Peter Phelps on 18c

From the NSW Hansard:

-*-

 Last Friday I was surprised to receive in my email inbox a joint media release stating:

The NSW and Victorian Governments today announced they lodged formal submissions opposing changes to the protections against racial vilification contained in the Federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

This is sometimes known as the repeal of section 18C. I was quite surprised by this media release, considering that one of the fundamental tenets of the Liberal Party is the right to free speech—in fact, in the list of four items which it counts as essential for parliamentary democracy, free speech is there. I think there is something even worse at hand, and that is the assumption that removing the ability of a person or a group of people to take legal action against speech that offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates on the basis of race would somehow licence racist speech and unleash the streak of prejudice thought to perpetually run through the Australian character. It is a very shallow, very unfair and very small-minded belief that that is the true nature of Australia for which legislation is required.

The assumption is that the law, as it currently stands, is the only thing restraining racial hatred and keeping public discourse civil in Australia, as if there is a racist or a bigot hiding behind the aspidistra waiting to burst out with a metaphorical cutlass of discrimination the mere moment that section 18C is removed. What defenders of section 18C ignore is that social sanctions already exist to enforce culturally accepted standards of behaviour. A truly civil society has ways of self-regulating and condemning racist speech without resorting to the lawyers and the apparatchiks of the Human Rights Commission. A good example of this can be seen in that a self-regulated civil society provided the necessary opprobrium for Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. President Obama resisted the pressure from the media to bring the authority of the Government to bear and do something about Sterling. Instead, President Obama said:

    When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk.

This has a lot to do with the First Amendment in the United States, but the Sterling controversy has also shown that free speech does not license racist speech at all and that modern societies can and do impose social sanctions for racism. If an Australian leader in politics, business or sport expressed the same kind of racist sentiments as Sterling, a similar fate of exile and ostracism would await them. For decades Australians of diverse background have spoken about how hurtful it is to be singled out based on their creed or colour, and have said that in the bad old days racial insults were common.

Over time this lesson has deeply penetrated Australian culture. Proof of the zero-tolerance approach to racism has taken hold in virtually every Australian school. Even the dimmest pupil knows that it is offensive, and schools are very prompt in promoting the antiracism message. One simply has to look to Australia, where Eddie McGuire, a multimedia personality, multimillionaire and president of the Collingwood Football Club, made an off-colour and racially-tinted remark about Australian of the Year Adam Goodes. The powerful and influential McGuire was castigated by virtually every media outlet in the land and forced to make a grovelling apology explaining how terrible racism is and how he was not a racist.

What we have in section 18C and the construct of the Human Rights Commission is the creation of an Orwellian doublespeak in the modern world. The Human Rights Commission has in its name the issue of rights and yet in practice this vast bureaucratic outfit, funded by government to the tune of $25 million a year, does far more to thwart freedom than it does to promote it. The debate about section 18C is a key ideological clash between whether the State should have the authority to tell individuals what they can think and say and whether it should be left to individuals and society. Alan Borovey, founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, was just as scathing. He said:

    You are running a terrible risk that someone’s thin skin could be the limit of someone else’s free speech.

Professor John Furedy, a Holocaust survivor said:

    There is what I call a velvet totalitarianism creeping in. I call it that because the punishments are less severe but people still try to censor themselves and each other. … There can be no contest of ideas if we go too far down this path. … The only protection against stupid speech is better speech.

Professor Alan Dershowitz said:

    Once a government gets into the business of banning one type of bigoted speech, the circle of censorship inevitably expands.

Finally I go to Israel—one country whose very existence faces an existential threat every day. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel said:

    Freedom of expression does not only mean the expression of views that are widely accepted by the public reflect the government’s policies, but also minority views and views that are considered irritating, extreme and unacceptable.

I entirely agree with these sentiments and I reject the media release put out by the Minister for Citizenship who has responsibility for multicultural affairs.

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49 Responses to Peter Phelps on 18c

  1. Kaboom

    That is just so totally gay…

  2. Rococo Liberal

    Great post Sinclair.

