Mainstream Australians Overwhelmingly Support Free Speech

Written by:
22 February 2021
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A new poll of 1,038 Australians commissioned by free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has found that Australians overwhelmingly support freedom of speech, according to new polling commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs, despite growing calls for censorship of the news media.

The poll data was collected by marketing research firm Dynata between 11-13 December 2020. It asked Australians to agree or disagree with the statement: “Freedom of speech is an important Australian value.”

  • 87% agree
  • 9% neither agree nor disagree
  • 4% disagree

Australians’ unambiguous support for free speech comes amid demands for a ‘Murdoch Royal Commission’, an ongoing Senate inquiry into the news media, and censorship of content by tech giants.

“Australia’s political and cultural elites obsession with censoring the free press flies in the face of Australians’ strong belief for freedom of speech,” said IPA Director of Policy Gideon Rozner, co-author of the report.

The disconnect between community support for freedom of speech and attempts by Australia’s political and cultural elite to regulate the media is discussed in a new report from the IPA, also released today, Media Diversity and Press Freedom: The debate over Australia’s news media landscape.

“The likes of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull want to trample over private media organisations, and the many Australians who subscribe to them. This is not about genuine ‘media diversity’, but rather seeks to narrow the range of viewpoints in the public square.”

“Terms like ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’, which are increasingly used by political and cultural elite to delegitimise democratic will. The notion that the media should be ‘accountable’ for what the state deems to be ‘misinformation’ should terrify the vast majority of Australians who support freedom of speech.”

“It is media’s role to hold the government to account, not the other way around. Having the media inquire into the activities of government is a basic staple of democracy. Having the government inquire into the activities of the media is inherently tyrannical,” Mr Rozner said.

Rather than impose greater regulation on the news media, the report recommends that the government remove the existing legal impediments to a free, open and diverse media landscape.

“Defamation and vilification laws are both excessively broad restrictions on speech which make it unlawful to engage in speech that offends other people. Suppression orders and limitations to freedom of information schemes also unduly restrict the media from reporting on important matters relating to the administration of justice and the actions of government agencies and ministers,” said Mr Rozner.

Similarly, the IPA has repeated calls to rethink public broadcasting.

“The ABC competes against private media organisations for advertising with taxpayer funds. This crowds out emerging and competing media in Australia’s private media market.

“A media organisation owned and operated by the government that every taxpayer is forced to fund through their taxes is incompatible with a free society,” said Mr Rozner.

Download the report.

Download the poll.

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