“Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a free society,” said Tony Abbott in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

But as even the PM’s boosters like Andrew Bolt and the IPA have acknowledged, freedom of speech has gone decidedly backwards under this government, from the new data retention laws to the botched attempt to wind back section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to rules that would jail journalists for revealing security bungles.

Then there’s the super-injunction obtained at the behest of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which, on national security grounds, forbids the Australian media from mentioning bribery allegations arising from the long-running investigation into Securency, the note-printing arm of the Reserve Bank, by Age journalists Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie.

As Bernard Keane wrote at the time:

“The latest injunction, partly obtained by DFAT allegedly to protect Australia’s international relations and backed by a now-sealed affidavit from a senior departmental officer, was issued as part of the trial of one of the Note Printing Australia executives. DFAT’s position if anything became even more ridiculous overnight after the Indonesian government challenged DFAT to make clear that current president Yudhoyono and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri were not the subject of the legal action in which the injunction was issued, forcing the department to issue a statement clarifying the current and former presidents ‘are not the subject of the Securency proceedings’.”

WikiLeaks published the resulting suppression order last July and founder Julian Assange said, “with this order, the worst in living memory, the Australian government is not just gagging the Australian press, it is blindfolding the Australian public”.

Spare us the platitudes, Prime Minister.

Peter Fray

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