Thursday, May 17, 2007

Julian Burnside -Enemy of Free Speech?

Julian Burnside has called for politicians who lie to be jailed, in 2005 he was a co recipient of the Free Speech Victoria Voltaire award. According to their website it is given on the following grounds - "FREE SPEECH VICTORIA honours citizens who have done the most to defend the right to speak freely with an annual award, called The Voltaire."

I have written to Terry Lane and Franciscus Henri asking that FSV withdraw Burnsides award. Below is a copy of an article I have submitted for their on-line magazine 'Speakeasy'. If I get a reply or the article gets published I will post it. The sad thing is that an organisation like FSV could have been a wonderful thing if it had been apolitical from the start however it appears to have been founded by the usual crowd of left wingers, they are keen on freedom for themselves but not the rest of us. Funny how the left always emerges on the side of oppression.


Dear Mr Henri

I submit the following article for your speakeasy papers.

Stephen Williams

The following is taken directly from the Free Speech Victoria website.

“We have supported individuals of all political persuasions in their right to speak freely, without fear of prosecution or penalty. We do not express an opinion on what people say, merely on their right, as free citizens, to say what is on their mind.”

The organisation has an annual award – ‘The Voltaire’ the recipient of which is deemed to –“Honour citizens who have done the most to defend the right to speak freely with an annual award, called The Voltaire.”
Except for the first award most Voltaire’s seem to have been awarded to those pushing ‘left wing’ political causes. This was most apparent when Julian Burnside and Kate Durham were the recipients in 2005. There has not been a single ‘right of centre’ recipient. I am what I suppose many of the media would call ‘conservative’, I believe in personal freedom, free speech, limited government, free markets and the list goes on. I was initially attracted to ‘Free Speech Vic’ as I was horrified by the attempts by successive governments (Liberal and Labour) to restrict freedom of speech and freedom of information. However I was deterred from joining by the overt political bias of this organisation. There is now a chance that the organisation can demonstrate that it regards freedom of speech higher than political allegiance.
Recently Julian Burnside has called for politicians who lie to be jailed. He made this demand in the context of those who dispute or are sceptical regarding climate change and/or its causes. This is an extraordinary statement for anyone to make much less a champion of free speech. Leaving aside the fact that there is no proof of man caused climate change just a lot of computer models), who would determine that a person was lying? If it was a court how would the burden of proof be determined and whom would it lie on? Why restrict this to politicians and where would it end? This proposal from Burnside is the anathema of free speech. I therefore ask that Free Speech Victoria request Mr Burnside to return his award and if he refuses that FSV makes a public statement saying that his award has been withdrawn even if he refuses to return it.
FSV could have been a great agent for free speech and change in Victoria however unless it actively becomes a non-political organisation it will die a slow death. This is a chance to remake FSV if the chance is not taken then the state will be poorer for it.
P.S. I have emailed Terry Lane about this award and having it withdrawn he has not yet returned any message.