section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

We have two contrasting opinions on section 18C in today’s Australian. One in favour of repeal or substantive amendment by Nick Cater, and the other opposed to any change by Jeremy Jones (the director of international and community affairs at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council).

If Jones reads the Cat, he will realise that its writers are among the strongest supporters of the State of Israel and are strongly opposed to racism and antisemitism.

Yet I, and many others here at the Cat, are strongly opposed to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

I don’t want to repeat the numerous arguments eruditely argued elsewhere. There is only one point I’d like to make.

When Jones states that there is racism in Australia he is correct. All countries have racism and racist elements. In my view, having lived overseas in a number of countries, there is a relatively low level of racism in Australia.

Yet Australia is unique in having a provision such as section 18C. There are some anti-hate speech laws in Germany (reflecting its Nazi past), but these provisions are not found in much of the rest of the world.

So I ask Mr Jones:

  • do you think that Australians are, on average, more racist than people living in other countries?
  • if not, why should we apply an anti-free speech provision such as 18C?
  • do you propose that other countries copy the provision?
  • do you really believe that a provision like 18C actually reduces racism – if so, why do we still have racism when the provision was introduced in the 1990s?
  • would you concede that the provision might actually promote racism by pushing it underground and making it more fashionable?

There is only one way to combat racism. That is for people from different races to live together, interact and learn that they are fundamentally trustworthy.  Provisions such as 18C, and the positive discrimination provisions such as for Indigenous Australians do not reduce racism, if anything they can act to increase racism. If we provided support to the most disadvantaged Australians irrespective of race that would be a much better approach than giving benefits to elite, wealthy and privileged Indigenous Australians.

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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41 Responses to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

  1. Blogstrop

    Cater explains the issues and the solution (which words have to go) very clearly. He also gives hope that it will be fixed.
    The question remains, however, why an apparent willingness on the part of a judge and prosecutor to attribute base motives to Bolt, and incorporate those wrongful things in a bit of legal history, went unchallenged in a higher court. That something like Bolt’s illumination of human silliness could be transformed into Race Hatred is a form of legal alchemy we should never allow to stand.

  2. johanna

    And, persecution of Jews has nothing to do with “racism.” Jews are not a race.

  3. Papachango

    Technically Ashkenazi Jews are a race, but that’s beside the point. If I recall, 18c covers, inter alia, race and religion as attributes, and effectively makes reasoned discussion in these attributes illegal. It must go.

  4. JohnA

    That is for people from different racesplaces to live together, interact and learn that they are fundamentally trustworthy of ONE human race

    TFTFY

  5. Bribiejohn

    ” That is for people from different races to live together, interact and learn that they are fundamentally trustworthy. ” Hear! Hear!

    New immigrants ought to be required to live in country towns, or similar situations where they cannot form insular small groups within a suburb. There are many Australians who can, and would befriend them, and help them assimilate. After a settling period of two, or three years, they would be free to live where they want to.

    The ability to move into a suburb, location where they can form a community of origin, which separates itself from Australian people, is a recipe for trouble.

  6. Joe Goodacre

    Thanks Samuel J – these are valid questions

  7. johanna

    Ashkenazi Jews are not a race either – and anyway they are now a minority among Jews in Israel.

    My point is that the debate is framed in terms of “racism” – a term that is now so degraded that it refers to religions, nationalities, and skin colour (irrespective of religion or nationality). As Bolt found out, it can even be used in circumstances where religion, nationality or skin colour are are not relevant.

    It’s an appalling jumble of irrational and inconsistent definitions of victimhood.

  8. JohnA

    Mr Jones:

    An ubiquitous internet search engine was providing links to extreme racist, conspiracy-theory sites when users entered the terms “Jew” and “Australian”. After clear evidence was produced that the links were to pages in breach of 18C, the search engine corrected this anomaly.

    The complaint using 18C was wrongly targetting the messenger. The search engine should have resisted and said “go after the sods who publish the stuff”. I presume now that Mr Jones can no longer search for evidence of breaches of 18C. BUT that means that no-one else can, either!

    That example is equivalent to demanding that a library remove it’s catalogue entry for “To Kill a Mocking Bird” because the book is in breach of s18C, without seeking to remove the book itself, or prosecute the author.

  9. Rabz

    Yet Australia is unique in having a provision such as section 18C. There are some anti-hate speech laws in Germany … but these provisions are not found in much of the rest of the world.

    Even those socialist idiots in Canuckistan were forced to repeal their equivalent, once Steyn and Levant had made it a laughing stock.

