Laws restricting hate speech should aim to protect people’s dignity against assault, he said. But “declaring conduct, relevantly speech, to be unlawful, because it causes offence, goes too far.”
The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended.
Mr Spigelman said that the proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, introduced “offending” into the definition of discrimination for all purposes, not just for racial vilification.
The inclusion of “religion” as a “protected attribute” in the workplace, appears to me, in effect, to make blasphemy unlawful at work, but not elsewhere. The controversial Danish cartoons could be published, but not taken to work. Similar anomalies could arise with other workplace protected attributes, eg. “political opinion”, “social origin”, “nationality”.
The new Bill proposed a significant redrawing of the line between permissible and unlawful speech, he said.
When rights conflict, drawing the line too far in favour of one, degrades the other right. Words such as “offend” and “insult”, impinge on freedom of speech in a way that words such as “humiliate”, “denigrate,” “intimidate”, “incite hostility” or “hatred” or “contempt”, do not. To go beyond language of the latter character, in my opinion, goes too far.None of Australia’s international treaty obligations require us to protect any person or group from being offended. We are, however, obliged to protect freedom of speech. We should take care not to put ourselves in a position where others could reasonably assert that we are in breach of our international treaty obligations to protect freedom of speech.
- Health workers can’t use word ‘mate’ (dailytelegraph.com.au)
- Why aren’t we talking about protecting free speech online at WCIT? (indexoncensorship.org)