Anzac tweet sacking prompts free speech debate

On Anzac Day, SBS sports journalist Scott MacIntyre made a series of posts on his personal Twitter account, criticising the historical behaviour of Australian soldiers, and people who celebrate the day. While his comments reflected the views of some historians, he was nevertheless sacked by SBS for breaching its social media policy. The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, explains that while the High Court has recognised an implied Constitutional freedom of political communication, it “is not a personal right for citizens. Rather it is a constitutional limit on the legislative powers of Parliament.” Therefore, an employment contract can restrict speech. Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson argues it is “absurd” to see this as “a free speech violation”, because “[n]o one is guaranteed a job. Employers are not compelled to put up with behaviour that harms their public reputation”, even if that behaviour is outside the workplace. Swinburne University’s Jason Wilson says this “classical liberal” approach to human rights is flawed, because “it makes little practical difference if it’s your boss or the state telling you to shut up”. He argues the current system “puts the wealthy firmly in charge of the lower orders, without any pesky democratic interference.” (While the High Court has not directly addressed this issue, in 2013 a Federal Court judge ruled that the implied freedom “does not provide a licence to breach a contract of employment”.)

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