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Race act changes are what you get when you champion bigotry

Federal attorney-general George Brandis is serious when he says that under his watch, “people do have a right to be bigots”. As drafted (and it is very poorly drafted), his proposed changes to sections…

Attorney-general George Brandis has released proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. AAP/Daniel Munoz

Federal attorney-general George Brandis is serious when he says that under his watch, “people do have a right to be bigots”. As drafted (and it is very poorly drafted), his proposed changes to sections 18B, C, D and E of the Racial Discrimination Act give uniquely wide licence to free expression on matters of race.

A new test for racial vilification

There are three essential parts to the proposed changes. First, they drop the current test for racial vilification – “conduct causing offence, insult, humiliation or intimidation” – and replace it with a test of “conduct that is reasonably likely to vilify [which means incite hatred] or to intimidate”.

Focus switches from the harm that is caused by race-based speech to the conduct that intimidates or incites hatred. Instead of being concerned to prevent harm, the concern is to maintain public order.

It is not new to define racial vilification to mean incitement to hatred: this is what state and territory laws do. What is new is to define racial vilification to mean only incitement to hatred. In state and territory laws, vilification is defined as incitement to hatred, and to other conduct such as serious contempt, severe ridicule and revulsion.

Brandis is, by the way, relying on a spurious distinction when he claims that:

Section 18C, in its current form, does not prohibit racial vilification.

Brandis chooses to define racial vilification only as “incitement to racial hatred”, so he is able to say that the current definition is not in fact “vilification”. This trivialises the protection that the current racial vilification provisions have offered for almost 20 years, and supports his misleading claim that:

There is no law of the Commonwealth of Australia that prohibits racial vilification.

By addressing only incitement to racial hatred, Brandis is winding back the vilification prohibition to cover a single – and increasingly rare – type of behaviour: the crude, public rantings of a racist. He fails to recognise, or maybe even comprehend, the pervasive, casual racism in Australian society that Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has identified.

If prohibiting incitement to racial hatred is the achievement that Brandis considers, then he could do well to look at the serious attention given to criminal provisions elsewhere in Australia, and Australia’s continuing failure to honour its international treaty obligation to criminalise racial vilification.

The view of an ‘ordinary Australian’

The second part to the proposed changes is that they switch the perspective for assessing racial vilification from the feelings of a reasonable person to whom conduct is directed, to the view of an “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community” as to whether conduct is likely to intimidate or incite hatred.

This is novel. The usual approach to “incitement to hatred” laws in the states and territories is that the likelihood of incitement is decided by reference to the intended audience of the comments (in Andrew Bolt’s case, for example, Herald Sun readers).

Driving a truck through it

The third part and perhaps most important of the proposed changes is the conduct that is explicitly permitted. Vilifying or intimidating public conduct that is done because of a person’s race is prohibited, but it is allowed when it is done in the course of public discussion.

There is no qualification to this exception. Every other vilification law in Australia limits exceptions to conduct that is done reasonably and in good faith.

This throws out the baby, the bathwater and the bath. The exception is so wide to a prohibition that is so narrow that people will be able to offend, insult, humiliate and incite serious contempt or severe ridicule on the basis of race. They will be able to do so unreasonably and dishonestly, with impunity.

Majority rules

The most troubling aspect about the proposed changes – along with knowing that Australia’s chief law officer is a champion of the right to bigotry – is the blithe assertion of a dominant cultural perspective.

When deciding the likeliness of incitement, who will not claim for themselves the title an “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community”? The role will be taken by a judge, who will decide the likelihood of incitement from their perspective, and not as it might be for the actual audience of the comment.

This “objective test” is a double whammy to a victim of vilifying conduct. Not only do the proposed changes tell them that their real and reasonable sense of offence is irrelevant, the changes say it is irrelevant to know how the intended audience of vilifying conduct might actually react.

