Offensive intrusions and protected spaces: The personal, the public and the political

Stream: Panel 67 - Gender Politics: Law, Justice and Gender 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 9.00 am – 10.30 am

Abstract

In 2013 the High Court ruled on whether the application of s.471.12 of the Criminal Code 1995 to prosecute Man Haron Monis (and his partner, Ms Amirah Droudis) for sending offensive material through the postal services contravened their right to free speech. All members of the High Court agreed the material was offensive but in an historic first the Court split on gender lines—the three women judges upheld the constitutional validity of the Criminal Code, whereas the three men judges found for Monis and Droudis. The divergent opinions adopted by the men and women judges in Monis are revealing about contemporary judicial understandings of the public and private spheres, and perhaps the political nature of the personal. We argue that these judicial opinions signal a seismic shift in how at least half the court thought about what properly belonged in which sphere. When these judgments are interpreted in the context of the political discourses which permeated the decision, both within and beyond the High Court, these judicial understandings of the contours of freedom of communication and notions of ‘harm’, ‘home’, ‘private’ and ‘public’ mean that offensive intrusions are protected, the private space of one’s home is not. Further, we argue that the judgments in Monis reveal a propensity to embed linguistic violence within judicial language and in effect give licence to antisocial, violent behaviour. In consequence, the judgments endorse a return to masculinist understandings of political behaviour and democratic practice.

Authors

Kcasey McLoughlin (Presenter), University of Newcastle

Jim Jose (Presenter), University of Newcastle