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Freedom of speech must include freedom to offend

Sent to us by Uninformed Luddite

The Australian

THE legislative overreach and nanny-state interference of the planned overhaul of federal anti-discrimination laws betray an activist tendency that is a core weakness of the Gillard government. Rather than improving productivity, restructuring the budget or securing our borders, the government occupies itself with so-called progressive reform to fix an unidentified problem. We use the term “so-called” advisedly because the proposed legislation is actually a retrograde step that will inhibit personal liberty rather than enhance it. No less a jurist than the recently retired chief justice of NSW (now ABC chairman) Jim Spigelman has belled the cat on this ill-considered plan.

Blissfully unselfconscious about any overtones of the nanny state or big brother, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon claims the new laws will “help everyone understand what behaviour is expected”. The Australian and our readers are left to wonder how we would ever cope without such benevolent guidance from our government masters. The consolidation of anti-discrimination laws from five acts into one will remove complexity and difficulties, we are told. In order to explain this need, the Attorney-General provides what she calls the “ridiculous” example of an African woman who might need to make separate complaints about sex and race discrimination. “Now she can make a single complaint recognising the discrimination was because she was both a woman and African.” It would seem that Ms Roxon, who, like Julia Gillard, is a former industrial lawyer, expects this legislation to be part of her reformist legacy.

Yet, as Mr Spigelman has eloquently explained, the consolidation will do far more than simplify the law. It will lift the anti-discrimination provisions of all the existing acts to the unnecessary and unwise threshold of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful to “offend” people. This was the test that saw News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt convicted of vilification and meant some of his columns were retrospectively banned because they might offend “fair-skinned Aboriginal people”. Rather than remove this legislative overreach, Ms Roxon aims to extend the provision across the full range of discrimination law. Mr Spigelman suggested this would impinge on freedom of speech in a way not seen in any other liberal democracy. “The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech,” he said. “There is no right not to be offended.”

The proposed laws also reverse the burden of proof, demanding that once a complainant has established a prima facie case, the respondent must justify their conduct. The combined impact of these proposed changes can only have a chilling effect on free expression. This is an example of government expanding beyond its remit in our free society and, given the pressing practical problems confronting the nation, a case of unwise political distraction. Ms Roxon should seek to rectify her mistakes quickly.

As Mr Spigelman has demonstrated, Australia is not bound by any international treaties to prevent any person or group from taking offence at the words of others. But Australia is obliged to protect freedom of speech. Our national character and strength of our democracy depend on it.

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7 Responses to Freedom of speech must include freedom to offend

  1. # 1 NWO Hatr says:

    “The proposed laws also reverse the burden of proof, demanding that once a complainant has established a prima facie case, the respondent must justify their conduct.”

    Guilty until proven innocent.

    Kind of like here now. (unofficially, of course).

  2. Ned says:

    Did you kear the one about these fellows walking into a bar: an Irishman, a Englishman. a Scotsperson, a African, a Jew, a Tyke, a Moossie, Alan jones, and a bloody Protestant and they came across Nicolla., Wayne and Julia at the bar downing schooners of Vic Bitter.
    I cannot tell you, Nicola might be offended.

  3. Joe says:

    Spot on, Ned!

    We already have a “victim rules” policy at work. Someone need only be offended for another colleague to be officially reprimanded, and in some cases, charged with a crime.

    I’m against such a policy for logical reasons, but those in favour of it seem to happily lose their “vilification” perspective when talking about citizens of the United States. They are fair game, apparently in Australia.

    Comments overheard recently such as “Those bloody Yanks, I’ll be glad when Obama takes all their guns away!” are not only missing the point of the matter, but can be classed as “racial vilification” and as “offensive” to the Yanks, if any were around, or for that matter, to any citizen of any country with a right to bear arms, under the proposed over-reaching new law.

    They’d never think of saying something like “Those bloody Muslims, I’ll be glad when somebody outlaws female circumcision in their countries!”

    So it’s fun to think about the delicious irony of using the very nanny-state laws these left-leaning types are in favour of against them when they lose track and start accidentally vilifying” people they thought were “safe to hate”. It would be wonderful to hear the legal defense against such a charge.

    I think if a few million people ended up accidentally on the pointy-end of these laws they might change how they think about the issue.

    Having said all that, it’s common at work to greet well-acquainted colleagues with “How are you, you dirty Kraut?” or “Aw, not another filthy seppo…” when another American joins the group at a table. I get the feeling Nicola is trying to change Australian culture itself.

  4. PJ London says:

    I fondly remember the times when it was axiomatic that all Aussies were bloody poofters.

  5. GT says:

    I had to laugh when the article claimed that Gillard and Roxon were both former ‘industrial lawyers’, giving the impression (falsely and deliberately) that they were ‘big end of town’ lawyers.

    They weren’t – they were both at pretty piddling firms, and worked almost entirely for trades unions. Prior to that they were student politicians on the hard left, all through their university days. (Par contre, my Lovely of 20 years was a Senior Associate **at the biggest firm in the country** and is now a Barrister… and her only interest in politics is in how to get rid of all politicians).

    Roxon took over the dodgy file that Gillard was managing (both of them at lower-middle-tier firms) – the one that led to Gillard being ‘invited to resign’ from Slater & Gordon after helping her boyfried RIP OFF HIS UNION. That file went – with the rest of the union’s work – to Maurice Blackburn, where it somehow ended up with yet another former-student-politician-turned-lawyer Roxon. Ten years later, Roxon’s in the cabinet. Pays to know where the bodies are buried.

    As with ALL tax parasites, they started their parasitism early – being lawyers for the UNION MOVEMENT, which in those days was able to impose a NO TICKET NO START policy (i.e., compulsory trade unionism… which equals compulsory salary deductions to go into the pockets of the union hierarchy and their political fellow-travellers – the same model as the State uses for taxation).

    Here’s the thing: Roxon, Wong, Gillard and others in their party are a particularly vile form of “schoolteacher” type – they believed some Marxist nonsense they were taught as first year uni students, and deliberately sought careers in politics in order to ram their worldview down the throats of the livestock. (I’m no fan of the ‘right’ in Oz either – they’re every bit as bad).

    As always when I babble about the Oz govt, I am obliged to make a disclosure: my youngest sister was a Senior Advisor to Gillard until about October this year (advising on defence procurement and such like). My sis has no role in my opinions, and does not endorse or contribute to them. She left Gillard’s tax-funded inner circle to take up the typical ex-senior-bureaucrat’s job: a highly paid sinecure telling people how to solve ‘complex problems’ (how does a bureaucrat solve such problems? by taking more money off the masses, or by taking on debt that uses the masses’ future income to pay it down).

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