Freedom of Speech under the Southern Cross—It Arrived and Departed by Sea?

Wendy E. Bonython, Bruce Baer Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Australian offshore processing of asylum seekers and others seeking to enter the country without authorisation has attracted substantive criticism for abuses of their human rights, particularly their mandatory detention in Australian-funded facilities located in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Official and corporate disregard of the rights of Australians in dealing with those people-contrary to the official accountability that underlies the liberal democratic state-has attracted less attention. This article explores the offshore processing regime through an examination of how legislation that criminalises disclosure of information about mandatory detention is conceptually inconsistent with the freedom of political communication implied under Australia’s Constitution, and expected by Australian citizens. That legislation treats asylum seeking as a matter of national security rather than humanitarian law. It conflicts with the ethical obligations of health practitioners and others, and with Australian expectations about effective mandatory reporting intended to prevent abuse of children and other vulnerable people. It affects Australian and other officials, contractors, care providers, advocates, and journalists who deal with asylum seekers inside and outside Australia. Accountability and minimisation of harms to non-citizens can-and should-be achieved through an independent oversight mechanism reporting directly to parliament.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-216
Number of pages14
JournalThe Round Table: the commonwealth journal of international affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2018


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