Those who enjoy freedom of expression must assess the limits on that freedom by an awareness of the harm that can be caused by it. This is philosopher John Stuart Mill’s classical liberal “harm principle”. Free speech regulators must be aware that members of a racial minority can live all day, every day, conscious of their different culture and heritage, their different skin colour, their accent, their different practices, customs and preferences.

No member of the Australian racial majority – politicians, policymakers, opinion writers – can understand what it is to have one’s life defined by one’s difference. When “free speech” characterises that difference as a deficiency – a sign of inferiority – offence is a real sense that is qualitatively different from any idea of offence that we in the majority can have.

It is not for us to say that someone who actually – and, in their circumstances, reasonably – feels offence that they should not, or that it is to be borne with resignation. For almost 20 years, federal racial vilification law has been admirably respectful of the lived reality of racial difference.

Human Rights Commissioner and noted “classical liberal” Tim Wilson distanced himself from Brandis’s underlying rationale for the proposed changes: that people have a right to be bigots. He must now be similarly wary of Brandis' simplistic protection of bigotry in the name of free expression.

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    1. Pog Throgmorton

      Manager

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      The article is about changes to the racial discrimination act. The sole point made by the previous comment is the claim that the governing party is corrupt and its supporters (more than half the population at the last election) are contaminated by this (and by implication will be forever - "Eternal Stench".

      Moderator, please explain to me how this comment conforms with the community standards for this site (edited summary below).
      - Be considerate. We're here to talk about ideas, not the…

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    2. Andrew Smith

      Education Consultant at Australian & International Education Centre

      In reply to Pog Throgmorton

      In reality it's not just about the LNP but understanding WASPish (which has strong Irish Catholic influence nowadays) Australian constituency, from all sides of politics.

      For 15 years all manner of dog whistling and worse forms of political and social discourse have been conducted by politicians, media and advocates in Australia. This has been done for a reason, innate bigotry that crosses political boundaries, assumptions that 'white Australians' agree and subliminally conditioning all Australian society to view 'other types' negatively.

      One just needs to be careful to leave such baggage and negative stereotypes in Australia as from outside it' looks like the 'white Australia' policy is informally regaining traction.

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    3. John Homan

      Engineer

      In reply to Ray Miller

      Ray, I disagree with you.

      Keep Brandis, and Morrisson and promote Bernardy to the front bench! They are great assets to Labor. So are Abbott and his two Bishops.

      John Homan
      Yeppoon

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  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    It's interesting the article raises Mill and the harm principle.

    Mill distinguished harm from mere offense. He argued offensive language shouldn't be regulated, as free discourse is a necessary condition for social progress.

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    1. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Precisely. Clear as the nose on your face.
      If any bigotry is exhibited in this debate it's those who proclaim most loudly their hatred of Abbott, Brandis et al.

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    2. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Yes James, I was also a little surprised to see Mill invoked in this way, given that the work in which the harm principle was proposed, ‘On Liberty’, was perhaps the most powerful defence of free speech ever penned, and that Mill argues at length that we should be cautious about giving political substance to our feelings of moral outrage.

      Still, the question here is complex. Mill never addressed cases of direct vilification where the speaker’s clear intention is not to contribute an opinion to public debate, but rather to deeply wound the target and immediate audience of the abuse. I think these types of hate speech, at least, could fall under the harm principle.

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    3. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Yes. I'm old and demand my right to not only hate everyone else not like, but to pronounce it as well.

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Well Ron, that is an unusual synonym ... "bigotry" the art of practising unsuitable government. Usually the word is "maladministration" supported by descriptive adjectives like "corrupt", "incompetent", "inept", "self serving" or "uncaring".

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      You've got to be joking. Some minority groups are minority groups precisely because they are so bigoted. Have you ever met a Trotskyist or an unorthodox Christodelphian? Take my word, they are not a model of tolerance.

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    2. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Seems like twisted self-serving logic to me.