    I think what annoys me the most is the fact that we on the right as a rule send the fool of the family into politis. Anyone with any real chutzpah isn’t going to want to have much to do with politics at all. Much more good can be done, much more can be had and much more money can be made in the world of commerce and the professions and the arts even.

    The result is that too many right wing politicians are pussies. Or perhaps mnore accurately they are in politics, so they think that government is a solution to everything. And if you are a second-rate right winger, it is hard to see that a lot of the left wing flack put up in the market place of ideas is actually just fluff that has no real support in society if it is quickly and efficiently dealt with.

    As Sinclair says, the best way of dealing with left-wing wankery on 18C is to point out that if racial insults are not unlawful it doesn’t mena that they are right.

    We really need to educate the public about the theories of Lord Moulton.

    https://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Obedience-to-the-unenforcable-4378

    Has anyone got any stats on how often section 18C has actually been used? I suspect that the Bolt Case is probably the only time this silly provision has ever been tested. More so could anyone say that it really makes any difference to some yobbo in Blacktown that it might be unlawful to call another yobbo by a racial epithet?

  3. Pyrmonter

    And Dr Phelps’s private members bill to repeal sections 4 and 4A of the Summary Offences Act and the provisions of the Crimes Act providing for the prosecution of blasphemous libel is …?

  4. Vicki

    You only have to look at the quality (read “lack of”) of the respective governments of NSW and Victoria, to comprehend the astonishing position they have taken on the proposed repeal of 18C.

    I wish these 3rd rate governments would be put into the hands of Administrators so that there may be some chance of government getting the hell out of our private lives.

  5. viva

    modern societies can and do impose social sanctions for racism

    Oh I guess you mean the rabid witch hunters of the Twitterverse and the left wing media. As far as I am concerned these self appointed pc zealots chill freedom of speech every bit as effectively as 18C. Just look what happened to the Mozilla guy – and this is the type of public shaming you endorse as civil society self regulating?

  6. A Lurker

    The NSW and Victorian Governments today announced they lodged formal submissions opposing changes to the protections against racial vilification contained in the Federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

    Can someone name me which two Australian states have the most troublesome, anti-Western and anti-Democratic ethnic enclaves that presumably need official appeasement and protection…you know, just in case they get violently stroppy because someone called them a bad name, or politely insinuated that certain activities that they regularly get up to, cough…gang rapes, honour killings, drive-by shootings, car re-birthings etc…cough, might just be a tad anti-Australian and generally not on.

  7. Vicki

    Has anyone got any stats on how often section 18C has actually been used? I suspect that the Bolt Case is probably the only time this silly provision has ever been tested.

    At an address last year at The Sydney Institute, the head of the Human Rights [sic] Commission, Gillian Triggs
    indicated that there are actually a lot of complaints made to her organisation which are mediated and settled without recourse to the courts. I understand that these are very often matters arising out of the workplace, and are perhaps (she didn’t say this) an avenue of retribution (and compensation?).

    So Bolt’s case may be the tip of the iceberg.

  8. Lem

    Lab-Lib. Different faces of the same coin. Different snouts in the same trough.

  9. jupes

    When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk.

    Along with authorising the assault on Bin Laden and allowing the killing of other terrorists with drones, this statement rates as one of the only three decent things Obama has done.

  10. C.L.

    The Liberal Party is a disgusting organisation.

  11. The NSW parliament is a cesspit of incompetence, corruption and illiberal attitudes. Peter Phelps is one of very few exceptions and deserves the support of all classical liberals and libertarians.

  12. Gab

    The NSW and Victorian Governments, Liberal impersonators en masse, would do well to remember the words of Lincoln:

    Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.

  13. Derp

    Mayhaps the troll who cannot understand a services economy ought to read more. Trading is not new.

  14. stevem

    You are running a terrible risk that someone’s thin skin could be the limit of someone else’s free speech.

    This is the key point to me. In an a time where many seem to be permanently outraged on others’ behalves the phrase “offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates” seems to offer far too much scope for action.