  10. james

    Yet another Jewish community leader opposing free speech on the basis that those in the community around them are barely contained beasts who need shackles to prevent a pogrom.

    I am still waiting for ANY prominent Australian Jewish identity to come out in favour of free speech.

  11. Michael in Sydney

    Jeremy Jones and other secular leaders of the Australian Jewish Community are strong supporters of Israel and leaders who are generally closely in touch with the mainstream Jewish Community. However they are mostly “centre left” in Australian politics which makes them divergent from the large majority of the connected Jewish Community, who are firmly “centre right” – convinced coalition supporters. So when it comes to local “Human Rights” issues, they automatically follow the party line and seem to turn their reasoning powers off. Like most Australians, the general community would not know 18c from 10d or 20a – but they have an understandable fear of racist attacks and very sensitive “antennae” for anti-Semitic nuances. So they can be persuaded into supporting the leaders because they don’t really know the precise issues (never heard of Andrew Bolt) – even though the Community can be very effective in stating its case (same leaders).

  12. A Lurker

    It is my opinion that all humans are innately tribal, i.e. seeking out their own kind, being most comfortable with their own kind, defending their own kind, and suspicious of others not of their own kind. I suggest that discrimination is deeply encoded within our genes, and drives decisions and choices originating from the most primitive parts of our brains – decisions about who we mate with, who we interact with, and who we choose as friends. Humans naturally form into groups – at events women seek out other women to talk to, men huddle together, children seek out other children, family members seek out other family members. Every day we discriminate about where we go, who we talk to, who we ignore, who we want to get to know. So to try to outlaw discrimination is absurd as discriminatory behaviour, I believe, is hard wired into us and all the ‘civilizing’ PC social conditioning is only going to paper over primitive thoughts and behaviour – behaviour that in stressful or aggressive situations is likely to appear in full force. By all means, encourage people of different races to live and interact together, but always keep in mind that discrimination and tribalism will always exist at all levels of human interaction, especially at the level of the nation state, and even more particularly, when it comes to politics and sport!

  13. rickw

    The Jewish Community understands “what” happened in the Holocaust, they still seem to have a very slim grasp of the “how” and “why”. The fundamental political and social mechanisms by which it occurred.

    If you trust in the basic decency of most people, then allowing extremists to call out their agenda is most likely to result in them being ostracised. The muted tones that the Nazi’s initially talked about “The Jewish Problem” allowed many Germans to ignore this element of their agenda.

    Given that the Nazi’s gained power by the slimmest of margins, a free speech approach, a full outing of their agenda, would seem to have made it much more likely for them to NOT gain power. Many of the individuals who ultimately voted for them would have found their true agenda deeply inhuman and offensive (unless you believe that a significant portion of Germans in the 1930′s were inherently evil).

    As an example, the highly offensive comments made by many Muslim Clerics in Australia is actually a very positive thing for the country. It essentially prevents many Muslims from being able to ignore or be unaware of some very unsavoury thinking within Islam in Australia. This is not guaranteed to result in some sort of reformation of Islam in Australia, but it would certainly seem to make this more likely.

    As with most Government intervention (eg. stimulus spending), the end result of constraints on Free Speech is simply acumulating bigger problems for another day, rather than facing them head on the time.

  14. Arnost

    would you concede that the provision might actually promote racism …?

    It promotes racism simply by forcing everyone to be acutely aware of differences to ensure they don’t contravene the legislation. In a nutshell – rather than unifying, it segregates.

    And if it is then perceived that “some animals are more equal than others” or get special privileges or advantages, then that breeds resentment (on the basis of race!).

  15. feelthebern

    I am very relaxed.
    Post the BDS crew having to spend mega bucks defending themselves, I reckon we’ll see 18c repealed.
    No harm, no foul.

    Then it wont be the “Bolta” laws.
    It will be the “Don’t bankrupt our lefty academics” laws.

    There will be zero opposition.

    Relax & see people happily spending other peoples money, for once having to foot their own legal bills.

  16. Lawrie Ayres

    I tried to comment on Jeremy Jones column by using the argument in your article. It was rejected I assume because the Australian was worried they could be the subject of an 18C challenge. Hardly a recommendation for the retention of such a draconiam law. I believe the separation of aborigines by flag, invented ceremonies and special provisions has increased racial prejudice rather than diminished it. When one sees self identifying aborigines who would otherwise be assumed to be just another Australian receive preferential treatment and funding whilst there are other very worthy persons being ignored because they are just Australians, resentment is all but guaranteed. The laws that perpetuate this sort of discrimination should be the subject of 18C because they cause offence to most fair minded people.

