In an opinion piece
in the Daily Telegraph this week author Ross Fitzgerald said that “freedom of speech has never been more threatened in Australia”.
He drew attention to the current Queensland government inquiry into sexualised outdoor advertising:
“If you're trying to get a message out in Queensland via outdoor advertising, don't say anything even vaguely sexual. As a result of pressure from the Australian Christian Lobby, the Queensland government has ordered an enquiry into whether there is too much sex on advertising billboards.If our democratic system is to survive, the right to speak the unvarnished truth needs to be nurtured, even protected
Whilst ACL would agree that freedom of speech is an important value in a democratic society, it is not an absolute right. It carries with it responsibility and boundaries. Children deserve to be protected from material in public that is likely to harm or disturb them. Freedom of speech should not override the freedom of the community not to be confronted by sexualised imagery or advertising that demeans others – mostly women.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Australia Institute and even the Advertising Standards Board all agree that sexualised advertising is on the rise. The Australian Medical Association has identified that increasing numbers of children are focusing on an inappropriate sexualised concept of body image and that this impacts on their growth and physical functioning, including a reduced ability to think and learn. The AMA affirms that marketing and advertising contribute to this problem. The Australia Institute research found that this sexualisation contributes to an increased risk of sexualised and attention seeking behaviours at an earlier age. They conclude that “the sexualisation of Australian children in advertising and marketing is increasing and involves a wide range of risks to children”. It is clear that the welfare of children should take precedence over absolute freedom of speech in this context.