Sedition and Urging Violence

Sedition means conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state. In Australia ‘sedition’ was included in the law until 2011. It could be used to prevent artists from being critical of the state, constitution or the monarch.

A paste up on a wall of a man's head in black and white with a red scarf around his mouth.

NAVA was opposed to sedition being included in any laws in Australia because it could be used to muzzle artistic expression which might be critical of governments, the Queen or the Constitution or Australian military interventions, such as those in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Asia-Pacific region

Though sedition law had long been in existence, it came into focus in late 2006, when the Commonwealth Government proposed plans to amend Australia's Crimes Act 1914, by introducing laws that meant artists and writers could be jailed for up to seven years if their work was considered seditious or inspired sedition either deliberately or accidentally.

In 2004 and 2005, NAVA joined with other advocates in the media, TV and film industries in seeking amendment of the Sedition clause in the Anti-Terrorism legislation when it was first proposed and debated in parliament.

The Anti-Terrorism bill was devised by the Coalition government in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks overseas. For 6 years, NAVA was very active in seeking a change to the Sedition sections in the Act and at last this was achieved in 2011 when ‘sedition’ was removed and replace by ‘urging violence’. This substantially alleviated the threat of censorship of artwork on political grounds.

In 2006, the sedition offences in Section 80.2 of the Criminal Code were reviewed at the behest of the Commonwealth Government by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). NAVA made submissions to and met with the ALRC during the process.

The ALRC issued a report entitled ‘Fighting Words’, however, it took a long time for the changes it recommended to be adopted. At last, the National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2010 became law. For artists it was a great relief to see the repealing of the ‘sedition’ clauses and their replacement with ‘urging violence’.

The ALRC’s Fighting Words Report.

National Security Legislation Amendment Act Bill.

Sedition and Urging Violence