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    3. Joss Stehbens

      Teacher

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Agreed. You do have a "right to be a bigot" but we don't really have a "right to offend". As slogans, both are flawed for use in this debate, but it is the latter which is "trending" now, and it is derailing discussion everywhere. Of course, for most people, I assume the context is clear, that the slogan is NOT, about people having bigoted IDEAS, because we can't stop that, nor should anybody try. Rather, the slogan refers to that "Andrew Boltian" moment when one's inner bigot marches out, individually…

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    4. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Joss Stehbens

      'You do have a "right to be a bigot" but we don't really have a "right to offend".'

      What on earth does that mean? I say and do things every day that someone, somewhere, probably finds offensive.
      Nobody has a right NOT to be offended. That's where your argument is seriously flawed.

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    5. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Yes it is obvious you do. Perhaps that is why you are so against protection from being racially offended. The difference is that you have a right to do them, but you do not have the right to direct those actions at the people you are intending to offend.

      The UN Declaration of Humans Rights suggests YOUR argument is seriously flawed.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark, rather than knee-jerking, re-read Jena's post - it includes important qualifiers like "those minority groups who need to protest and/or speak-out about forms of oppression or social injustice" and " Bigots are not usually members of a minority group" - note the those...who need formation and the not usually. This covers the fact that not all minority groups are innocent or require protection and not all bigots belong to majority groups.

      Nobody anywhere denies that there are nasty and/or…

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      I bow to your superior expertise on the question of twisted self-serving logic, Ron.

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    8. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      In the post (above) I am pointing out the difference between what we may choose to do and what is generally accepted as a 'right'.

      If the very concept of human rights falls under a notion of ethical and/or responsible behaviour toward others, it cannot be said that the act of purposefully giving offence is a human right. Similarly if the notion of free speech was conceived as an opportunity to speak-out against oppression, there is no way, logically, that hate-speech acts are 'free speech'. Instead, I suggest that hate-speech is irrational venting that has nothing at all to do with human rights.

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    9. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      So we are talking religious racial vilification/political racial vilification?

      I have met 'orthodox' Christadelphians who were not imbued with the love of Jesus and their fellow human beings. I can't comment on the edges of political thought.

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    10. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      When people are loudly abused in public/on public transport as I used to see and comment loudly back about - on the basis of colour (middle school boys from one of the private Summer Hill/Lewisham area schools) or accent (Redfern Station announcement - nasty response from middle-aged Anglo women) - or the more recent incidents - the French women in Melbourne, ABC Newsreader Jeremy Fernandes in Sydney - will this still be seen as racial vilification? Or will the perpetrators be able to claim that their inner bigot had just momentarily slipped out? And no means to either charge them - or to prevent their bigotry growing unchecked. Was this how it all began for the various groups one-by-one targeted and forced to wear identifying patches - by the Nazi régime in Germany?

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    11. Simeon J Morgan

      logged in via email @digitalfeed.net

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      I feel like the number of ideas which get conflated on this topic make it difficult to see clearly.

      There are laws against harassment and intimidation irrespective of the basis of that harassment and intimidation. If someone is loudly abusing someone else on public transport on the basis of colour, the problem isn't that they are doing it on the basis of colour but that they are doing it at all.
      Maybe harassing someone for a characteristic over which they have no control should be considered…

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    12. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Simeon J Morgan

      Drunken ranters have been with us since the dawn of history. Because an occasional incident gets public coverage in the media is no reason to support broad laws censoring all speech that offends.
      It's a total 'wicker man' issue that is not worth the thousands of words defending Section 18C. Sooner we're done with it the better.

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    13. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Simeon J Morgan

      Simeon - it was - the existing legislation is far from severe or particularly broad and, a sthe Bolt case shows, you have to do a bit more than just offend someone...

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    14. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Nobody is supporting 'broad laws censoring all speech that offends'. Please take the time and trouble to look at the actual legislation, read this article properly and look at the judgement in the Bolt case before you make sweeping and inaccurate generalisations about what is going on here.

