David Leyonhjelm. Politicians with trustworthy eyes

In Leonard Cohen’s song Chelsea Hotel, there is a line that goes:

She told me again she preferred handsome men, but for me she would make an exception.

The song is about Janis Joplin, who had a brief encounter with Cohen in the hotel. What the line shows is that Joplin tended to discriminate against men she didn’t consider handsome.

Discrimination is a part of life. Indeed, I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t discriminate in one way or another. When it comes to choosing a partner, whether for life or a brief encounter, discrimination is rampant.

It is also found in politics. My mother once told me she voted for a particular party because she thought the eyes of the leader of the other side were too close together. She would have agreed with Janis Joplin.

As a senator, my concern is whether this should matter to governments. Should we be left alone to discriminate as we like, or should certain types of discrimination be prohibited? If we are to prohibit certain types of discrimination, is there a rational basis for deciding what they are, and how might we prevent such prohibition becoming an unwarranted intrusion into our lives?

There is no doubt that some forms of discrimination are abhorrent. Many years ago I spent several months living and working in South Africa. It was during the apartheid era, when blacks, whites and ‘coloureds’ were supposedly living separate parallel lives. There were separate buses and bus stops, public toilets, post office entrances and residential zones, all determined by race.
Such discrimination is now prohibited, and overt manifestations of apartheid are long gone. Nonetheless, there are still predominantly black, white and coloured residential areas in today’s South Africa; people still like to live among those with whom they feel most comfortable. In other words, they discriminate.

Apartheid was a government policy, imposed by force of law. Choosing to continue living in particular areas is not. The difference is very significant.

In Australia it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, age, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, intersex status, transgender status, carer responsibilities, marital or relationship status, pregnancy, breastfeeding, family responsibilities, religion, political opinion, social origin, medical record, criminal record and trade union activity.

Such prohibitions apply to employment, education, access to premises, provision of goods, services or facilities, accommodation, clubs, sport and requests for information.

Depending on how she defined handsome, a woman with Joplin’s taste in men might only be unaffected if she didn’t charge for her favours.

The laws apply to both government and non-government activities. And yet, discrimination by the government is not the same as discrimination by the private sector. When the government favours certain types of people more than others, it is contrary to the principle of equality before the law. This is not something we should welcome – we do not want a country in which some people are more equal than others.

Preventing certain types of discrimination when the government is not involved is a different matter. Many restrictions are based on nothing more than disapproval, and designed to do no more than avoid hurt feelings. This is no more legitimate than laws that restrict speech that might insult or offend. Governments are there to protect our life, liberty and property, not our feelings.

What difference would it make if we abolished all discrimination laws that apply outside of government? Would there be a rush of organisations refusing to serve or employ people based on their gender, sexual preference, race or religion?

Suppose some did take that approach; for how long would they stay in business? Wouldn’t the rest of us find it obnoxious and stay away? Wouldn’t other businesses step in?

The assumption behind anti-discrimination laws is that they change the way we think; that if discriminating against people based on their gender, race or sexual preference is illegal, we will not secretly want to do it.

There is no evidence for this, just as there is no evidence that prohibitions on offensive speech lead to changed attitudes. If Joplin had been prohibited from discriminating in favour of handsome men, would she have chosen differently?

We all discriminate when we make choices, in how we conduct ourselves and the company we keep. It’s part of life, and not something the government should be concerned with.

David Leyonhjelm is a senator for the Liberal Democrats

This entry was posted in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to David Leyonhjelm. Politicians with trustworthy eyes

  1. Procrustes

    Good article. One problem though. The people who legislate on this stuff are not interested in evidence, only in feels.

  2. Rafe Champion

    Affirmative action programs are the most overt forms of official racism/sexism and etc since Apartheid in SA and the Jim Crow laws in the US.
    Well done progressive lefties!

    And for people who are interested in the history of S African race laws and the way they started with the white trade union in the mines. Well done trade unions!

  3. gbees

    Agree with all of this, unfortunately politicians of all persuasions don’t have the desire, or guts to dispense of these hideous discrimination laws and continue to regulate against us further for hurt feelings.

  4. Roger

    Agree with all of this, unfortunately politicians of all persuasions don’t have the desire, or guts to dispense of these hideous discrimination laws…

    Indeed, the Liberal PM is to the left of Tanya Plibersek on this.

    He folded quicker than a deck chair in a cyclone.

  5. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    “Black is beautiful!” Right on!!
    “It’s okay to be white.” Racist!!!

  6. EvilElvis

    Discrimination laws can’t be undone by you spineless lot, DL. You’d have to face up to the reality of a lot of other laws and legislation that you lot have implemented. Immigration, mental health, gender quotas, drugs etc and the myriad of acceptance programs to normalise the human faces of these policies would come crashing down as us plebs certainly have to discriminate in our real lives. We’ve actually got skin in the game, unlike Canberra.

  7. Phill

    Two uses of the same word, with two very different meanings that seem to me to be conflated in this article.


    1. recognize a distinction; differentiate.
    “babies can discriminate between different facial expressions”
    synonyms: differentiate, distinguish, draw/recognize a distinction, tell the difference, discern a difference;
    2. make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.
    “existing employment policies discriminate against women”
    synonyms: be biased, show prejudice, be prejudiced;

  8. Flyingduk

    Discrimination is just another word for freedom if choice. Laws that attempt to erradicate discrimination are simp ly laws attempting to restrict my freedom, and as such, will not be complied with.

