A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Drop 'sedition' term from Australian anti-terror laws: commission report

[JURIST] The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) [official website] presented a report [text] to the Australian Parliament [official website] Wednesday recommending [ALRC press release] that references to the term "sedition" in the new Australian anti-terrorism laws [ANS materials] be removed. The ALRC report presents the group's conclusions after a five-month inquiry. ALRC President David Weisbrot said that continued use of the word is misleading because the public otherwise supports the aim of the new legislation:

We found that there is a real problem in the current law's continued use of the word "sedition," which is historically associated with stifling and punishing criticism of the established authority. Once you get beyond the term, there is support for the basic thrust of the new offenses.

The Report recognizes that free speech and robust political debate are cornerstones of Australian society. The feedback we've received during our consultations makes it plain that we need a clear distinction in the law between free speech and conduct calculated to incite violence in the community—which properly should be the subject of the criminal law.
Weisbrot said that removing the word from the laws was specifically included in 27 recommendations by the commission.

After the ALRC, the independent federal statutory agency charged with conducting official inquiries into areas for possible legal reform, released a discussion paper [text] in May arguing that "sedition" implies a threat to free speech [press release; ALRC sedition materials], Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock [official website] said he would be willing to revise [JURIST report] Australia's sedition laws [summary]. From Australia, ABC News has local coverage.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.