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    15. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      My understanding of these amendments is that if I replied to you something along the lines of:

      "Yes, I know some people are minorities because they are offensive. Have you heard Klezmer music? No wonder no-one likes the Jews"

      ...then this might be an acceptable comment, one acceptable by normal Australian 'standards';it doesn't incite or vilify.

      It probably offends community standards here at TC, and I don't so hold about Klezmer music and Jews but it may be defensible under the proposed changes.

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    16. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to John Phillip

      With respect, John, it is history that informs me.

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    17. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      Boy...you really spread your net wide. It's all grist to your mill isn't it? Racists and bigots under every stone...as well as bringing in the good old Nazis.

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    18. Simeon J Morgan

      logged in via email @digitalfeed.net

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      With respect to the Bolt case: honestly, I think that should have been done as a defamation suit rather than racial vilification.

      I understand the present laws were created with much caution, but I actually struggle to accept that "the crude, public rantings of a racist" should be illegal. Certainly, I find them distasteful in the extreme, but I am not certain that I agree with having them outlawed. If a racist individual was harassing someone, then the law should cover that but I think it should…

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    19. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Simeon J Morgan

      One of my pet hates is fundamentalists coming to my door preaching their mantras. However I have no problem with their existence, or their right to rave about whatever blows their hair back. Just don't do it at my front door!
      I think Brandis meant that precisely, when he said people have a right to be bigots...or anything else for that matter.

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    20. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Yours is essentially incomprehensible.

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    21. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Could you put that in English? I have no idea what you are rattling on about.

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    22. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      I agree, one of my pet hates is bigots. I have no problem with their existence, lack of intelligence and class, or their right to rave prejudiciously. Just don't do it in public where it may be hurtful to people.

      If you want to be classless bigot, don't wave it anyone's face. The same goes for religion or any other belief. If we are to have freedom of opinon and belief, but we should also have freedom from them as well.

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    23. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      If Brandis wants freedom of speech and the 'right ' to be bigoted then perhaps he should repeal all the defamation laws that establishment figures enjoy using against their critics.

      An ordinary person on a Bondi bus could reasonably determine that Brandis is completely out of touch with community expectations and probably the least competent Attorney-General in recent political history.

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    24. Kerrin O'Rourke

      Vocational Trainer and Learning Facilitator at Workplace Training

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Ron, people do have a right NOT to be offended. Moving slightly aside from race to another form of discrimination, does a person with a brain injury or a condition related to congenital development have a right NOT to be offended by being called, for example, a "moron" or "vegetable". It happens. And, because confidence is essential for the social and cognitive development of people in this situation, the offence caused to them will impact on their life trajectory. Your statement is too sweeping.

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    25. Malcolm Harrison

      journalist

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      you sound pretty bigoted to me and ill informed. yet here you expressing your bigotry in a public forum. Your first paragraph asserts your bigotry, your second and third try to explain what it is and isn't, rather unsuccessfully i would have thought.
      no doubt you don't think of yourself as bigoted. i don't suppose bigots realise they are bigots.

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    26. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      Jena, while no one has a right to vilify or slander another person everyone has a right to hold and express an opinion.

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    27. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Nobody 'gives offence', people 'take offence'. Therefore, if offence is unlawful shouldn't the guilty party be the one who 'takes offence'?

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    28. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      As I said above:- Nobody 'gives offence', people 'take offence'. Therefore, if offence is unlawful shouldn't the guilty party be the one who 'takes offence'?

      The purpose of free speech is to permit people to express opinions, to question, to debate and to object to the opinions of others. To deny us the right to free speech is to deny ou our right to humanity.

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    29. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Malcolm Harrison

      I should read the post again Malcolm. There statements suggesting people are allowed to be bigoted, uneducated etc, but there are no accusations or expressions of bigotry. Regardless, to suggest that someone is a bigot because their post is against bigotry is the poorest of straw man arguments.

      Also, since when do "journalists" have such poor punctuation and grammar?

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  2. Kyle Burke

    Software Developer

    Let’s just make it illegal to "reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because" of race, national/ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, level of attractiveness, eye/hair colour, level of intelligence, etc. Actually screw that, we should just add all personal identifiers then we can call it a day.

