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FREEDOM OF SPEECH
These organisations are not obliged to publish
The first amendment to the US constitution provides only that ‘‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press’’. Even this is not absolute, with the Supreme Court identifying limitations, including the right of the government to restrict speech intended to incite ‘‘imminent lawless action’’.
Non-government organisations are not obliged to publish speech of which they disapprove, which violates any terms, conditions, or standards that they may choose to apply, or which may expose them to legal, reputational or commercial harm. Twitter has to give Donald Trump a platform no more than The Age is obliged to publish this letter.
Claims that suspension of Trump’s social media accounts violates freedom of speech (‘‘Call for new social media rules after Trump bans’’, The Age 11/1) are misconceived. The joining of this chorus by certain conservative Australian politicians – remember the calls for Twitter to take down a ‘‘repugnant’’ image posted by a Chinese official – smacks of a double standard.
Dominance of a small number of powerful tech companies undoubtedly presents challenges for democratic institutions. But the answer to these challenges does not lie in an autocratic impulse to impose control on otherwise legitimate corporate decisions.
Mark Summerfield, Northcote
The current legal safeguards are not sufficient
It is not very comforting that the reaction of some conservative Australian parliamentarians to the events in Washington last week is indignation that Donald Trump was prevented from inciting further uprising via Twitter and other social media.
The extraordinary situation under which such a ban might even need to be contemplated is apparently a secondary issue, if that.
The response by Tim Wilson that incitement to violence should only be addressed by some legal process after the event is particularly disingenuous.
The events in question have just demonstrated that such safeguards are insufficient to forestall an attempt to disrupt a constitutional process by the holder of executive power.
Helmut Simon, Thomson
Free speech and hate speech are different
There is a massive difference between free speech and hate speech and in a civilised society we must strongly condemn the latter.
Well done to the big tech and social media companies for removing platforms and accounts that provide a mouthpiece for speech like this.
Julie Perry, Highton
Bans only push these notions underground
A democratic society requires freedom of expression; even highly unsavoury and disagreeable thoughts must be allowed to ventilate so that they can be judged in the ‘‘marketplace’’ of ideas. We can’t keep pretending that social media lives within its own realm detached from society. Today, it is the modern agora.
Social media’s concentrated control of the social discourse should be no less concerning than that which News Corp holds over much of traditional media. Perhaps, even more so. These conglomerates have had enormous influence on global happenings such as elections, popular culture and health mandates. Their murky, unchecked discretion is troubling given the resounding impacts.
But banning individuals from social media in a digital society such as ours is public banishment. Troubling notions will be reinforced and pushed underground below the scrutiny which they otherwise receive from millions of people. The roots of these problems will remain buried and unaddressed, always lingering and continuing to fracture society.
Social media is a mirror to society; we might look away from it but it doesn’t change the reality.
Instead of blaming the mirror for displaying a reflection, it’s time to truly engage with and arrest the causes of what is unfolding.
Max Sandler, St Kilda East
A bureaucratic solution
Your editorial (‘‘Indigenous Voice model not enough’’, The Age, 11/1), identifies the inherent flaw in the federal government’s discussion paper: how it deviates from the key recommendation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart relating to the call for a Makaratta Commission on ‘‘truth telling’’ about Australia’s Indigenous history and the idea of a treaty.
Without the latter issues being addressed, we are left with yet another bureaucratic advisory solution far removed from the statement’s eloquent and profound references to ‘‘sovereignty as a spiritual notion’’ and to a country ‘‘coming together after a struggle’’.
When will federal Coalition leaders comprehend the vital necessity of endorsing the Yolngu people’s Makaratta concept of confronting, and resolving, wrongs done? Of acknowledging the well-documented historic massacres of thousands of Indigenous people by white colonists acting in a quasi-military fashion and with genocidal intent from 1788 to 1930?
History matters. Supposedly pragmatic, ahistorical bureaucratic tinkering continues to get in the way of reconciliation. Another instance of ‘‘nothing changes, all is the same’’.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza
Punching above its weightWhile noting and agreeing with the comment (‘‘US Senate voting system is seriously flawed’’, Letters, 11/1), it should be noted, also, that the Australian Senate is in no less a parlous state. For the 12 senators to be elected in each state a vote in Tasmania (pop. 540,000) is worth 14 times more than a vote in NSW (pop. 8 million).
