Ep 9 – Free Speech


Neil Young QC and Ron Merkel QC were opposite each other in a case about illegal speech, the case used the Racial Discrimination Act, and they discuss this law and freedom of speech.


Lizzie O’Shea reveals that we do not have a right to free speech in Australia.

Neil Young QC explains that we don’t have a bill of rights in Australia that entrenches a right to free speech. It is mostly an implied idea in our common law.

Lizzie O’Shea explains that our speech is limited by various laws, such as the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). She introduces a case where the journalist Andrew Bolt was taken to court by Aboriginal activist Pat Eatock because of a column he wrote.

Ron Merkel QC, who represented Pat Eatock, explains what part of Andrew Bolt’s columns might contravene RDA limits on free speech.

Neil Young QC, who represented Andrew Bolt, and who lost the case, discusses some of the problems with the current wording of RDA with regards to speech, especially its wide scope, and how low the bar is set for illegal speech.

Ron Merkel QC also poses the question: at what level should racial hate speech be stopped? Is nipping it in the bud the right idea? Or should the bar be set higher before it is illegal?

Lizzie O’Shea wraps up by asking us what we think, what is the right balance between racial vilification laws and freedom of speech?

Curriculum Areas

Years 9/10 civics and citizenship education curriculum in relation to the theme of Law and Citizens.

Years 11/12 Legal Studies
Unit 1: Guilt and liability, Area of Study 3, Civil liability.

Preliminary course: Part II: The individual and the law, 3. Contemporary issue: The individual and technology.
HSC course: Part II of the core: Human rights, 3. Investigate a contemporary issue which illustrates the promotion and/or enforcement of human rights. And Part III: Options, Option 4 : Indigenous peoples.

Core area of study: Human rights, Which current legal issues relate to human rights for Australians? And Elective area of study: Indigenous Australians and the law

Media, Politics and the Law

Useful links