Senator Brandis will accuse former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein of explicitly seeking to restrict free speech and of adopting “the patronising tone towards public opinion which has become so wearily familiar among cultural elitists”.
He will use the conference keynote address to launch another salvo in what the Coalition has dubbed “the freedom wars”, accusing the government, the ABC and the intellectual Left of intolerance and attempting to impose “a very deliberate and sophisticated form of political censorship” on the media and public discourse.
There has been a lot of hysterical bedwetting since Tony Abbott promised to repeal 18C. Mind you he has given himself a lot of wiggle room but nonetheless the Liberals have come a long, long way since Abbott was talking about amending 18C earlier this year. One thing that I have noticed is that the left have been inclined to throw Mordy Bromberg to the wolves. Here is Neil Rees:
Because of the way the Bolt case was conducted, it is not a fair test of the continuing need for race-hatred laws. But it has drawn attention to some flaws in legislation that could ultimately be found to be unconstitutional unless changes are made, because it burdens free political discussion.
Here is the Attorney General of the Commonwealth:
Ms Roxon conceded that ”people can argue the toss about whether Andrew Bolt’s particular example should have been covered”.
So what exactly was the judge doing while this case with constitutional flaws that may not even be covered was going on? Why wasn’t the left saying so at the time? Now I understand that judges cannot be easily removed from office or have their pay docked – for good reason – but I cannot see why they shouldn’t be rebuked for poor performance. When even the sitting Attorney General thinks that a judgement against a political enemy may be dodgy then we know there is a serious problem.
George Brandis as the shadow Attorney General and very likely the incoming Attorney General after the next election has his work cut out for him and will have to lift his game.
Update: I wasn’t going to raise the issue, but since hammygar makes the point:
If Judge Bromberg was in error, Bolt and News Ltd would have been given advce that an appeal would have been likely to succeed.
It seems to me that the fact that News felt it best that political action was more appropriate than a legal appeal reflects very poorly on the judiciary.
In a statement released by HWT, the News Corporation (publisher of The Australian) company argued there were a number of grounds for appeal but it would not appeal.
“Instead, it is our view that section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act overly detracts from free speech and should be revisited by the legislature,” the company said.
Let me spell this out: we cannot look to the legal system to protect constitutional rights to free speech – we need to look to the political system. Judges cannot be trusted with our freedoms – that means any proposal of an Australian bill of rights is dead in the water.