The only way to change this is a change to the constitution, and that would involve leadership that is sadly lacking in either situation.
John Kellett, Bundoora
Aim for the foxes …
Your correspondent (‘‘Why are they in charge?’’, Letters, 11/1) raises important points about duck shooting. He writes just 0.1 per cent of Victorians now shoot ducks but they have accounted for the death of 300,000 waterbirds in two years.
Clearly this destruction of many of our native species must stop. However, there are some people who do enjoy shooting as a pastime. In March this year, Agriculture Victoria will resume the bounty program, which pays $10 for a fox scalp and $120 for a wild dog carcass.
Perhaps the duck shooters might display their prowess with a gun and make a few dollars at the same time benefiting the community by getting rid of some feral pests, a true win win.
It’s time to stop duck shooting.
Pieter van Wessem, Balwyn
… leave the ducks alone
Forty years ago this year I had heated workplace discussions about duck shooting with committed hunters. I ridiculed them calling it a sport saying it would be one when the ducks could shoot back. They’d never heard such a notion and considered me crazy.
All these years on I’m aghast we still haven’t banned duck shooting. I’m even more amazed there are any ducks left.
Mark Freeman, Macleod
It’s better all round
I agree with David Lamb (‘‘The answer’s on the plate’’, Letters, 11/1), we don’t need to find ways to reduce flatulence in cows, we simply need to stop breeding them. We have an abundance of wholesome and delicious plant-based food at our fingertips so there’s no need to eat cows, and in the dairy industry, the practice of forcing cows to give birth each year then killing their babies just so farmers can profit from selling their milk to humans is appalling.
The animal industry inflicts enormous suffering on animals so phasing it out would undoubtedly be better for them, but it would also be better for the environment and better for our own health.
Jenny Moxham, Monbulk
Courage is required
What needs to be done in this country when untruths are spread via social media platforms by our parliamentarians without serious repercussions?
Witness the United States, where senior Republican leaders meekly stood by as their President repeatedly spread untruths, falsehoods and lies for the entire four years of his presidency.
Shame on those who who let him bully them for political gain. They had the power all along to act against this man, but courage was nowhere to be found.
So with inflammatory rhetoric as the icing on his tiered cake of lies, he manipulated the existing racial, economic and cultural divisions of his fellow Americans to fever pitch, threatening democracy in the United States.
Courage here is required now by Liberal Party leaders Scott Morrison and Michael O’Brien, to forcefully condemn those in the party who promote falsehoods and untruths. There should be zero tolerance and serious repercussions for those parliamentarians who deceive us and play political power games.
The truth is what matters most always.
Deanna McKeown, Mount Martha
Get them off the island
Given the riots, use of tear gas and buildings being set on fire on Christmas Island, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton needs to heed his responsibility for the psychological health and welfare of the refugee children being held there.
He should return them to Biloela, where they were safe.
Rosita Vila, Aireys Inlet
We like the quirks
Idiosyncrasies are why we watch fabulous sportswomen and men, listen to great musicians, follow great writers and bands and revere artists who see the world through their own particular lens.
We don’t want them to bat like ‘‘normal’’ or sing like everyone else or think in pedestrian ways.
Shane Warne needs to stop smirking behind the shelter shed, bringing down those who have wings to fly. Maybe commentate on tennis – there are many idiosyncrasies to be found there.
And, by the way, most microphones have an on and off switch. Worth checking out, I think.
Chris Dickins, Fish Creek
A new ‘new deal’ is needed
In the US, an angry giant of an exploited populace has begun to stir and with good reason. Since the 1980s, the US has been a laboratory for privatisation, deregulation, and globalisation. Tax on the wealthy has been reduced. Industries exported; whole cities left as wasteland. The trickle-down experiment became a syphon up result, incomes of working people stagnated.
Trump brilliantly harnessed this anguish blaming immigrants and foreign countries for the loss of the middle-class dream while simultaneously enriching the top 5 per cent of the population; his millions of devoted supporters were conned.
To avoid further and possibly worse upheaval, the whole US political class should stop talking in tongues, ignore the donors and lobbyists and deal with this inequitable situation.
