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SOCIAL MEDIA AND FREE SPEECH
Acting PM fails to grasp what the concept means
Our acting Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, argues that if Twitter was acting responsibly when banning Donald Trump’s social media posts how can it justify keeping the doctored post from China showing an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.
He is beyond understanding of what free speech means. The Chinese post is pure propaganda. This is permitted as part of free speech. Nowhere did the picture tell anyone to take to the streets. It cost no lives but certainly caused embarrassment.
In his speech to his ardent followers, who had been encouraging each other to go wild, President Trump told them to march on Congress. They did his bidding and five lives were lost and politicians and staff were scared to the bone. If our acting Prime Minister can’t see the difference then he should resign.
John Rome, Mount Lawley, WA
We are already not free to say anything we want
Some of our senior Coalition politicians, including the acting Prime Minister, seem to think freedom of speech means freedom to say anything. We are not free to run into a school assembly of 500 students and yell ‘‘Fire!’’ if there’s isn’t a fire.
We are not free to say we are someone else in order to obtain goods or services by deception. We are not free to tell lies about others (there are defamation laws to curb it). We are certainly not free to incite violence, as Donald Trump did.
Shame on the few Australian politicians attacking Twitter and other social media outlets for dumping Trump and falsely linking the issue to freedom of speech. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech.
David Hornsby, Carlton.
Our ‘freedom of speech’ will be news to this woman
The acting Prime Minister defends George Christensen and others promoting Trumpian and other conspiracy theories by saying it’s a free country and that we have freedom of speech.
That will be news to Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who was hounded out of the country following her 2017 Anzac Day social media post: ‘‘Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine …)’’.
Noel Turnbull, Port Melbourne
It’s irresponsible to gloss over this
Serious situations like the pandemic magnify the danger of MPs like George Christensen, who has tweeted ‘‘masks & lockdown don’t work’’.
It is way beyond irresponsible for the acting Prime Minister to try to gloss over this by saying we all have free speech. This, along with all the other brainless inflammatory comments, must be addressed for the safety of our community. The dangerous example of Donald Trump could not be more in our face .
Julie Conquest, Brighton
The logic has gone missing in action
I am sure that if I was to stand on a soapbox in any capital city and spout utter nonsense that either endangered public health, incited a riot or a storming of Parliament I would rightly be swiftly dealt with under a number of existing laws.
Yet according to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, if government members such as George Christensen, Craig Kelly and others do so on social media they should be allowed to do so because otherwise it would constitute a breach of their right to free speech and be considered censorship.
Where is the logic in this?
Geoff McNamara, Newry
An ignominious response to an immediate imperative
Australia, internationally recognised as a climate laggard, has another stance to be proud of thanks to Michael McCormack.
Michael McCormack’s strident criticism of Twitter’s decision to block Donald Trump when it cited the ‘‘risk of further incitement of violence’’ is an ignominious response to an immediate imperative.
His is an ignorant, ideologically-driven and ill-informed concept of free speech.
Stephen Morley, Blackburn
Two takes on capitalism
Interesting angles on capitalism were presented by Amanda Vanstone (‘‘White-collar crime is no less heinous’’) and Tim Soutphommasane (‘‘Republic needs to revisit Plato’’) in The Age (Comment, 11/1).
Vanstone says that ‘‘capitalism has done wonders for the world’’ while Soutphommasane suggests that the narcissistic populist Donald Trump ‘‘is arguably as much a product of the culture of global capitalism as he is of America’’.
Perhaps Amanda should take Soutphommasane’s advice to reflect upon Plato’s caution that the inherent weakness of democracy is that it exposes the whole process to the passions of the mob.
She could well remove her rose-coloured glasses to acknowledge, as Soutphommasane does, that our beloved country continues to ‘‘show signs of social decay amid abundance and strength’’.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham
Decades in the making
With so much outrage and reporting focused on Donald Trump’s actions it is pleasing to read more in depth analysis of United States society today.
As Trump has said, ‘‘This country was seriously divided before I got here.’’
