The glacial discrimination act


Mark Steyn has again weighed in on our Human (Last) Rites Commission: Punching Back Twice as Hard (Oz version).

I’m glad to see, following the latest attempt to use Australia’s disgraceful Section 18C to throttle freedom of speech Down Under, that The Australian’s Bill Leak is introducing the concept to the Antipodes. His latest cartoon (above) features Tim Soutphommasane, the totalitarian hack who trousers a third of a million a year as Oz’s “Racial Discrimination” Commissar. Mr Leak invites Commissar Tim Jong-Un to sue him for “facial discrimination”.

Free speech should mean you can say anything you want short of incitement to violence – or, if you like, shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre – without the full weight of the law falling on your head, in fact without even the most minimal weight of the law falling on your head. According to the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, under the entry Freedom of Speech, in Australia, apparently 18C is delimited by 18D, which states:

Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith: (a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or (b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or (c) in the making or publishing: (i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or (ii) a fair comment on any matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.

This attack on Bill Leak really does look like an underemployed HRC Commissioner trying to find some purpose in life, as discussed in August in The Oz: Tim Soutphommasane may be drumming up work as race hate cases fall.

When it comes to discrimination, context is everything. Words that might appear completely innocent can take on a very different character when the full context is understood.

Which brings me to the words of Tim Soutphommasane, the Race Discrimination Commissioner who encouraged people to complain about a cartoon by Bill Leak that appeared in this newspaper.

The commissioner advised the public that complaints should be directed to the organisation where he works, the Australian Human Rights Commission.

His attempt to drum up work for the commission was followed by a torrent of abuse against Leak, whose cartoon depicted an Aboriginal policeman returning a delinquent Aboriginal youth to his equally delinquent father. On Soutphommasane’s Facebook page, the commissioner reproduced Leak’s cartoon and invoked the heads of liability in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act: “If there are Aboriginal Australians who have been racially ­offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated, they can consider lodging a complaint under the ­Racial Discrimination Act with the commission.”

He had seemingly prejudged those complaints, which raises doubts about whether the commission itself can now deal fairly with this affair.

It appears to be his job to be offended on behalf of the community. If no one else will take offence, then he will just have to do it himself.

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