IPA unsure about free speech

The reaction of the Institute of Public Affairs to the Abbott governments backdown on the race-hate proviions Section 18C has been, by its own admission, intemperate (“white hot anger” is the description they used; I think I also saw “ice-cold rage”.

By contrast, the IPA has been much more ambivalent on freedom of speech. I noted a while ago, this piece suggesting that environmentalists who questioned the viability of the coal industry could be prosecuted either under securities legislation or as an illegal secondary boycott. This view isn’t unanimous however. Following some Twitter discussion (must get Storify working properly for things like this) Chris Berg pointed to a piece he’d written arguing against such a use of secondary boycott legislation (and against such legislation in general).

I was, naturally interested in how Freedom Commissioner and former IPA fellow Tim Wilson would respond to proposals to suppress free speech coming from his former organization. However, my Twitter interactions with him were thoroughly unsatisfactory. His initial response to my suggestion that he had been silent was rather snarky

um, go and read the transcript of the last senate estimates I appeared at

I did so, and found only a brief statement that he would be looking at the secondary boycott issue. Pressed, he said the issue would be discussed at the the Free Speech 2014 conference. The day came and I couldn’t find anything relevant in reports of Wilson’s remarks. So, I tweeted again and got the response “Mark Dreyfus just talked about it!

Indeed Mark Dreyfus (Shadow Attorney General) gave a great speech. But I was still interested in what Wilson had to say on the topic. Alas, my tweet on this went unanswered. Judging by a previous response, Wilson intends to duck the issue.

26 thoughts on “IPA unsure about free speech

  1. Ivor :@Nevil Kingston-Brown
    Does this mean that the massive appreciation of natural resources does not belong to the people who created the growth that generated the massive appreciation?
    If you inherit or marry capitalist wealth, how is this not capitalist wealth?

    Generally I take a pretty Georgist attitude to questions of land value appreciation (and, by extension, mineral rights appreciation), which is that the increase in value of the property belongs to the community. In the case of mining it’s necessary to separate the “unearned” component of deposits increasing in value without effort from the “earned” component which comes from exploration, negotiating rights, digging it up, getting it to market, etc. That is why I said that Twiggy & Gina are capitalists, but the scale of their wealth, the thing that separates them from your average large business owner, comes from the increase in the value of their mineral resources. Since the start of the mining boom, those resources would be vastly more valuable, and whoever controlled them would be rich, regardless of whether they lifted a single shovel.

    In our context, by your argument, the growth that generated the massive appreciation in iron ore, coal, etc was the expansion of the Chinese economy, and the people who created it are the Chinese. So are you advocating we turn our natural resources over to China?

    The wealth might have its origins in capitalism. That doesn’t make the person inheriting or otherwise gaining the wealth a capitalist, unless they continue to invest it in a capitalist business. Otherwise every trust fund wastrel or white collar embezzler would be a capitalist.

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