  15. .

    The NSW parliament is a cesspit of incompetence, corruption and illiberal attitudes. Peter Phelps is one of very few exceptions and deserves the support of all classical liberals and libertarians.

    Liberty quote?

  16. Demosthenes

    Has anyone got any stats on how often section 18C has actually been used?

    Last time I looked (well over a year ago), it had been cited in about 60 court cases.

  17. Robert Blair

    A key issue that seems to be missed is- what is “racism”?

    Most people seem to take it for granted that “racism” is, ipso facto, a bad thing.

    However, it is racist to:
    - wave an Australian flag
    - suggest immigrants learn English
    - deplore islamist radicalism
    - suggest that “asylum seekers” are actually illegal entrants, intent on economic betterment and cultural colonisation

    “Racism” is whatever the left say it is.

    Look ahead, my friends.

    One of these things will happen someday soon:
    – someone in Australia will be denied a licence of some sort (driver, marriage, business) because of “racism”
    - a worker or subcontractor will be denied entry to a site due to “racism”
    - someone’s perfectly plain will or bequest will be overturned and settled otherwise because of “racism” expressed at some time by the deceased
    - a child will be bullied on national TV by a great bearded ape, and the ape will be lionized for it.

    “Racism” is a great gift to the left, even more so than “sexism” and “homophobia”. It is marvelously pliable and can be fitted (or not) to almost any situation.

    Put together “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia” and “climate change” and you have the perfect toolkit for the aspiring demagogue looking to rule via mob hysteria.

  18. Ant

    And just who are these temporary politicians in government preaching down to the filthy masses gracing us all with their wisdom and goodness and know-everythingness that they think they have the power to determine what is good speech and bad speech for us?

    Are they the same lot who shower themselves with cash and perks pilfered from the various public treasuries which are kept constantly bloated from the hard work and efforts of those same masses they seek to lord over, as the wriggle around in the shadows grabbing every thing they can lay their hands on – legally and unlegally?

    Pissants the lot of them.

  19. Ant

    New word for the day: Unlegally.

    It means an illegal act perpetrated by a politician, extracted from the latin un-pissanterus-pilferus.

  20. Dan

    Hundreds of cases have been heard by the Star Chambers, many people paid by respondents to go away, few court cases. “The process is the punishment”

  21. Pyrmonter

    @ Demosthemes

    Probably slightly more than 60, but less than 100. Bear in mind the need to exclude commentaries/non-arbitral references; and that the Federal Court and Full Federal Court references will be reviews and appeals of lower tribunal decisions:

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinosrch.cgi?method=boolean;rank=on;query=cth%20consol_act%20rda1975202%20s18c;view=database-natural;offset=0

  22. Nato

    I could have sworn that vilification was one of the specific protections Brandis wanted to insert to the legislation. Thank heavens the state pollies set us straight about that in their press release.

  23. Governments aren’t really interested in protecting your rights to speak, simply, the truth hurts and any avenue open to the powers that be to protect them from the truth will be protected.

  24. .

    I remember once Billy Brownless referred to NRL players as ‘apes chasing a banana’ …was that directed at South Pacific Islanders…who mostly play league or union, and don’t play Australian Rules Football?

    He should be banned from being a company director for such racism!

    What would Adam Goodes say?

  25. Token

    That is just so totally gay…

    What does it say when the Obama administration puts the Labor-Lite Party to shame on free speech and dealing with bigots?

  26. Token

    Last time I looked (well over a year ago), it had been cited in about 60 court cases.

    It would be valuable to know where one could reference the cases, are you able to provide links Demosthenes?

    PS: I could have sworn I had to regularly ask the same question to someone who writes in almost the same fashion as you Demosthenes in the past…

  27. JB5

    Yet another reason Napthine and his minions are not getting my vote this time around. Not much of a protest as due to preferences they’ll probably get it anyway, but they aint getting first dibs.

