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November 24th 2012 print

Philippa Martyr

Wither my free speech?

Giving offence is poised to become grounds for prosecution. The last big push to curtail free speech is begun -- and there is no need to wonder about the likely targets


I drive to work along Stirling Highway, and on the way I pass the electoral office of the Member for Cottesloe, who also happens to be the Premier of Western Australia.

On Fridays, it’s not uncommon to see a very, very small group of protesters outside this office. They are mostly female and of indeterminate age and sexual orientation, so I probably shouldn’t speculate on either. One time I saw a rather adorable toddler in a yellow t-shirt, but that’s pretty much it for the cuteness factor.


These protestors — and you wouldn’t usually need more than one hand to count them, but I have both hands on the steering wheel at that time — seem to be demonstrating against a range of issues, mostly to do with the environment, or uranium, or chemical waste, or lead mining, or something. It’s never entirely clear what’s got their goat in any particular week, but you know the kind of thing I mean.

They hold signs that say "Honk for the Environment" or "Honk if you’re Bored with Barnett", and although I often have to wait at the lights for quite some time, in the last two years — which is about how long these people have been appearing — I’ve only heard two honks. My sister, who drives to work the same way but at a different time in the morning, says she’s never heard any.

It’s nice to think that these people can do this. I mean, I do wonder how people who have the time to do this – at a time of day when the rest of us are driving to work – are actually earning a living. But it’s nice to think that they can hold out their rather awful hand-made recycled signs and wear their purple T-shirts and grin enthusiastically and hand out little fliers to passing cars.

And under the new Human Rights and Anti Discrimination Bill, they’d probably be allowed to keep doing it. They’re not really offending anyone, and they’re more amusing than anything else.

But would I be allowed to keep blogging about it?

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City