    Seriously though, couldn't "conduct that is reasonably likely to vilify [which means incite hatred] or to intimidate” - be made illegal to group identifiers with possibly a couple of small exceptions. What makes race a special issue which people need to be protected from the opinions of others? Was there really such a problem that labor had to bring in these laws?

    I have problems with applying laws to specific categories just because they are perceived to be vulnerable groups within our community. The general approach is a joke which should be ridiculed for what it is.

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    1. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Kyle Burke

      We'll all be marching to the same drum if these rabid pro-Section 18C people have their way.

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    2. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Meg Thornton

      This.

      I have known similar people with the same superior attitude about simply being born here. That's right, pride, not due to actions or achievement, in just being born in STRAYA MATE!

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    3. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Meg Thornton

      Interesting moral tale! And it is the George Brandis/Andrew Bolt tale, too, I believe!

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    4. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      That's right mate. You'll be eating lentils three times a week and singing the new national anthem of Gillard's feminism speech. A proper totalitarian state is waiting in the wings once we crush freedom of speech. You'll still be able to speak but we'll be telling you what to say while your outside working in the re-education camp turnip patch.

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    5. Liam Bailey

      PhD Student

      In reply to Kyle Burke

      Kyle; "Was there really such a problem [with racism]?".

      Up until the 1960's aboriginal people in Australia were unable to vote in Federal elections. Until the 1970's mixed-race aboriginal children were removed from their parents driven by (mostly) racial factors. Up until 1973, people seeking immigration to Australia could be turned down based on their race. In 1998, One Nation won a federal Queensland senate seat running on a platform opposing (among other things) the "Asianisation of Australia…

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    6. robin linke

      stamp dealer

      In reply to Liam Bailey

      Liam, I cannot find your definition of 'racism' and 'racist' . Especially a definition that would stand up in court.
      I publically argued against multicultural immigration as not being in Australia's long term best interests. I was called a racist by the media. A QC advised that while I had a 90% chance of winning, better to settle for an apology.
      I wrote to Govt depts. who used these words in their reports to provide a definition, but none replied. I then went through my local Federal MP Peter…

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    7. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to robin linke

      The Oxford Dictionary defines racism thus: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

      I too have reservations about immigration but those reservations are based on numbers as well as as people who refuse to integrate. Culture is defined as the patterned response of a community to its environment. It is a coping mechanism, a way people interpret…

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    8. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Richard Clowes

      You are using the tired, well worn and totally fallacious technique of using a single example to prove a generality. One "nasty piece of work" that you have encountered proves that every migrant is a "nasty piece of work". So if I find you an example of a person whose family has been in Australia who is an ignorant, intolerant self confessed bigot I am entitled to say that all Australians are ignorant, intolerant self confessed bigots.
      You don't offend me nor surprise me. I just feel sorry for you for such a narrow gutted view of the world,

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    9. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken, I used a single example to demonstrate that racism works both ways and is not an exclusively Australian trait. At no time did I assert that this one nasty piece of work was typical af all migrants. The fact that you have to resort to lies and distortion demonstrated the poverty of your case.

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    10. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Richard Clowes

      Again you use a tired and well worn technique. Deniable inference. It is clear from both the tone and the way in which your "one example" is written that you infer that all people from a certain group, in this a case from a "rural area in southern Europe" behave in a similar manner. When challenged the answer invariably is "But I never said that...".
      The clues to your infered meaning are everywhere "People living in the same environment tend to share the same culture", "he and a group of his wog mates", "multiculturalism is a crock of shit and should be abandoned as a concept and this bastard and his ilk should have been sent packing."
      Andrew Bolt would be proud of you. He uses this techinque all the time. Read the judgement of his case for the judge's full analysis of his method.
      Incidently, could your comment in any way be described as one stating "The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race"

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    11. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      "that you infer" No Ken, you are the one inferring. Read what I say and take it as written. Attempting to impute other meanings does your case no good.