  28. Tony

    Modification to legislation passed in 1995 could lead to a repeat of something that happened in 2005? That this statement could be presented seriously indicates the level of debate and analysis we have here.

  29. “What does it say when the Obama administration puts the Labor-Lite Party to shame on free speech and dealing with bigots?”

    The Obama Administration doesn’t have much choice, the SCOTUS has routinely upheld the 1st Amendment, allowing everything from KKK public rallies to white supremacist radio stations and associated literature and speech. In the US of A they take the whole “freedom” idea a little bit more seriously than we do.

    The problem here is, no-one in Australia has ever bothered (to the best of my knowledge) challenge the laws we have curtailing speech in the High Court.

    Australians are incredibly comfortable with censorship and the measure of tyranny that goes with it, we’ve accepted everything from secret agencies spying on the citizenry, censorship of the press, censorship of social media, the interference in the political process by external powers, the destruction of civil liberties in the name of crime fighting, so why do people expect that people will care about a law that does what so many others do?

  30. Walter Plinge

    The Victorian Liberals have form when it comes to banning speech. They waved through Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and once in power didn’t overturn it. The Charter of Human Rights is an excuse for criminals to clog up the justice system with confected complaints.

    They also opposed the dredging of an enlarged shipping channel in Pt Phillip Bay. That was a while ago and still rankles with me.

  31. Michel Lasouris

    I’m inline for a basting under 18c. You see, I’m an atheist, and although I respect anybody’s right to profess belief in some nebulous almighty being, nothing will cause me to stop pointing out the sheer stupidity of religion, be it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or (worst of all) Islam. Some belief concepts have no god, only teachers of morality, such as the Bhuddists; misguided but harmless.
    Now, I’m very certain that my ardent endeavours to discredit religion will cause all sort of angst, hurt, ridicule, offence, etc. etc. ( but probably not intimidation), and I care not one jot. Bring on your foolish persecution under 18c; I relish the opportunity.

  32. Justin

    A very good speech. Does anybody believe that racism is curtailed by 18C? Most people have never heard of 18C. And I suspect very few actual racists have ever been brought before the courts. Certainly not the firebrand clerics that think Australian women are meat for rapists. To think that there are masses of racists just waiting for its repeal is an insult to intelligence as well as to Australian society. It would seem to imply that in spite of 18C racism remains rampant. If this is the case then what is basis for preserving a law that is clearly ineffective.

  33. Essentially it comes down to one thing – should the government of the day be the decider and arbiter of everything? This dismisses all claims to 18C, because it is implied otherwise that 18C is the only solution to racism.

    Arguing against 18C on its own merits, or lack thereof, is self-defeating, as you are giving credence to the implication that problems must, and can only be dealt with effectively by, the government.

    It is the implication that must be defeated first and foremost.

  34. entropy

    It’s not how often people are successfully prosecuted, or brought before the courts, although a law that is hardly ever used is a law that should be removed as an example of Dross.

    It is the use of 18C as a weapon to chill political dissent that is its biggest problem.

  35. Beertruk

    Australians are incredibly comfortable with censorship and the measure of tyranny that goes with it, we’ve accepted everything from secret agencies spying on the citizenry, censorship of the press, censorship of social media, the interference in the political process by external powers, the destruction of civil liberties in the name of crime fighting, so why do people expect that people will care about a law that does what so many others do?

    I think that it’s more apathy than being comfortable. Along the line of ‘She’ll be right mate…someone else will deal with it’.

  36. Michael, much as I applaud your determination to exercise your right to free speech, RELIGION is not covered by the Racial Discrimination Act.

    So you are in fact free to pick on religious people of all kinds, unless your State has religious vilification legislation.

  37. Natural Instinct

    Now readers may have trouble seeing the connection, but the enforcement of 18C and the NSW ICAC investigation into campaign funding breaching a law discriminating against one class of voters, are much the same thing – governments enforcing what can and cannot be said. As writers above have mentioned, the USA takes ‘free speech’ a lot more seriously.
    .
    Here are some words we don’t hear from the HRC…

    It bears repeating that we are a country with a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. …. by limiting the reach of their government into the inherent and inalienable rights that every American possesses…. Rather, the people run their government, first within the framework of the restrictions placed on government by the Constitution, and second by the constitutional rights each citizen possesses that are superior to the operation of government.