As Tim Soutphommasane has written, a democracy needs elites to set things right. Unfortunately many elites, including Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have failed dismally to create a united, fair and just society.
This is also discussed in more detail in an outstanding report by Stan Grant (ABC online, 10/1)
It would be a mistake for Australians to think the removal of Trump will solve the parlous state of US society … it has been decades in the making and a warning to other democracies such as Australia to watch, listen, learn but not follow.
Iris Owen, East Geelong
Ask yourself this
I’m getting tired of reading interstate traveller complaints about border closures.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Sudden border closures and lockdowns will be a routine part of our lives for the foreseeable future. If Australians wish to travel interstate they need to ask themselves two questions: Do I really need to travel, and, can I manage remaining interstate for an extended period of time if required?
If the answer to both these questions is yes, then travel. If not, stay put.
Monica Clarke, Port Melbourne
We can do the right thing
If 2020 has shown our politicians one thing, it is that Australians will do what is right, above what is easy – or popular. The lockdowns were hard. They were stressful and challenging. But we did what was necessary because we understood why we were doing it and what was at stake.
The message from scientists and our political leaders was clear: Get the virus under control quickly to save lives and return to some semblance of normality. Not in my lifetime have I seen politicians so publicly and consistently follow the advice of scientists.
It was this display of maturity and intelligence – to listen to those more qualified than themselves – that gave the public confidence that the measures we were taking were the right course of action.
When COVID-19 is finally and permanently manageable, I hope the politicians will continue to listen to the scientists and show the leadership they displayed during the pandemic and implement strong, effective and lasting policy to battle the greater threat of climate change.
As a nation of people who clearly care for others, we will do what is right and be the better for it.
Kate Meehan, Rowville
A deafening silence
I wonder why Scott Morrison has not taken the lead and co-ordinated a uniform national approach to combating coronavirus when he was so vocal about his ‘‘border force’’ protecting us from those dangerous refugees. Surely the far more dangerous pandemic warrants this.
Perhaps the Prime Minister’s deafening silence has something to do with not taking any unnecessary political risks.
Geoff Phillips, Wonga Park
Viva free speech
I read with interest Craig Kelly and George Christensen’s reaction to Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter in your story “Call for new social media rules after Trump bans” (The Age, 11/1).
Their argument seems to be that free speech trumps (pardon the pun) the unilateral rights of businesses.
They may be interested to know that in Australia, the High Court has upheld an injunction issued against a worker on a picket line that stopped him from holding a sign that said the word “Scab” on it, we have a regulator (the Australian Building and Construction Commission) that goes into lunchrooms to ensure that hard hats have no union or Southern Cross badge on them, and, in 2017, an injunction was obtained by UGL that ordered the deflation of an inflatable rat called Scabby on an AWU picket on the basis of “bullying”.
We welcome comrades Christensen and Kelly to the defence of free speech in Australia. We look forward to their vociferous disgust the next time the ABCC prosecutes someone for having a union badge on their hard hat. Viva free speech.
Mark Perica, North Melbourne
What if it happened here?
Are Michael McCormack and Josh Frydenberg seriously suggesting that Donald Trump should be free to use social media, at this highly charged time, to spread more falsehoods and to promote rallies potentially designed to fire up his supporters to take direct action to challenge the result of the presidential election?
This is not free speech, rather it is speech designed to promote disharmony, encourage affray and to pressure elected officials in a last-ditch attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s win.
I wonder if our ministers would find it acceptable if Anthony Albanese claimed that he had lost an election due to electoral fraud by his opponents and then shamelessly used social media to spread lies about that election and to orchestrate a campaign encouraging his followers to rise up to overturn the election result. And that he was planning to continue that campaign on social media even after a violent invasion of Parliament by many of his supporters, some of whom were armed.
Garry Meller, Bentleigh
Arm trams with cameras
I am seeing with increasing alarm cars that speed past trams that are at a stop, with the tram driver furiously banging the bell – all to no avail.
