Mar 20, 2017

CEOs splash in the shallow pool of Australian free speech

Australians are poor at respecting the right of their opponents to free speech -- on all sides.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Whether company CEOs should be commenting on social policy seems to depend on whether you agree with them or not. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, a vociferous opponent of marriage equality, expressed outrage on the weekend that CEOs would openly support it and want the issue dealt with.

It's hard to imagine he would have even bothered commenting, except perhaps in glowing terms, if CEOs had instead opined that because the issue was a distraction from the economic challenges facing Australia, it should be dropped from public and political debate. 

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18 thoughts on “CEOs splash in the shallow pool of Australian free speech

  1. thelorikeet

    Exactly how Dutton bashing business over the head sits with criticism of the ACTU’s new boss eludes me. Demanding that business not do what the law requires of it (to act commercially in the company’s interests) seems to be a law-breaking thing. Anyway, Dutton has further harmed his chances of (gasp) prime ministership, and that’s all jolly

  2. mark hipgrave

    If Dutton and his boss want to get marriage equality off the front pages all they need to do is call a free vote in parliament or allow the public to decide the matter via referendum. Simple really. Refusing either of the above guarantees it will be an election issue next time round, and distract from the great work they are doing with the economy, energy policy, climate change, housing affordability, relations with China, Munus Island, Nauru ………..

    1. CML

      Are you serious?????
      I must have missed ‘the great work they are doing’ on anything…one FUp after another is more realistic!!

      1. Dog's Breakfast

        Yes, I caught the irony too, read again CML, quite an understated piece of work by Mark

    2. upstart1

      Are you suggesting it’s a … distraction!

  3. Julie Burns

    ‘group of powerful old white men want the unfettered right to abuse people with less power
    than themselves’
    Absolutely nailed it , Bernard. Thank you.

  4. Peter Hartup

    As a general rule, I’d prefer the sociopaths populating the executive suites of corporations not impose their personal opinions via the well oiled PR machines of their fiefdoms. As citizens, they have the same rights as everyone else to their views, and to express them publicly. But their positions and PR machines tend to turbo-charge the loudness of their opinions way beyond that of most citizens. There are plenty of able advocates on all sides of any issue, so I think they should shut the fuck up on issues not related to their direct expertise. For example, tax dodging, robbing employees of their super etc.
    I also don’t have a problem with slapping a person making public their opinions on one issue then praising them on another. That’s addressing the issues. If you stick your head into the hornet’s nest of political debate, don’t act surprised when you get stung. Repeatedly.

  5. Kevin_T

    Attacking the free speech of your opponents is exercising your own right to free speech, I guess….

  6. Dog's Breakfast

    I suspect there is a subtlety to your argument that doesn’t quite get through to them BK, that free speech means that people who disagree with you/me can have their voice also.

    Honestly, I don’t think they quite get it.

  7. Woopwoop

    I was with you all the way, BK, until the final sentence. Yes, people from all sides rail against the free speech of others, but is it actually shut down to any extent? We’re not in China or Ruissia.

  8. Hunt Ian

    Bernard, the sea is indeed shallow but mainly because most people have no way to project their views. They do not own media or have a say over the choices made by media gatekeepers.
    The free speech we should defend, though, is not a right to say what we like. There is absolutely no value whatever in allowing some to accuse Jews of being subhuman and evily undermining a nation. There is no value in letting a person shout that a theatre is on fire, when it is not.
    Free speech cannot be absolute.
    I detest Nazi claims about Jews but am not all tempted to put my life on the line to defend their supposed right to say things that harm Jews, when they have done nothing wrong.
    18c, together with 18d, should be defended, just as the law should make it a crime to defame people, so that their lives with others might be ruined, and just as the law should prosecute false alarms

  9. Graeski

    If CEOs are saying that marriage equality is the way to go, then that’s CEO-speak for them saying it will be good for business.

    If the CEOs say it will be good for business, then the LNP/IPA (as the country’s leading pro-business political party and puppet of the business lobby) should agree that marriage equality is the way to go too. Peter Dutton, as a good party man and PM-in-wanting, should do as his owners instruct and toe the line.

    Ergo, Peter Dutton should shut up.

    1. Graeski

      That is, he should exercise his right to free silence.

      1. thelorikeet

        He should try to be coherent with the PM’s anti-lawlessness (= not telling business to act other than in the corporation’s interests) message. Oh! Sorry. Dutton and coherent don’t belong together do they?

  10. AR

    And yet Dunuttin extolled the rightness and appropriateness of his interlocutor, Rat Hately, to do any public opining he wished.
    One couldn’t make it up coz one wouldn’t won’t to.

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