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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What should I say to Frank Brennan and his crew?

I'm going to attend a "community roundtable" of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee in a few weeks' time. I have no idea how these things work - how many people go along, how much chance individuals get to present their views, and so on. I suppose I should try to find out, but it may well vary. A lot of these community roundtables are in quite small towns; they may have to do it differently here in a big city.

I guess there's no point in over-preparing, as I may only get to ask one question, or take part in a syndicate group, or something equally frustrating. Still, I've been wondering about what point to hammer if I only get a chance to say one thing.

Should it be my concern about threats to freedom of speech and expression, or my general view that what is required is political and cultural struggle from people who are committed to a defence of basic liberties, or just the importance of the Millian harm principle in liberal democracies? Should it be a warning about trying to constitutionalise the wrong things, or against adopting a mechanism that won't survive constitutional review? Or something else? There are many important issues, and I can't cover more than a tiny fraction of what I put in my written submission.

Maybe I should just seem pleasant and rational ("Seems, Madam?"), and concentrate on commending the written submission ... but I'm still wondering which point to hammer if I only get a chance at one. Problems, problems.

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