A notorious route is 19 along Royal Parade. What do we know about the number of fatalities and injuries that are caused by this behaviour?
Apart from making driver education on this point more insistent, may I suggest a camera be installed on the front left of every tram so that the driver can photograph the passing number-plates?
Ronald Ridley, Fitzroy
Stop kidding ourselves
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says racial slurs like the reported comments from some spectators during the cricket Test would be ‘‘so un-Australian’’ if they were proven to have occurred.
Where has she been living? Certainly not in this country. People like Adam Goodes, Eddie Betts and countless other Indigenous sportsmen and woman would have been disbelieving and hurt by comments like hers.
It’s well past time that we stopped kidding ourselves we are not a racist country. We have a very long way to go before that claim has any truth. It will take a bit more than changing one word in our national anthem.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
A legacy of history
Your correspondent (‘‘US Senate voting system is seriously flawed’’, Letters, 11/9) asserts that the American system appears flawed in allowing smaller states, such as Georgia, to elect two senators while other states with four times the population, such as California, are also limited to two.
Just as with our federated system, this is a legacy of history where small states feared they would never get a decent say in decision making in the Senate.
We are lucky that our state populations are not as disparate in numbers, otherwise we would have the same problem. As it stands, Tasmanians are over-represented in the Senate compared to Victorians, but we can live with that. Our system also sees minor parties commonly elected, adding a variety of voices to the debate.
While frustrating for the party in power in the lower house, it does force it to negotiate strategically with the Senate.
Peter Barry, Marysville
I thought Tim Paine was treated very leniently when given a fine instead of a suspension for the manner in which he spoke towards a Test umpire. Now he is heard via a stump microphone calling an Indian batsman a dickhead.
This is reprehensible leadership from an Australian sporting captain, especially when a young Indian player is claiming he was racially abused by spectators the day before.
If Paine is not suspended then the Australian Cricket Board is virtually condoning such disrespectful behaviour and leaving itself open to justified criticism by the international cricket community.
Peter Cooke, Warrnambool
It’s not behind us
One had hoped that the “bad old days” of behaviour on the Test cricket field had passed us with new understandings about what is not acceptable behaviour following the debacle in South Africa.
No such luck if the Sydney Test is any guide. Many watching or listening to the broadcasts would be appalled by the sledging and the actions of some Australian players. On the other hand, the Indian players under provocation, appeared to maintain their dignity.
It does seem that when under pressure, it is so easy for the Australian team to revert to the “ugly Australian” as a form of attack. They need to undergo some retraining, or give the game away.
Bruce MacKenzie, South Kingsville
AND ANOTHER THING
I would like to thank Craig Kelly and George Christensen for helping me to finally make up my mind to vote Labor in the next election.
Ivan Glynn, Vermont
Has anyone else noticed how much quieter the world has become since Donald Trump’s voice has been silenced?
Margaret Ady, Avondale Heights
Not even Donald Trump’s latest excess has deterred his supporters in the Coalition.
John Walsh, Watsonia
Critics of Senate representation, the same number from every state, small or large, should realise this is deliberate so the interests of smaller states are not dominated by the big boys.
Joan Peverell, Malvern
He also said this …
Yes, Josh Frydenberg, Voltaire defended the right of someone to say something he disagreed with, but he also said “opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes’’.
Martin de Boerr, Coburg
The Aussie cricketers so intent on banter with the Indian batters missed several chances and a win that was otherwise in the bag.
Niri Deshpande, Kew
Why do I find myself, yet again, hoping the Australian team loses?
Lindsay Zoch, East Melbourne
Time to hit the DRS for six – and out.
John Black, Warragul
How did this happen?
What madness has allowed Australia, the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, to be on the verge of becoming a gas importer because of short supply (‘‘Squadron sets flight path for LNG imports’’, Business, 11/1)?
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood
Two words on racial slurs against Indian cricketers, Adam Goodes.
Chris Hooper, Castlemaine
Bravo to trapped and injured Anthony Albanese, who praised the young driver who apologised for causing the recent accident he was in.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood
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