Posted on January 26, 2015 by Peter Toby

The most Australian thing to happen this week (imho) – Check your freedom of speech at the door thanks champ

My new regular column “The most Australian thing to happen this week (imho)”… For The Big Smoke. Check it out!

A journalist went for a jog.

Not for a drink, a smoke or a cry over his meagre wages.

A jog, around Parliament House, with a colleague. Afterwards, one of the two journalists, Nick Butterly of The West Australian, was stopped by a guard at the public entrance metal detectors, and asked to remove his t-shirt.

She said, “I’m sorry sir you will have to take that off. It’s offensive.”

The t-shirt featured a renowned headline from the New York Post: “Headless body in topless bar.”

The Department of Parliamentary Services was asked to clarify what the rules are on t-shirt slogans, and who gets to determine what is, or is not, offensive.

The official response was that Parliament had a longstanding policy of not allowing offensive messages on garments within the House.

“Offensive messages may relate to a number of issues, including protest slogans, comments on murder or terrorism and those deemed to be not fitting the decorum of the House,” a statement read.

This is barely a week after French newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked, millions around the world marched in favour of freedom of speech, violence around the world inspired by this issue is ongoing and the Australian Parliament came out in staunch support of freedom of speech.

Barely a week after all that very vocal support for a French newspaper, an Australian journalist wearing the headline of an American paper is told to strip naked.

This either shows that the Australian Parliament completely misunderstands what free speech is…or that female security guard has just bestowed on the world one of the finest examples of irony ever. It’s possible that she has the greatest sense of timing and humour in all of history, and we’ve all missed the joke.

However, I doubt it.

So in relation to freedom of speech, the Australian Government’s position is pretty much:

“Yeah mate, we’re all for it. Go for it champion. Say whatever you like. Free country and all that… What’s that now? On your t-shirt. I mean you can say whatever you like, but no need to take the piss… Sure free speech, I know, you’re right, but within reason. Ya know? Like there are limits…”

How Aussie is that?

“Sure mate, do whatever you want. Except for that. Right there, that’s not on.”

If only the same limits on “free speech” were applied to Parliamentary Question Time, then we might finally and for once get some decent questions asked and answered.

Or better yet, if Parliamentary Question Time was held to the same high standards of humour as that journalists t-shirt, we might end up with something worth watching.

This article first appeared in The Big Smoke:

http://thebigsmoke.com.au/2015/01/23/check-freedom-of-speech-door-thanks-champ/

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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