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    12. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Richard Clowes

      As I said, standard technique complete with denial. What case is it that I am alleged to be making?

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    13. robin linke

      stamp dealer

      In reply to Richard Clowes

      To Richard Clowes: I read your commonsense article about the real world with interest, 1973-1980 were the important years when Australians were deprived of their right to speak out on a level playing field Whitlam and Fraser. Anyone who disagreed with multiculturalism was labeled a 'racist'
      and the media blocked all debate. In 1982 I complained to the ABC morning programme about its bias and was told that all 'racists' like me could go to the Nullarbor Plain. I phoned the actors guild to get…

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    14. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to robin linke

      From you
      "the stronger Eastern races will prevail over the weaker Aussie culture."
      From the person you commend for his commonsense
      "The Oxford Dictionary defines racism thus: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. "
      Conclusion?

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  3. Loudon Cleary

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Someone should do a survey of Australian immigrants who arrived after surviving racist violence - Auschwitz, Cambodia, Syria, Darfur. Do they still feel protected by the Aussie legal system which was part of the reason they came here, or are they back to where they were before? Would they still have chosen this country if the laws had been as now proposed? I think the outcome is clear.

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    1. Gary Luke
      Gary Luke is a Friend of The Conversation.

      IT services

      In reply to Loudon Cleary

      Whether those laws had been drafted or not and whether they get altered or not - it wouldn't make an iota of difference. Australia would still be among the top half dozen or so countries to choose. It's really a lot of noise about a very small quibble.

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    2. Karl Mohan

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Loudon Cleary

      You make the assumption that immigrants are the only minority in this country. What about that were here, before a large migrant class annexed this land as their own? I am sure the outcome will be clear.

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    3. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Gary Luke

      But when the small quibble becomes lots of small quibbles - there lies the problem and we are at a tipping point...

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    4. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Karl Mohan

      Unfortunately for Indigenous Australia - and the best intentions that this society would not exist on slavery - as laid out by Tommy TOWNSHEND (Lord Sydney) and early on implemented by Arthur PHILLIP (first Governor of the colony of New South Wales) - the land WAS taken - the Indigenous peoples WERE variously massacred and dispossessed of land, culture, languages. Only due to hardiness, resilience, integrity in the face of overwhelming odds - that survival was possible - and re-emergence as moral and ethical leaders in our society - is happening! Bravo my brothers and brava my sisters!

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to John Campbell

      Yes of course, Australia's a racist sink-hole. Except compared to nearly every other country in the world.

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    2. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      You'll find that most of these people who call Australia 'racist' have little or no experience of living in other countries.

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      And those Australians who experience regular racially based vilification should do what... they don't have a right to be sickened by it or seek protection under the law, because they have "little or no experience of living overseas"?
      How does any of this enable a safe cohesive productive civil society?
      You don't know what you're talking about. You're not thinking about those who are impacted by casual and direct racism. You're talking about the views, of a small section of, the dominant white culture.

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    4. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to John Campbell

      Having travelled extensively and the fact that my family lives in Europe I can only agree. Those that disagree, are likely not well travelled and their opinions are formed from television or Andrew Bolt.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      So not being as bad as the really bad bastards is good enough for you? Personally, I hav ehigher aspirations but if you're content with 'head just above the swamp' then help yourself...

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    6. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Could this really be true? One-third and more of my adult life has been lived abroad. The other two-thirds in Australia - alongside the generosity of Holocaust survivors, folk of 19th-century Chinese background, from Viet-nam more recently - Irish and Scottish and English immigrants - from France, Italy, Lebanon, Korea, China, the former Soviet Union, from Greece and Turkey and South Africa - from Mauritius, out of the Caribbean - the list of ethnicities and physical disabilities and other aspects…

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    7. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      That's just stupid. We are way better than than the bad bastards. You know this. Keep aspiring but stay away from the silly stuff.

