Yes, you are free... Up to a point
UNLIKE the United States, free speech is not written into our constitution.
So no one has the RIGHT to free speech in this country.
However, because we live in a pretty tolerant society, many people assume they can say what they like without impunity.
I've lost count of the number of people who trot out the "free speech" line when they have been caught out saying or supporting something that is so totally outrageous, it clearly doesn't belong in the public realm.
In general terms, I believe in free speech, but not when it comes as a cover-all for hurtful, hateful or blatantly discriminatory comments.
A few examples spring to mind: radio shock jock Alan Jones suggesting Julia Gillard's recently deceased father would have "died of shame", or former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson saying South African immigrants were bringing diseases to Australia such as AIDS.
Rather then defending their right to say those things, I'd rather highlight them as something that doesn't belong in the public realm.
Many of these comments don't contribute anything to a debate nor is it a valid comment on an issue.
The more we excuse such behaviour, the more it will be tolerated.
Those trumpeting free speech also decry terms like "political correctness" and living in a "nanny state".
I say times have moved on and we live in an era where we should promote positivity instead of negativity.
As my mum used to say: If you can't say something nice about anyone, don't say anything at all.