws like the one that sent Andrew Bolt to court, laws that take away people's private property without compensation, laws that remove the right to silence and which reverse the onus of proof must go.
But for the moment we've had a victory for freedom and for human liberty.

As an IPA member thank you for being a part of that victory.


John Roskam

Executive Director
Institute of Public Affairs

Mobile 0415 475 673 | Phone 03 9600 4744 | Fax 03 9602 4989 | Email [email protected]
Web | Address Level 2, 410 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000

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From: Simon Breheny
Sent: Friday, 22 March 2013 3:55 PM
To: IPA members
Subject: IPA fights for media freedom...and wins! Thanks to you!

Dear IPA member,

Yesterday afternoon the IPA and Australia had a huge victory for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Stephen Conroy surrendered his one-man mission (in conjunction with the Greens) to kill a free press in Australia.

The IPA has fought this fight for more than a year.

On Tuesday 28 February 2012, the Institute of Public Affairs was holding a sold-out event in Brisbane with the great Mark Steyn. Mark was in Australia on a freedom of speech tour sponsored by the IPA, talking about the travesty of the Andrew Bolt case.

That very day, Julia Gillard's hand-picked adviser on how to impose state control over the media, Ray Finkelstein, gave his report to government.

When everyone here at the IPA read the Finkelstein report we could not believe what was in it. Frankly, Finkelstein's proposals were totalitarian. He wanted the press to be accountable to a government-appointed regulator. The IPA hit the media within hours. We demanded the report be rejected outright. We immediately recognised that "the proposals are an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech in Australia."

The Gillard government instituted the Finkelstein inquiry to meet the demands of the Greens, a fringe, extremist political party. When the Finkelstein inquiry was first announced, the IPA's Chris Berg wrote about the obvious "risks to press and speech freedom." Chris also appeared as a witness before Finkelstein on 9 November 2011 and told him that restrictions on our free press were completely unacceptable.

When communications minister Stephen Conroy finally announced the Gillard government's response to Finkelstein last week it wasn't much better. Instead of the News Media Council we were told the Australian media needed a (government-appointed) "Public Interest Media Advocate" to police their work.
But in little more than one week, Conroy and the government have been forced to back down.

This is a huge victory for freedom of speech, and it comes off the back of another win earlier this week in the government's decision to abandon Nicola Roxon's proposed anti-discrimination laws. Today I've written an article in The Australian about how all governments should learn from this saga and stop trampling on freedom of speech.

It's disturbing to think how close we came to losing our freedoms through the political crusades of the Greens and the Labor party.

It's important to remember that this battle wasn't won in just the last two weeks. Victories like this take years of work to achieve. The IPA has been fighting the Gillard government's push for media regulation from day one. To give you a taste of what we've produced over just the last eighteen months:

  • IPA staff have had 23 articles published in Australian newspapers and online defending press freedom
  • The IPA put out 7 press releases to alert the media about the threat to free speech
  • We've put together a submission to the Finkelstein review, and we've twice appeared as witnesses to give evidence before these inquiries. (Including in the Senate just this week.)
  • We wrote to Stephen Conroy, coalition spokesman Malcolm Turnbull and Greens spokesman Scott Ludlam demanding the laws be rejected
  • The IPA launched an online campaign which generated thousands of emails to Conroy, Turnbull and Ludlam from concerned citizens opposing the laws

And this list doesn't include the dozens and dozens of radio interviews and television appearances, nor the dozens of times we have been quoted in articles condemning these proposals.

This is a fight we've taken up because we understand how important it is. A free press is a vital feature of a democracy like ours. This sort of government intrusion in the press is completely unacceptable if democracy is to survive in this country.

It's also essential that there is someone to take up the fight to defend a free press when threats to it emerge. The IPA has proudly taken up arms in this battle and we'll continue doing so if and when these threats ever arise again.

But none of what we do is possible without you - our members. We couldn't have written those articles, we couldn't have made submissions to the parliament and we would not have defeated these dangerous attempts to shackle our democracy.

So thank you. Thank you for being an IPA member and for the generous donations so many of you have made to fund this important work.

There will be more challenges in the future. There are other threats to freedom of speech. For example, the taxpayer-funded Australian Human Rights Commission continues to lobby the government for more restrictions on our freedom to speak and freedom to hear.

This is why I'm so proud to come to work every day as the director of the Legal Rights Project, defending our most fundamental freedoms.

What happened yesterday comes off the back of what happened on Wednesday when the IPA had a victory over the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012. What a week for freedom!

Warm regards


Simon Breheny
Director, Legal Rights Project

Institute of Public Affairs

Mobile 0400 967 382 | Phone 03 9600 4744 | Fax 03 9602 4989 | Email [email protected]
Web | Address Level 2, 410 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000

Become a member of the IPA today | Subscribe to ‘Hey…what did I miss?’

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