The AFR on free speech and 18c

The AFR editorial:

While an open society needs firm protection from those who would exploit our freedoms to harm us, it also needs a vigorous right of free speech. Tony Abbott justified his over-ruling of the push by Attorney-General George Brandis to water down section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act by the need to unite ethnic communities against Islamic jihadists. But it is more a reflection of political mishandling of the issue by Senator Brandis.

As The Australian Financial Review said some months ago, the right to speak freely is part of the deep-rooted institutions of our English heritage, like free elections, the rule of law and the freedom from government persecution on religious, racial and other grounds. In the greatest multicultural beacon of all, the United States, there is no federal anti-discrimination bureaucracy and free speech is entrenched in its constitution.

This right should not extend to inciting raw hatred or violence against particular groups. But such qualifications should not stoop so low as to prohibit giving mere offence, the part of the Act that tripped up newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt for questioning whether a group of fair-skinned Aboriginals were entitled to claim indigenous status to qualify for certain government preferences. In an open society, any preferential policy based on race or culture must be exposed to vigorous public debate, even if it might offend some people.

Attempts to close down such free speech are part of the modern ill-liberalism of the progressive left. But combating such speech control should go back to genuinely liberal principles and proper legal review, not indulging the thrill of a conservative culture war. In a free society, it should not be illegal, as opposed to objectionable, to be a bigot. But Senator Brandis was foolish to defiantly lead his case with such arguments.

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16 Responses to The AFR on free speech and 18c

  1. Yon Toad

    Jellyback George has neither the wit nor the spine to fight for what he said he believes in. He has shown himself to be just another self-serving member of the political class.

  2. OldOzzie

    Again, Tony Abbott “Malcolm Fraser the 2nd” – Liberals have shown themselves to be a waste of space

  3. Attempts to close down such free speech are part of the modern ill-liberalism of the progressive left. But combating such speech control should go back to genuinely liberal principles and proper legal review, not indulging the thrill of a conservative culture war.

    What the hell does that mean?

  4. Toiling Mass

    People seem to think that, without 18c, there are no protections or remedies against unacceptable behaviour.

    We already have defamation laws, and the act in question prohibits all manner of actions already. Why don’t these journalists explain the need to be defended from hurty-feelies, since that is what the sections under discussion deal with.

    People might be surprised at how many things are already prohibited under laws other than 18c – in fact, surprised to discover that it already covers everything they are worried about.

  5. entropy

    Brandis knew exactly what he was saying. Mission accomplished. Look Like you stand for free speech, but deliberately derail the argument.

  6. I am the Walrus, Koo Koo K'choo

    Quite a good op-ed which makes the right case for freedom of speech.

    A bit disappointing that it didn’t outright call for repeal. And there was a split infinitive in the last sentence.

    Going by no. of pages, the v. thin Fin is in trouble. Hopefully this signals a late fightback by the forces of common sense within the paper, so that it might become a useful part of the national conversation and thereby survive.

  7. I am the Walrus, Koo Koo K'choo

    Oh yes, also I am v. pleased that it sticks the knife into Brandis for screwing things up. He ought to be pilloried for his lack of preparation and fumbling of the debate.

  8. one old bruce

    They are calling the Sydney eastern suburbs attack on the school bus of Jewish children a ‘racist’ attack.

    Good grief, it was (potentially) bloody terrorism in the category of ‘migrants dragging us into the hatreds of the Old Country’.

    I see that there is strong support in Australia’s Jewish community for 18c and all that. But don’t they see it will actually hinder, not help, efforts to prevent such attacks like this on the schoolchildren?

    Racism can be a good thing! The old vilified ‘racist’ societies like the British Empire were more peaceful than the present successors. Trouble began with chasing the liberal mirage of ‘equality’.

  9. .

    And there was a split infinitive in the last sentence.

    This is a nonsense language rule. Why impose Latin rules on Germanic sentence structure and a mix of French and Norwegian verbs etc?!

    Going by no. of pages, the v. thin Fin is in trouble.

    If you were in business, what possible reason would you have to read it? You’d have to be a masochist.

    the part of the Act that tripped up newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt for questioning whether a group of fair-skinned Aboriginals were entitled to claim indigenous status to qualify for certain government preferences.

    Arguably, they could be sued for merely mentioning this. Bravo. They’ve stood up to these bullies for Bolt, albeit years too late.

  10. Dr Faustus

    not indulging the thrill of a conservative culture war.

    What the hell does that mean?

    It means the Fin pulpit is still in a Fairfax church…

  11. Tom

    It looks like Michael Stutchbury wrote that leader. So today he will get the cold shoulder even more as the AFR zombie leftist establishment circles the wagon to shut out the “outsider”.

    It’s the only business daily in the world that wears its anti-business ideology like a badge of honour.

  12. H B Bear

    Going by no. of pages, the v. thin Fin is in trouble.

    The Thin Review? Australia’s leading anti-business business pamphlet.

  13. Rokdoktor

    The AFR makes the quite reasonable distinction between inciting violence and hatred, and making a statement that someone will find offensive and/or objectionable. If freedom of speech doesn’t mean being free to express an opinion that someone will find offensive or objectionable, then it doesn’t mean anything. The very essence of freedom of speech is the ability to say something that someone else will disagree with, secure in the knowledge that the law protects your right to say it without danger (of any type). There is no freedom of speech if the law requires us to all be polite to each other.

  14. Old School Conservative

    They are calling the Sydney eastern suburbs attack on the school bus of Jewish children a ‘racist’ attack.
    The 1pm news said that the 5 youths who were caught are still too drunk to be interviewed.
    A cynic would say that the defence of “alcohol fuelled violence” is already being prepared.
    No racism here! Look the other way.

  15. Taxpayer

    It is time that the next protest supporting radical Islam was met with the chief perpetrators facing an 18C action on the grounds that it offended many Australians. If they are going to continue to support this crap legislation then it should be use against anti-Australians or it should be taken off the books. One law for all or remove it to preserve the illusion of equality under our law.

  16. Taxpayer

    Old School Conservative – It is time any mitigation for actions whilst under the influence of alcohol was taken off the books and replaced with acknowledgement that the involvement alcohol was a conscious action that deliberately caused aggravating factors. Nobody has commented that these children 14-17 were drunk whilst under age. Who supplied the alcohol? Will they be charged for their actions as they should? Where did they learn their prejudices? Many questions that the police seem to want to brush under the carpet.

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