A “new deal” far beyond the platitudes now on offer is required.
Amanda Glew, Wantirna South
Here’s to the premiers
Thank goodness the state premiers forced the Prime Minister’s hand when COVID-19 struck in Australia or we would have finished up like Great Britain and the US. Neither country listened to the experts and both countries put their economy before the lives of people. Both countries had conservatives in charge who thought they could ignore the deadly virus.
Scott Morrison and his Treasurer wanted to go down the same route.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North
Tennis isn’t mentioned
The federal government, on its webpage titled ‘‘Coronavirus advice for international travellers’’ advises that quarantine ‘‘involves staying in a room for 14 days with no visitors’’.
There’s no mention anywhere of tennis practice.
Anita White, Kew
I’m not persuaded
The article ‘‘Line Ball’’ (The Sunday Age, 10/1) did little to persuade me Melbourne should be hosting the Australian Open tennis in 2021. Having regard to our current favourable situation in relation to COVID control, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley wants to boost our psyche and showcase our success to the world.
Is that what Melburnians need or want? I would think that our first concern is to maintain what we have gained at such great personal and social cost.
I am also struggling to understand the Premier’s logic in talking up the fact that this will be the only major tennis event to be held in a relatively COVID-free city.
I realise that money and livelihoods are at stake here, but one cannot help but feel the risk being undertaken by state authorities disrespects the sacrifices and efforts made by Victorians during 2020.
Terry Harrison, Mount Waverley
No ‘right’ to be published
Just who is impinging upon your free speech, George Christensen, or Donald Trump’s for that matter?
So far as I am aware, you, and he, may stand on any street corner of your choice and spout whatever rubbish that rattles around in your head on the day. What you do not have a right to is to be published.
I am writing this letter to a major newspaper, exercising my right to free speech, but it will be the editor who decides upon publication. You may think your opinion deserves to be widely circulated, but here’s the thing, it’s just your opinion.
Alan Whittaker, Kew East
Some just walk on by
The Prime Minister, Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister have now had numerous opportunities to condemn the rantings of fellow government members such as George Christensen and Craig Kelly and the inaccurate conspiracy theories and utter nonsense that they peddle. But no such rebuke is forthcoming.
The aforementioned leaders should pay heed to the old maxim that the behaviour you walk past is the standard that you accept and endorse.
Or is the lurch to a Trumpian dystopia with an ever increasing number of conservative politicians adhering to this nonsense so inevitable for the conservative side of Australian politics they are merely accepting of what will become standard practice in the future.
Graeme Gardner, Reservoir
AND ANOTHER THING
The Facebook, Twitter and Instagram bans on Donald Trump – too little, too late.
Astrid Browne, Wantirna South
It is time for local Trump supporters like George Christensen and Bernie Finn to go back into the woodwork.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South
A new word for 2021: the USA has been unpresidented.
Simon Costello, Melbourne
Given the burgeoning array of plant-based, tasty and nutritious foods available nowadays, many consumers agree with David Lamb’s point of view about meat substitutes (‘‘The answer’s on the plate’’, Letters, 11/1).
Jan Kendall, Mount Martha
If Craig Kelly stops telling the medical experts what COVID-19 studies to accept, I expect they will refrain from telling him how to sell furniture.
Ross Tanner, West End, Qld
Until the NSW premier is as strict as our premier regarding COVID restrictions, we must keep the NSW border closed. They clearly have a more relaxed approach.
Lauryn Paget, Mount Evelyn
Who are you (‘‘White-collar crime is no less heinous’’, Comment, 11/9) and what have you done with Amanda Vanstone? Gary Sayer, Warrnambool
Amanda you have excelled yourself. You have managed to put succinctly what letter writers have been on about for some time.
Anne Flanagan, Box Hill North
Department of Words
‘‘Now many people are flaunting the mask rules” (Letters, 9/1). With feathers and sequins perhaps?
Wendy Batros, Templestowe
Why are spectators ejected from sports arenas for racial abuse instead of being charged? Are police now judge and jury?
Mike Pantzopoulos, Ashburton
Seems like Victoria bashing is still all the go particularly in NSW.
Marie Nash, Balwyn
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