  17. entropy

    I am not a Lawyer, so someone could help here, but couldnt most of Jones’ list be prosecuted under alternate legislation?
    For those bits that could not, perhaps it would be better to air the issue in public?
    Also, how many were successful prosecutions, or was 18C was just used as a threat tool to silence others? Actually re reading Jones’ article, were any of these actually successful prosecutions? He doesn’t say so.

  18. do you really believe that a provision like 18C actually reduces racism – if so, why do we still have racism when the provision was introduced in the 1990s?

    I can answer this one: go look up the difference between the word “reduce” and the word “eliminate”.

  19. john of dandenong

    Spot on Lawrie Ayres. No mention of Langdon and her venom-spitting liars. Everyone afraid of her?

  20. Joe

    Is freedom of speech the freedom to vilify? What’s wrong with removing the fallacies of argument from the public discourse? Why should the ability to call so-and-so an ass, be protected? What does it bring to the conversation? What does it bring to a Civilization?
    You can sum up the left’s style as play the man and not the ball. What so wrong in forcing them to play the ball?

  21. james

    As an example, the highly offensive comments made by many Muslim Clerics in Australia is actually a very positive thing for the country. It essentially prevents many Muslims from being able to ignore or be unaware of some very unsavoury thinking within Islam in Australia. This is not guaranteed to result in some sort of reformation of Islam in Australia, but it would certainly seem to make this more likely.

    This is a great example.

    I know Somali and Turkish people who have openly spoken out both to me and to those inside their community denouncing the more radical of the Muslim crazies based entirely on the fact that their words were public and widely reported.

    The urge to distance oneself from people who are just plain making you look bad is one of the best side effects of free speech in a free society.

    Letting idiots be loud idiots and loudly denouncing them as such is the best way to deal with them.

    I just wish some community leaders agreed.

    BTW forget Jeremy Jones, the man has spent the last few decades searching for the Nazis he is convinced rest under every rock in Australian society. He is a little bit of an eccentric obsessive.

  22. politichix

    Blogstrop
    #1229425, posted on March 18, 2014 at 7:18 am
    That something like Bolt’s illumination of human silliness could be transformed into Race Hatred is a form of legal alchemy we should never allow to stand.

    I always thought it was the Herald Sun that got cold feet about appealing but recently heard AB say the decision not to proceed was his. If that’s the case then while I am disappointed AB didn’t harden up and take the fight to them, the Herald Sun should have insisted on going ahead. They would be spending way more time and money ‘legalling’ every word their journos are writing than they would have on the appeal.

  23. Wozzup

    While I understand fully where Australian Jewish leaders like Jones are coming from and support them in principle, in this particular matter I am implacably opposed.

    Not through any lack of support for the Jewish community which still, even in our so called liberal society suffers at the hands of bigots, antisemitics and antizionists (thanks in part to the Australian left which supports the BDS which is itself a racist and antisemitic organization). But rather I am opposed specifically because I believe Australian Jews will rue the day 18(c) was introduced because ill-liberal and dangerously antisemitic forces at work below the surface will themselves use 18(c) to stifle debate about their activities.

    I can well imagine that when Jews try to speak up about pro islamist supporters who have made no secret of their hatred of Jews and their desire for destruction of Jewry, there will be loud accusations that Jews are bringing it upon themselves because they are “offending” the pro islamists. (This is the same old filth used by Nazis of course).

    Even if this worst case scenario does not occur what will happen is that 18(c) will at best simply drive antisemitism underground rather than allowing it in the open where it can be exposed and confronted. In short support for 18(c) is dangerously short sighted and foolish.

  24. Grigory M

    AB didn’t harden up and take the fight to them

    AB – absent courage of convictions. Ho hum. BIRM

  25. Gab

    AB didn’t harden up and take the fight to them

    No. The Herald Sun and News Ltd said to not appeal. Going it alone would have meant a huge finanacial burden and possibly the loss of his job.

    AB – absent courage of convictions.

    Yes it’s very easy for a gutless bastard like you to sit behind your computer and call someone else a coward. But I’m sure had Bolt gone it alone and appealed you would have contributed financially to help him, you know, becuase you have the courage of your convictions. For sure.

