Here is Tony Abbott on Tuesday:
As for 18C, look, I’m a passionate supporter of free speech. I absolutely am a passionate supporter of free speech and if we were starting from scratch with Section 18C, we wouldn’t have words such as ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ in the legislation. But we aren’t starting from scratch – we are dealing with the situation that we find ourselves in – and I want the communities of our country to be our friend, not our critic. I want to work with the communities of our country as ‘Team Australia’ here and as I said in my opening remarks, the Government’s perfectly reasonable under different circumstances attempt to amend Section 18C has become a complication that we just don’t need and we’re not going to proceed with.
Well, yes. The Prime Minister also has an obligation to uphold the law of the law and that might be sorely tested over the next few days.
Quadrant – a bastion of the Australian conservative/liberal establishment, having effectively declared Abbott’s government an illiberal regime – is organising a civil-disobedience campaign against 18c.
What form should such protest action take? Specifically intellectual civil disobedience is advocated here because of the nature of the right that has been taken away. Physical protest is neither appropriate nor envisaged. At the very least, an appropriate campaign would involve the deliberate and pre-publicized expression of opinions and disclosure of information that the relevant special interest groups have alleged would or might offend them. Ideally, these opinions should be ones that would be accepted by most ordinary Australians as reasonable (e.g., many terrorists are highly vocal Muslims); and the information disclosed should be factual (e.g., about the ineffectiveness of many programs for disadvantaged indigenous people and the channeling of scarce funding to white bureaucrats and urban professionals and academics). The causing of offense so achieved should then be followed by a refusal to acknowledge the role played by the Human Rights Commission, the courts, or any other state apparatus, as they attempt to act on behalf of the offended groups.
Quadrant is helpfully providing a form letter to be sent to the PM office:
Fill in the blanks below with the name of whatever group seems most appropriate. Hint: It won’t be ‘Presbyterians’. Send the completed form to:
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Be aware that completing this document represents an act of civil disobedience. It will constitute Exhibit A in any charges brought against you
1/ Members of the ______ community are disproportionately represented amongst those recently charged and convicted with plotting terrorist acts.
2/ Members of the ______ community are disproportionately represented amongst those charged with female genital mutilation.
3/ Some leaders of the ______ community are prone to denouncing the society that has welcomed them.
4/ Other leaders of the ______ community remain pointedly silent as their co-religionists journey overseas to join known terrorist organisations.
I will be at home and available to be taken into custody at the following time: __.__ am/pm
This document was drafted by Quadrant Online editor Roger Franklin, who would be proud to be charged with violating Section 18C.
While I agree that Abbott shouldn’t be able to break his often repeated election promises with impunity – I’m not convinced that civil disobedience is the most appropriate response either. Especially given that 18c protesters are very unlikely to get the same soft-on-crime judge as did Jonathan Moylan.
My preference is to lodge as many complaints for 18c violations against as many 18c supporters as possible. Then to work to deny pre-selection to those Liberal MPs (both state and federal) who support the retention of 18c. If they are preselected to then campaign against the re-election of those MPs and so on.