13 March
Protest © Andreas Kretschmer CC BY 2.0

Traditional Rights and Freedoms Inquiry


In March 2014 the Federal Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to review Commonwealth laws and identify any provisions that unreasonably encroached upon traditional rights, freedoms and privileges. The ALRC released the Traditional Rights and Freedoms – Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws Issues Paper (IP46) in December 2014 for public comment and Arts Law recently made a submission.

Arts Law’s submission focused on laws that encroach on freedom of speech thus impacting artists’ creativity and creative expression. Arts Law accepted there should be limits on the exercise of traditional rights, freedoms and privileges, such as freedom of speech, in the form of defamation laws, classification and censorship laws protecting against obscene or offensive material, racial discrimination and anti-vilification laws and sex discrimination and harassment laws.  However, Arts Law posed that although the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, “any restriction must only be to the extent necessary in a democratic society.”  

Arts Law’s submission also discussed the need to protect the property rights of creators in their work and the need for recognition of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The ALRC is due to report on the inquiry to the Attorney-General by December 2015.

Arts Law’s submission is #50 on the ALRC Freedoms Inquiry submission page.

For more information about the limitations on freedom of speech see Arts Law’s “Freedom of Expression” info sheet and our advocacy work in relation to Classification, Censorship & Freedom of Expression.