Discussion Paper on National Security Legislation - proposed changes to sedition laws
Proposed changes to sedition laws address concerns of the arts sector
The Government made an election commitment to review the sedition legislation and remove the term ‘sedition’ from federal criminal law in response to concern from the Australian arts and culture community that the current legislation could threaten freedom of expression.
On 12 August 2009, the Attorney-General released a Discussion Paper containing legislative reforms to Australia's national security legislation. The proposed reforms include amendments that will improve sedition offences in response to the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (2006).
The proposed changes clarify and modernise the elements of the offence, and are a fundamental step in recognising the place of artists and the media in the community and in upholding the principle of freedom of expression.
The amendments include, amongst a number of changes, changing the title of the offence from ‘sedition’ to ‘urging violence’ and making it clear within the offence that a person must intentionally urge the use of force or violence and intend that force or violence will occur.
The proposed amendments will also expand the ‘good faith’ defence to allow the court to have regard to any relevant matter in considering an urging violence offence, including whether the acts were done:
- in the development, performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work or
- in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artist or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest or
- in the dissemination of news or current affairs.
More information about proposed changes to sedition laws
Public comments on the Discussion Paper close 25 September 2009. For more information on the Discussion Paper and to make a submission go to www.ag.gov.au