Section 18C, human rights, and media reform: An institutional analysis of the 2011-13 Australian free speech debate

Berg, C and Davidson, S 2016, 'Section 18C, human rights, and media reform: An institutional analysis of the 2011-13 Australian free speech debate', Agenda, vol. 23, no. 1, 1, pp. 5-30.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Section 18C, human rights, and media reform: An institutional analysis of the 2011-13 Australian free speech debate
Author(s) Berg, C
Davidson, S
Year 2016
Journal name Agenda
Volume number 23
Issue number 1
Article Number 1
Start page 5
End page 30
Total pages 26
Publisher Australian National University
Abstract The paper examines two Australian freedom-of-speech controversies between 2011 and 2013 - the debate over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the debate over the Gillard Government's print media laws. These controversies featured rhetorical and ideological debate about the limits of free speech and the nature of human rights. The paper applies a 'subjective political economy' framework to these debates in order to trace the effect of increased perceived 'disorder costs' and 'dictatorship costs' of freedomof- speech restrictions. The paper concludes that policy change is driven by exogenous changes in perceived institutional costs. In the case of the Gillard Government's media laws, those costs were borne by the Gillard Government, and one would not expect print media laws to be a major political issue in the absence of a further exogenous shock. In the case of section 18C the revealed dictatorship costs of legislation, which includes the words 'offend' and 'insult', suggest the section 18C controversy will endure.
Subject Public Economics- Public Choice
Applied Economics not elsewhere classified
ISSN 1447-4735
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