Freedom from political communication: the rhetoric behind anti-protest laws

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Ricketts, A 2015, 'Freedom from political communication: the rhetoric behind anti-protest laws', Alternative Law Journal, vol. 40, no. 4.

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Political protest in Australia remains vulnerable to ongoing and cumulative legislative restriction over time. The absence of clear positive civil and political rights in the Australian Constitution means there is a lack of agreed benchmarks and a prevailing ambiguity about the importance of political liberties. It is unrealistic to talk about a right to protest in Australia beyond a contested moral or political claim, and as a result there is a perennial risk of governments and other powerful institutions constructing new rhetorical arguments to justify the ongoing contraction of political liberty. In recent years several significant legislative initiatives by Australian state governments have had the effect of reducing the scope for effective non-violent forms of protest whilst also advancing a discourse that privileges a right of businesses to enjoy substantial immunity from the inconvenience that being a target of protest activity may involve. This article explores three recent examples of anti-protest laws in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania respectively and reflects upon the potential impacts of these legislative initiatives and the nature of the discourse that is being advanced to support such new laws.

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