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Whilst the High Court has recognised and applied an implied constitutional guarantee of freedom of governmental and political communication, speech on matters of public interest in Australia remains subject to a wide range of legal limitations, many of which would be struck down as unconstitutional in other common law jurisdictions. This subject explores the limitations on free speech that arise as a result of proceedings and processes initiated by arms of the state and prosecutorial authorities: legislative, executive and judicial, and from censorship of sexually-explicit material to restrictions applying to the advocacy of terrorism. Those restrictions profoundly affect the material that may be published by the media. It is the impact of the current restrictions on free speech on both the media and on non-media elements of civil society that are the focus of this subject. Taken individually and collectively, these regimes limit the access of Australians to speech that matters.
This subject provides an examination of Australian law affecting the media’s ability to report the courts, the executive and parliament.
Principal topics include:
- Contempt of court
- Contempt of parliament
- Offensive publications: violence, pornography and racism
- Seditious publications
- Access to information in court
- Government information: security and official secrets
- Freedom of speech: theoretical issues and international perspectives.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of key principles of the law as it effects free speech, contempt and the media in Australia and comparable jurisdictions
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effectiveness of these legal principles
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to free speech, contempt and the media
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and processes driving law reform
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas, and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding free speech, contempt and the media to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
- Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of the law as it effects free speech, contempt and the media in Australia.
Last updated: 3 November 2022