  26. There is only one way to combat racism. That is for people from different races to live together, interact and learn that they are fundamentally trustworthy. Provisions such as 18C, and the positive discrimination provisions such as for Indigenous Australians do not reduce racism, if anything they can act to increase racism. If we provided support to the most disadvantaged Australians irrespective of race that would be a much better approach than giving benefits to elite, wealthy and privileged Indigenous Australians.

    Amen, brother.

    Better still, if we let charitable and philanthropic organisations provide much of this support, rather than call on the taxpayers’ already strained resources, it may even be done better.

  27. The urge to distance oneself from people who are just plain making you look bad is one of the best side effects of free speech in a free society.

    Letting idiots be loud idiots and loudly denouncing them as such is the best way to deal with them.

    Liberty Quote!!

  28. politichix

    Gab that’s what I thought too until I heard him on his radio gig with Steve Price saying he had been given the option to go ahead but it had been his call to pull up stumps. Seems odd I know.

  29. Yes, but Grigory M – would you have offered to support Bolt financially in his lawsuit?

    It’s a fair enough question, and deserves a thought-0ut answer.

    I helped pay for the full page ad in the Australian at the time, but that was as much as I could afford then.

  30. Gab

    saying he had been given the option to go ahead but it had been his call to pull up stumps.

    Funny becuase only last week I heard, yet again, Price and Bolt say that News Ltd/Herald Sun said no they were not going to support an appeal.

  31. Grigory M

    would you have offered to support Bolt financially in his lawsuit?

    Nope.

  32. Gab

    You were expecting an intelligent answer from him? LOL

  33. J.H.

    It is also how the law is applied. I seem to remember that the first person to be charged by the new amendments to the anti vilification laws was an aboriginal woman in Kalgoorlie WA. However the charges were rejected by the judge as they were not within the spirit of the law….

    ….. Ah here it is 2006 “laws were only intended for severe racial abuse, not petty name calling. Being called a “White slut” is fine…. Yet Bolt was brought to heel by the same sorts of laws for simply criticizing the motives of the identity choices of people who had several to choose from. These laws are just to open to interpretation to be of any good.

    So when white Australians are subjected to racial abuse and vilification, we are not protected by these laws anyway…. So in a violent situation like this one, the laws can’t be used thus they are of absolutely no use to the greater portion of Australian society.

  34. jupes

    The urge to distance oneself from people who are just plain making you look bad is one of the best side effects of free speech in a free society.

    Though this urge never seems to get Muslims out on the streets bagging their ratbag clerics and spokesmen.

    The urge to claim (potential) victimhood is much stronger it would seem.

  35. johanna

    An aversion to litigation is an absolutely sane reponse (see Clive Palmer, who must have spent millions on lawsuits). Anonymous keyboard warriors who criticise Bolt have zero credibility. Or are you prepared to put up you house in the hope that something might happen years later?

  36. Grigory M

    Glib – heh. You’re so verbose. ;)

  37. Driftforge

    Hmm. This of course makes the assumption that racism is something that should be combated. If we are going to say that it should, we need to have a better understanding of what racism is and isn’t.

  38. .

    The idea of ethnic leaders is horseshit.

    Who’s the white ethnic leader? I’ll tell you straight up – I don’t give a crap what the self appointed onanist pretends to think for me.

  39. Rococo Liberal

    But racisim itself is not wrong, but natural. What is wrong is ACTING on the basis of racism.

    Racism is something that all humans have in common. It is one of those things that just is. it becomes a problem when people act upon it. Excluding someone because they of a different race is a moral wrong which I think in certain cases ought to be made unlawful. But using language that is not meant to hurt someone, should have no consequnce at all. The person who is offended may say that he or she doesn’t like what is said, but if it is clear that offence wasn’t meant then the ‘offendee’ does commit a moral wrong if he or she cries ‘racist.’

    The law is there to circumscibe deeds which cause detriment to others. It is not there to circumscribe thoughts or speech. It is true that the dividing line between words and deeds is sometimes narrow. Thus defamation and incitement are unlawful actions rather than unlawful speech. From what I can see sec 18C does not make any deed unlawful, but mere words. That is contrary to our whole tradition.

    In any case can’t someone tell Mr Jones that anti-discrimination laws and speech codes lead to a growth of racism, rather than the oppositie, because inevitably such laws focus everyone’s mind on divisions in society not our common reality, secondly they give licence to race baiters to see racism in any utterance, and lastly they give people the excuse to ‘learn to the test’, ie theyspeak the mealy-mouthed expressions that satisfy the law but in private become more racist because they resent the multi-culti hypocrisy of the left.

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