The article You can’t have it both ways on free speech by Tory Shepherd expresses his disappointment with Australia’s Prime Minister and Cabinet on the requirement it has put on the public servant to report their peers who criticize the government or the elite in politics. This article was published in The Advertiser and the major argument is that the move taken by the administration is wrong. The government workers are not allowed to speak ill of the government even in the privacy of their homes. They are restricted from doing so on any forum including the social networks. The argument put forward by the administration is that persons criticizing the government and yet work in the government have a questionable capacity to work efficiently, impartially and professionally. The intended readers are the Australian citizens. The author incorporates humor and satire to make his argument not only interesting, but convincing too.
Shepherd begins by expressing how the Australians feel about the Americans when they demand for their constitutional rights. He describes it as cringe-worthy, but later says that they are better of off because they have at least the freedom to express their opinions without restrictions. This is unlike in Australia where the government employees have been given directives to dob in their colleagues in case they talk ill of the government. He uses a paradox by stating that the behavior of Americans, though seemingly unbecoming, has made them have a freer society. The same paradox is in use when he refers to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet as ‘those most vocal proponents of free speech’ (Shepherd 1) before stating how they plan to limit the freedom of expression of their workers. The use of that statement also brings along sarcasm, which makes the article a bit comical but serious in its entirety.
The writer applies ethos by being fair to the Prime Minister and Cabinet when he states that it would be inappropriate for the workers in those departments to speak ill of the government while in the workplace or using resources of the department. These would include the internet connection and computers. Even in the corporate circles, that is discouraged. The part of the clause that he is indignant about is the one where the opinions expressed by the workers using their resources at their own time are targeted. He feels that it is an intrusion into one’s privacy. Papworth (2014, par 2) is of the opinion that if this law goes through, then other institutions in that country might start adopting it, greatly undermining democracy.
The writer appeals to the sympathies of the readers by invoking anger and fear at the same time. He elaborates how gagged the government employees will be if the law takes effect. Not being allowed to criticize the persons in authority or the government’s policy can only result in lowered demand for accountability on the part of the administration. He also refers to a certain reform that has been suggested by the government, which is about removing the clause that that forbids offending or insulting a person based on their race. This clause is found in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. According to Shepherd, this move is intended to divert attention from the debate that has been going on regarding the ‘dob in a mate’ clause. He then states that this move shows the hypocritical nature of the government when it tries to curtail the freedom of expression of its employees using fear. Cox (2014, par 5-6) disagrees with the views of Shepherd by stating that most persons have misinterpreted the clause. He further clarifies that the ‘dob in a mate’ clause is intended for on the persons that work in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, and that it does not extend to the other arms of the government. He further asserts that the clause is in line with the primary purpose of those employees, which is ‘…to support the Prime Minister and the Government to manage the business of government in an efficient, effective and coordinated manner’ (Cox, 2014, par 6).
Shepherd makes use of logos by referring to the website of the Attorney General, where he extracts for the readers the definition of the right to freedom of opinion. Every person is entitled to have their opinion on any mater without restrictions. This is permissible on any medium, and the only exception is when one urges others to violence (Freedom of Opinion and Expression – How Far the Protections Go: the UN Human Rights Committee, 201, par 7). By stating that, he convinces the leader that his argument has a solid basis. The opinion by Shepherd is mirrored by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) that lodged a dispute with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet against the new regulation (Farrel, 2014, par 2). He is further seconded by Biard (2014, par 3) who feels that it work breed disharmony among the workers.
In conclusion, the use of the above persuasive techniques of logos, ethos and pathos plus the incorporation of sarcasm makes the argument convincing. The fact that other persons also agree with Shepherd makes his argument have an even greater validity. The inclusion of the definition of the right to one’s opinion leaves the reader even more convinced that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is infringing on the rights of its employees.
Biard, J. 2014. Privacy is a two-edged sword so should we mind our own business?. [online] The Age.
Cox, W. 2014. The effect of the internet on political discussion. [online] Catalyst.
Farrell, P. (2014). Public servants lodge dispute over ‘dob in a mate’ clause. [online] the Guardian.
Freedom of Opinion and Expression – How Far the Protections Go: the UN Human Rights Committee .2011, , Washington, D.C.
Papworth, L. 2014. 7 Tips for #SocialMedia guidelines and Government. [online] Laurel Papworth @SilkCharm.
Shepherd, T. 2014. ‘You can’t have it both ways on free speech.’ The Advertiser.