    One of these rights is the First Amendment right to speak freely, which ―has its fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office. When government attempts to regulate the exercise of this constitutional right, through campaign finance laws or otherwise, the danger always exists that the high purpose of campaign regulation and its enforcement may conceal self-interest, and those regulated by the Constitution in turn become the regulators.

    Under our Constitution it is We the People who are sovereign. The people have the final say. The legislators are their spokesmen. The people determine through their votes the destiny of the nation. It is therefore important — vitally important — that all channels of communication be open to them during every election, that no point of view be restrained or barred, and that the people have access to the views of every group in the community.

    Therefore any attempt at regulation of political speech is subject to the strictest scrutiny, meaning that it is the government‘s burden to show that its regulation is narrowly tailored to achieve the only legitimate goal of such regulation — preventing quid -pro-quo corruption or the appearance thereof as it pertains to elected officials or candidates.

    More can be found here

  38. “I think that it’s more apathy than being comfortable. Along the line of ‘She’ll be right mate…someone else will deal with it’”

    Valid point, either way, I think repealing 18C should just be the start of a process of liberating speech.

  39. Beertruk

    Philippa Martyr
    #1295770, posted on May 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm
    Michael, much as I applaud your determination to exercise your right to free speech, RELIGION is not covered by the Racial Discrimination Act.

    So you are in fact free to pick on religious people of all kinds, unless your State has religious vilification legislation.

    Unless you happen to be in Victoria. It was a win by the two Pastors on appeal. You can say that the process its self was punishment.

    Linky

    AAR Linky

  40. Beertruk

    Bugger…I meant to say :

    It was a win by the two Pastors on appeal. Sort of.

  41. Unless you happen to be in Victoria. It was a win by the two Pastors on appeal. You can say that the process its self was punishment.

    As I said earlier – unless your State has religious vilification laws.

    The Victorian Racial and Religious Vilification Act was passed in 2001.

  42. Ian of Perth

    Once a government gets into the business of banning one type of bigoted speech, the circle of censorship inevitably expands.

    Excellent post and particularly agree with the sentiment (actuallity really) of government getting involved in every aspect of citizens lives.

  43. johanna

    Go, Phelpsie!

    That allegedly “conservative” governments in the two largest States (in population and economic terms) conspired to ambush a pretty lukewarm attempt by the Feds to lift the yoke of censorship is infuriating. Just goes to show how intimidated they are by people who will never vote for them.

    Knaves and fools.

  44. 1735099

    Nobody really gave a stuff about 18C until Andrew Bolt was called out for bullshit and then threw a right old tanty.
    The Coalition saw a political opportunity and jumped on it.
    It has nothing to do with freedom of expression and everything to do with buying political influence.
    The attempted repeal is a joke.
    It might just blow up in Brandis’ face…….

  45. .

    Nobody really gave a stuff about 18C until Andrew Bolt was called out for bullshit and then threw a right old tanty.

    No, I always gave a shit, because free speech is sacred.

  46. Kaboom

    Fuck off, Numbers, you have marvelously beclowned yourself today.

    A better man would be licking his wounds in silence for a day or two. Not you…

    Just fuck off, please, you sanctimonious and inevitably erroneous old cretin.

  47. Tel

    It’s highly unlikely that anyone will be seriously injured by too much free speech. They might get upset or twist their undies. They might even lose a friend, or not earn as much money as they might have liked to, but nothing serious will happen.

    On the other hand, too little free speech is the doorway to real danger. The less freedom a people have, the more likely they are to be murdered by their own government… and about a hundred million statistics prove that statement.

  48. cohenite

    Another good discussion on the redundancy of S 18C by barrister Lawrence Maher is here.

    As to the application of S 18C a particularly egregious example is here.

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