The scarcity of reasonable arguments against amending the Racial Discrimination Act is emerging as an acute problem for the defenders of the status quo.
Understandably, there has been no serious attempt to argue for the retention of the subjective terms offend, insult and humiliate in 18C.
It is difficult to see how the human rights establishment can sustain its attack on George Brandis’s “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community” test.
Even the erudite Tim Southphommasane, appears stumped on this one. The strongest line the Race Discrimination Commissioner can muster in his latest speech is that “there are a number of questions worth posing” about the ordinary reasonable Australian:
Who exactly is this person? What kind of cultural background does this person have? Is this person someone who embraces cultural diversity, or someone who is skeptical of it? Does this person have prejudicial thoughts about some or all ethnic minority groups?
On the subject of things about which there are questions worth posing, allow me to visit Tim’s assertion that:
One could be abused by co-workers, customers or strangers in public as a “filthy coon”, “stupid boong”, “slit-eyed gook”, “shifty Jew”, “sand-nigger” or “Arab terrorist”. But unless such abuse is capable of inciting a third party, the proposed law would leave the target without an avenue for seeking redress.
What no avenues? Even if we assume Tim is right about the amendments, and I’m not sure he is, the area of offensive and abusive behaviour has more legislative boulevards than Paris. Try these for a start:
* The anti-bullying amendments to the Fair Work Act that came into effect on January * *
* Legislation prohibiting offensive language in public. (Barry O’Farrell just upped the fines on that one in NSW by the way.)
* Section 471.12 of the Criminal Code which makes it a crime to use a postal or similar service in a way that reasonable persons would regard as offensive. The provision was successfully used in Monis v The Queen in a decision upheld by the High Court.
Doubtless Catallaxy readers more familiar with the statutory streetscape than I will be able to suggest further interesting strolls that might ease Tim’s anxiety.