Held on trust

Rights, institutions and freedom of speech

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  • Published 20170801
  • ISBN: 9781925498417
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

ONE OF THE key reasons that freedom of expression is so hotly contested in Australia, as elsewhere, is that it can be viewed from so many different perspectives. For some, free speech is a personal right, never to be abridged, no matter how offensive or dangerous the speech may be to others. Another view is that free speech is more of a structural or community value, capable of limits where its benefit to the community is outweighed by community harm. Sometimes again, it is helpful to think of free speech as a privilege, to be responsibly used.

However free speech is viewed, I think it is important to recognise that most of the time the limits on free speech rest in personal morality, taste and judgment. The role for the law to step in, to regulate free speech, should be limited to those cases where it is really necessary, and later I will discuss what those cases might be.

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About the author

Justin Gleeson

Justin Gleeson SC was the Solicitor-General of Australia from 2012–16. This essay is an edited version of his PEN lecture, ‘The Threat to Freedom...

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