find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Wilson calls for HRC basic freedoms inquiry

Wilson calls for HRC basic freedoms inquiry

tim-wilson

This Law Week, the human rights commissioner will reignite debate on whether legislation enacted by the Abbott Government, including the controversial metadata laws, impinge on basic freedoms.

Tim Wilson (pictured) said the Human Rights Commission (HRC) is well placed to launch an inquiry into legislation that restricts basic liberties, such as the metadata retention scheme and the Foreign Fighters Bill.

He was speaking to Lawyers Weekly ahead of Law Week’s “Talking Justice” event to be held in Bendigo, Victoria on 16 May, where he will participate in a panel discussion titled Engagement in a Context of Hostility.

Mr Wilson claimed that, as commissioner, his role is to champion the protection of individual rights, but fell short of defending SBS sports reporter Scott McIntyre, who was dismissed for provocative tweets sent from his private account over the Anzac weekend.

The incident has divided commentators, with some claiming the termination of Mr McIntyre’s employment wrongfully encroached on his right to freedom of speech.

But Mr Wilson said he has little sympathy for employees who are fired for publicly expressing a private view.

He claimed the burden is entirely on employees to be appropriate and responsible in the public sphere and abide by the voluntary contracts they have signed.

However, social media guidelines “in principle” should not limit employees “continued participation in free society”, he added.

“No employer limits someone’s freedom of speech by establishing guidelines,” he said. “People have the right to free speech whether they are employed or not.”

SBS’ code of conduct would have permitted questioning and criticism of Australia’s involvement in wars and even the conduct of Anzacs, he explained.

Mr Wilson argues that part of the problem is the culture of outrage, whereby minor indiscretions or unfortunate remarks get blown out of proportion on social media and can end careers.

“What we need is a culture where people are free to express themselves and people don’t indulge in confected outrage.”

HRC president Gillian Triggs takes a different view, writing in The Age this month: “Unlike all other Common Law countries, Australia has no bill of rights and few laws to protect the right to freedom of speech.

“While we may say what we please, subject to defined prohibitions, a practical, chilling outcome of freedom of speech is that we must suffer the consequences if that speech is also a breach of an employment contract.”

While abiding by the ethics and values of our employers may seem like a reasonable constraint, it creates issues when the employer is in the wrong or breaking the law, she added.

Other commentators have argued that there is no practical difference between the state and an employer restricting freedom of speech, as losing one's job is incentive enough for most workers to keep silent.

The president and commissioner may disagree over whether employer codes of conduct limit free speech, but both have raised concerns over the potential of recent anti-terror laws to restrict basic liberties.

For example, the metadata retention scheme lacks the necessary safeguards to make sure new powers of surveillance are as targeted as possible, according to Mr Wilson.

He said these safeguards should include proper oversight and transparency around which sorts of crime can attract an investigation of stored data.

“The role of security has a place; sometimes there is a shift in the need to accommodate based on prevalent and existing threats,” he said.

“But the way to deal with [these threats] is to make any measure temporary and specific and not give government too much broad-based power.”

Speaking more generally about the forms of surveillance that exist in Australia, Mr Wilson said: “[The] commission could do an inquiry or review looking at the full spectrum of issues that exist around retaining data and making sure that high standards are applied.”

Tim Wilson will appear with Lydia Shelly and Justice Mordecai Bromberg for a panel discussion on Engagement in a Context of Hostility as part of the “Talking Justice” event, to be held in Bendigo, Victoria, during Law Week (11-17 May).

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Wilson calls for HRC basic freedoms inquiry
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...