Conference looks at threats to free speech

September 17, 2012

Religious vilification laws, Julian Assange, the Finkelstein Inquiry and the bill of rights are all topics for debate at Threats to Freedom of Speech, hosted by Murdoch University’s School of Law.

Running on Saturday October 13, with a welcoming reception on Friday evening, the conference promises informative speakers and lively debate on some of today’s most pressing issues. According to organiser Dr Augusto Zimmermann, the line-up will offer view points from across the political spectrum.

“We’re presenting a well-balanced day with many different perspectives, all united in a belief that free speech is pivotal to democracy,” Dr Zimmermann said.

“Western societies are seeing a gradual erosion of freedom of speech, the causes of which are varied and often done under the pretences of good intentions or security concerns.

“Our conference will look at the history, symptoms, causes and unintended consequences of this assault and will highlight remedies available to policy makers and the broader public to protect the freedom of speech, so to avoid the path to tyranny and oppression.”

The line-up includes the Hon. Christian Porter MLA, Professor James Allan and Chris Berg, author of In Defence of Freedom of Speech: From Ancient Greece to Andrew Bolt, who will give the keynote address.

Dr Zimmermann will discuss religious vilification laws, arguing that rather than promoting harmony and tolerance in religious groups, they are used by extremist groups to silence criticism of their beliefs.

“These laws may become a permanent way for individuals to avoid debate by claiming that they, rather than their beliefs, are being attacked. Within Australia, we’re seeing evidence of this in Victoria,” Dr Zimmermann said.

Murdoch Law School Dean Professor Jürgen Bröhmer will speak on the European Court of Human Rights’ approach to free speech, which has profoundly shaped the legal environment for free speech for 800 million people in Europe.

Curtin University Associate Professor Joseph Fernandez will turn his sites on government, touching on the UK’s phone hacking scandal and arguing against the Finkelstein Inquiry’s proposal for a ‘super regulator’ of the Australian media.

The conference takes place at Freehills Lecture Theatre at Murdoch University’s South Street campus and is supported by the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation. Legal practitioners who attend the conference on Saturday will earn 4 CPD points under Competency Area 3 (Substantive Law).

To register, go to here.

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