  9. Flyingduk

    Just like ‘greed’, discrimination is necessary and good if you want society to benefit by having the best people doing the most productive things. As an example, i dont want the pilot of my plane, or my kids surgeon, to be chosen by any other metric than ‘the best at doing the job’. Using ‘we need more women’, or ‘not enough aborigines in our workforce’ or any other non merit based system simply means we dont get the best person doing the job.

  10. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Someone called ‘Meghan’, a ‘Duchess’, is wearing white! She must be a closet racist!!!!!!

  11. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Corgi-whistling. When royals wear white, signalling a support for racist views.

  12. I’ve often noted that those most in favour of anti-discrimination laws are ones that tend to discriminate the most.

  13. Dr Fred Lenin

    Never mind the trustworthy eyes where woukd you find any politician you could trust? That’s why Trump. Is trustworthy He isn’t a politician ,and he doesn’t lie unlike politicians . Discrimination laws can be repealed and everyone treated the same black ,white ,brindle ,it usd to be called democracy uny=till he polemupoets stuffed it up with “laws “ making certain groups different .

  14. Petros

    Spot on DL. Why can’t we just hire and fire anyone we want to? No reason needs to be given. Good employees have nothing to fear as bosses want to retain them.

  15. Kneel

    If you want to make laws that limit racism as practiced in “officialdom” (govt, courts etc), then I am all for it – govt does not need to know or care about my race, gender, religion etc in the vast majority of cases, so changing the way it behaves based on these is stupid and wrong. These should be symmetric and fair – if I get into trouble for calling her a “blackie”, she gets into the same trouble for calling me “whitie”. You don’t get to ignore the law because of your race – especially one that is supposed to remove racism!

    If you wan to make laws that limit me (and other individuals), then be prepared for some major blow-back in the form of questions and demands such as:

    Why does the majority have a minister for their needs, but the minority doesn’t? “Oh no,” you say, “that’s not the case at all”. Yes, actually it is – go check with the ABS and you’ll find MEN are a minority. There is a minister for women, but no minister for men.

    If I should show respect for other cultures and traditions, then where is the respect for mine? Australian tradition allows for the poking gentle fun at the foibles of others, yet you want to make laws the prevent this on the basis that someone might get offended? Listen carefully: it is not possible to give offense, only to take it It is not my responsibility, nor is it reasonable to ask me that you are not offended by what I say – you are free to disagree, even strongly. You are free to offer your own perspective, whether or not if offends anyone, same as me. If you prevent this sort of thing happening in public, it will happen in private and become a festering sore. People MUST be allowed to make their case, in public, right or wrong – being laughed out of the meeting is a much more successful response to reduce racism than refusing to hear what you find uncomfortable.

    Fucking snowflakes.

  16. None

    Agree with this and one way to start the ball rolling is to stop any government body or statutory authority from applying such laws by using their own laws against them. So for example the army and Defence Minister need to be charged with sex discrimination as they are currently stopping men from applying or being employed and universities should be charged with racism for advertisingescholarships just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and so on and so on. It’s all ok to have the ideology but you have to start dismantling the behemoth nd you have to do that one bit at a time. So make the move. You’re in Parliament you have power that we the people don’t have so make the move. Introduce the bill to repeal this s*** all the bill to charge these racist and sexists and bigots. Words mean nothing without any practical action.

  17. The only person in the entire ACT that actually has a brain.

  18. There is no end to how far the SJWs will go. They even infiltrate and attempt to take over software developers to further their cause. Here (YouTube) is an example (or view) on what’s happening with Linux. The SJWs can’t even leave a bunch of computer geeks alone, whose sole enjoyment is playing around with an operating system.

  19. PB

    Today’s Melbourne is proof enough that Apartheid had value. My favorite form of Apartheid would involve rounding up all Black Africans currently here, shipping them all to Africa with NO exceptions. Black Africans have brought this country nothing but trouble.

  20. .

    Today’s Melbourne is proof enough that Apartheid had value. My favorite form of Apartheid would involve rounding up all Black Africans currently here, shipping them all to Africa with NO exceptions. Black Africans have brought this country nothing but trouble.

    Fuck me swinging. There are huge problems eith ethnic crime in Melbourne right now but this sort of nonsense is exactly why stupid lefties wade in here and call us “Nazis”.

  21. Hay Stockard

    Dave owes me a couple of schooners.
    And he tells it like it is.

  22. Hay Stockard

    Apart from that, one is disgusted by people being judged by the colour of their skin or the shape of their eyes. It is about culture.
    I like our Anglo-Celtic culture. I can even cop leftfooters. But my parents and grandparents didn’t fight to see this country go down the gurgler. They even betrayed my modest self along with Ronnie Raygun when we won the Cold War.
    Why should I or my mates bend over backward for a load of goat herders that have turned their own places in to shitholes? And as a cop when cops were cops why in the name of little green apples can we not enforce our laws when the goat rooters and those of that ilk transgress them. Are we ruled by traitors?
    I’m back from an important happy hour with those of my parish. In case people haven’t guessed.

  23. Titch

    But we now have Federal Government departments making discriminating regulations about what percentage of contracts awarded and businesses they deal with, must be aboriginal businesses. If that is not discriminating on race, what is it?

  24. Bruce

    Per Procrustes: ……”The people who legislate on this stuff are not interested in evidence, only in feels.”

    It is actually MUCH worse than that.

    The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates. – Tacitus

    A government, which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

    If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all. – Jacob Hornberger (1995)

    There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him. – Robert Heinlein

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. – H. L. Mencken

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. – C. S. Lewis

Comments are closed.