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Speech to the Senate in support of Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech, belief and association of freedoms for which our forebears sacrificed—they understood the importance of nurturing these freedoms. These freedoms have allowed us to explore, develop and nuanced ideas, philosophical, political, scientific and religious, amongst others.

Today, our society is in grave danger of losing this rich heritage, together with its attendant benefits. That is why I have taken this, the first opportunity the 46th Parliament has afforded me, to make a plea to defend our freedoms. To fail to do so is to squander the legacy bequeathed to us. Of late we have been witnessing elements, some arrogantly—most others I am sure are naively motivated, but to the same effect—silencing, punishing and intimidating people with whom they disagree.

Our universities, which should be the nursery of free speech, are often not only failing their own rich heritage in this regard but actively destroying it. From students to senior lecturers, there's a growing list of shameful incidents. The contest of ideas and research methodologies should be encouraged, not punished. As Justice Vasta to said in the Ridd case:

"Incredibly, the university has not understood the whole concept of intellectual freedom. In the search for truth, it is an unfortunate consequence that some people may feel denigrated, offended, hurt or upset. It may not always be possible to act collegiately when diametrically opposed views clash in the search for truth."

He also said that intellectual freedom:

"allows academics to express their opinions without fear of reprisals. … And that, at its core, is what higher learning is about."

We see the same corrosion of standards in sport. Rugby Australia's unprecedented and unprincipled dismissal of Israel Folau has become the latest ugly example. Mr Folau, our best rugby player, was sacked for taking to social media with a paraphrased quote from the Holy Bible. Rugby Australia now claims it was the threat of the withdrawal of sponsorship which motivated them. That turns the spotlight onto the corporate bullying, while not excusing Rugby Australia's cowardice. The abuse of corporate sponsorship to manipulate team selection, especially on religious views, is reprehensible. Trying the same corporate ugliness on Izzy's wife, a sportswoman in her right, for supporting him, is reprehensible writ large. In an exercise of Orwellian proportions, these sports stars were targeted for exclusion in the name of inclusion and discriminated against in the name of tolerance. You don't have to agree with Izzy to agree with his right to express his religious views, or his wife's right to back him. Today it's Izzy's religious views and his wife's loyal support. Yesterday it was the Professor Ridd's scientific views. Tomorrow it might be somebody's political view. The next might be someone's environmental view. This is a fight for freedom of speech which impacts us all. The government must, and I am confident will, respond to the expressions of the quiet Australians on 18 May and ensure our freedoms, which were bought with the highest of prices, are not sacrificed and squandered on the altar of political correctness. As Sir Robert Menzies so articulately encapsulated in 'We believe': 'We believe in the great human freedoms: to worship, to think, to speak.'

Freedom is worth defending. Freedom is worth nurturing. Freedom is worth championing. As our national anthem extols, 'Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free'. Let's keep it that way.

Fair Work Action

Former Employment Minister Eric Abetz has welcomed news that Israel Folau will launch action in the Fair Work Commission.

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Dover Bowls Club to get all-weather synthetic green

Bowlers at the Dover Bowls Club will be boosted by the current turf surface being replaced with an all-weather synthetic green thanks to a $200,000 grant through the Federal Liberal Government’s $30 million Community Sport Infrastructure Program.

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Science Week Grants for Hobart

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has welcomed the announcement of $90,000 for local groups to deliver science awareness as part of the second round of the Federal Liberal Government’s $720,000 2019 National Science Week Grants.

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Roads to Recovery Bonus for Kingborough Council

The Federal Liberal Government's Roads to Recovery Program has delivered an extra $596,102 bonus to the Kingborough Council that ensures a total of almost $3 million over the next five years for road projects within the Kingborough municipality.

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Headstone Project Charitable Status Welcomed

The Tasmanian Headstone Project has been a major winner in the 2019 Budget by being granted deductible gift recipient (DGR) status from 1 July 2019 after strong representations by Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.

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About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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Contact

136 Davey Street
Hobart  TAS  7001

(03) 6224 3707

Senator.Abetz@aph.gov.au

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