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Another gag on Craig Kelly — Parliament must act!

Despite having more than 100,000 followers, Craig Kelly’s Facebook page has been removed for allegedly sharing ‘misinformation about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm or Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts.

This was for no more than repeating eminent scientific opinion concerning the treatment of the Wuhan virus, opinion which was being suppressed by the corrupt US mainstream media in its anti-Trump campaign.

For that he has been ‘deplatformed’. Surely in both cases the House should require urgent hearings in a trial before the Privileges Committee with Mark Elliot Zuckerberg a potential key witness, at least on screen.

When Craig Kelly raised this in Parliament, the Speaker interrupted him to say he would consider the matter, Mr. Speaker’s eventual ruling was that there was not even a prima facie case. That is if all the allegations were found to be true, there would be a breach of privilege.

In addition to Facebook gagging Craig Kelly, he recently gave notice of yet another breach of privilege, this time by YouTube who actually removed a video of  his  speech to Parliament on 1 June 2021.

Once again, the Speaker (on 17 June)  has refused to find a prima facie case.

The Privileges Committee is better placed to determine this.

Surely it would be better for the House to send the matter now to the Committee to decide whether there were sufficient prima facie evidence of a breach. Craig Kelly needs the House to resolve to do this to get the matter before the Privileges Committee.

If the Committee were to proceed to a hearing, the final decision on guilt and any punishment would still be up to the House.

The Speaker who famously stood up to King Charles I in 1642 would be disappointed with the acceptance of the way social media is standing over the Federal Parliament.

When the King came with troops to arrest five members of Parliament who had crossed him, he pressed the Speaker to tell him where the members were.

On his knees, the Speaker, William Lenthall, courageously replied:

May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this House is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and I humbly beg Your Majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what Your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.

William Lenthall’s declaration of the independence of the House is recalled at Westminster at every State Opening of Parliament. When the Usher of the Black Rod goes the House of Commons with a message from the Queen to join her in the House of Lords, the door to the House is slammed shut as he approaches. He must knock to ask permission to enter.

This scene is followed in Australia and throughout the Commonwealth Realms. This demonstrates the independence of the House from the Crown. 

But what about the independence of Parliament from powerful and arrogant social media monopolies?

Knowing this scene intimately, and undoubtedly the reasons for it, why is there not outrage today at what is being imposed on the House, not by a Stuart Monarch but by this juggernaut from afar?

In any event, Mr. Speaker does not have the last say.

He is only deciding whether the notice of motion should be given precedence.

If the House resolves to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee there can at least be an investigation as to whether there was a prima facie breach which could lead to a trial before the Committee with the final decision both as to guilt and if guilty the sentence.

A speedy and final trial before the Privileges Committee and the House could attract world-wide attention. It would be a turning point: the beginning of the end of an out-of-control social media.

It would encourage a review of American law and practice:-

  • including section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, 1996, which excuses them from editorial liability because they are wrongly assumed to be only offering a platform,  
  • the forcible breaking up of their monopolies under the Sherman Act and 
  • a review of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution allowing a ‘public figure defence’ . This is so difficult for the defamed to rely on, it effectively licences the media to libel with impunity any public figure, widely defined. (That was probably what Prince Harry meant when he said the First Amendment was “bonkers”.) 

While any adverse finding would be important in itself, any breach of privilege found could attract either a fine or imprisonment but not both.    

If the House were to find a breach, presumably continuing to gag Craig Kelly would be a further breach, as each occasion when an order to lift the gag could equally be.   

This is above all a serious matter and should at least be investigated as soon as possible by the Privileges Committee.

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Professor David Flint AM is an emeritus professor of law and was chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Press Council, president of the National Federation of the English Speaking Union, Associate Commissioner with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and convenor of the Committee of Australian Law Deans. He has been National Convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy since the 1999 referendum campaign. He has authored books on topics such as the media, international economic law and on the Constitution. At Barcelona in 1991 he received a World Jurist Association award as World Outstanding Legal Scholar. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1995. His Good Sauce show,Take Back Your Country, discusses the problems and solutions to the decay of federalism and democracy.

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