Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 October 2018) . . Page.. 4485 ..
In the employment context, the express terms of the employment contract, employer policies incorporated into or authorised by the employment contract, and the employer’s lawful and reasonable directions may also operate to impose significant constraints upon an employee’s freedom of expression.
However, the right to freedom of speech and expression is provided for in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a party. Article 19 specifically states that everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference and that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.
It also states that the exercise of rights to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to certain restrictions. However, these restrictions must be provided for by law. For example, it is necessary and acknowledged that, together with a right to freedom of expression, there is also a corresponding need to respect the rights and reputation of others, and for the protection of national security or of public order.
It should be acknowledged that the right to freedom of speech and expression is obviously vitally important, but that right is also not absolute. It carries with it responsibilities that all must be mindful of. Therefore, it is important that in Canberra’s workplaces both employers and workers are not just protected by the seven core international human rights treaties but are also aware of them and of their obligations as citizens. This awareness must also extend to industry and employee codes of conduct.
For workers, it is about being aware of their rights and about speaking up when rights and entitlements in the workplace are being adversely affected, while adhering to codes of conduct. Where they are not able to speak, their representatives need to be able to speak for them. For employers, it is about embracing freedom of speech and providing platforms to enable that freedom of speech for their workers, and to set a high standard as workplaces while providing codes of conduct which are workable and conducive to a genuinely democratic society.
To conclude, we have healthy workplaces in the ACT, and continuing to support freedom of speech with everyone—and that is everyone—being aware of their rights and obligations within that is vitally important to ensuring that healthy workplaces continue.
MR WALL (Brindabella) (3.32): It is an interesting choice of topic by the government today, particularly in the ACT, where currently the climate is such that ACT Health employees are too afraid to speak out against workplace culture and bullying for fear of recrimination and the government’s refusal to acknowledge that there is a problem. For many, an MPI such as this, addressing the importance of freedom of speech in the workplace, is just galling.
This is most offensive in particular to those employees who have suffered and continue to suffer because of a lack of action taken by the Labor-Greens government