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    8. Richard Clowes

      Retired Urban & Regional Planner

      In reply to John Campbell

      Examples of racism for political gain by Mr Abbott and his political cronies and political opponents please?

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  4. Thomas Fields

    "progressive" watcher

    It was a good idea to change it because being "offended" or "insulted" is highly subjective. What offends and insults one person can be water off a duck's back to another.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Which is why the current law actualy specifies rather more detail than that and the requirement of proof of having breached the law is much more than just 'I was offended, your honour!'.

      Try reading the judgement in the Bolt case, for example - one of very few sucessful actions prosecuted under the legislation - and you'll realise that it's nothing like the simplistic simple "offence" that lazy people like you keep bleating about.

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    2. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      That's right - it shouldn't have to be measured on the "water-off-a-duck's-back" scale! The offence should be on what the reasonable person would think offensive!

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    3. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      That's right mate. I live in a small town that has one bloke who's a boong but he won't admit to it. I don't know why.

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    4. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Very few eh? The Australian reported today that hundreds of people have been prosecuted under this legislation. The Bolt case was the only one to get media coverage though.

      Still, my point stands. Offence is subjective. "Progressives" are highly sensitive and that's why they're offended all the time. If they hardened up then the legislation probably wouldn't need to be changed.

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    5. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      I think that joke fell through. It was supposed to be a joke of some kind, wasn't it?

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    6. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      That is the worry. They're referring to 'the Bolt case' as if that's the only one. To me the Bolt case showed the nasty way that such legislation can be used to threaten all of us who may have lively opinions about the world around us. Bolt was the lightning rod, the cautionary incident that rattled many people.
      Be done with Section 18C!

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    7. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Interesting you quote "The Australian". If that is your source it is expected where your view shall lie. Regardless, hundreds is not a lot when you consider the classless verbal diatribe that pews forth from the mouths of this country.

      I am a "progressive" in most senses of the word, yet certainly not sensitive. I cannot ever remember ever feeling offended. Empathy for another that may be racially vilified or targeted with untruths is human decency; hopefully that is not simply a progressive…

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    8. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      "Nasty way that legislation can be used"? For god's sake, RED THE CASE NOTES AND THE VERDICT. The legislation was used exactly as intended and exactly as it should have in point of law. You may idolise your bigot hero Bolt, but he broke quite a relaxed law. He could have toned back some of the racial connotations and checked (or left out) the lies and his bigoted tirade woulod have passed the grade. He did not.

      IT was not a case of "freedom of speech", never was. The case notes and verdict indicate…

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    9. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      Hi Steven,
      Well, I've read the case notes and the verdict, and I it seems to me it plainly implicates freedom of speech. See the discussion below between Felix and I, and the reasons I give there for my concerns with the interpretation of 'good faith' and 'reasonableness' by the judge.

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    10. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      I have no concern" that the fair-skinned Bolt was found guilty of having used significant distortions of fact to offend, humiliate and intimidate 9 people".

      Do you also show concern that Bolt's fair-skinned colleagues attempted to silence Julie Posetti for an accurate tweet, and the Chaser for causing highlighting this through satire?

      No doubt, this Coalition government will "correct" one instance of censorship but not the others.

      Judges and juries most often deliberate the term "reasonable" and use the very fundamentals of law and legal precedent to guide this quite well. It is no arbitrary decision as some claim.

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    11. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      Steve, why focus exclusively on the question of distortions of fact? You've read the judgement and you support it. So why not be up-front about what it says? The distortions of fact were only one part of the decision, which was based on whether Bolt had done his best to minimize the offence his act would cause. This includes his using invective and mockery.

      By speaking only about distortions of fact, you can (perhaps accidentally) make it appear as if the notion of 'good faith' being used was something like: was Bolt living up to the appropriate standards of truthfulness and research required for someone penning newspaper articles? But this was of course explicitly what the judge rejected, instead employing 'good faith' as a question of minimizing offensiveness.

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    12. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      Not exclusively: "guilty of having used significant distortions of fact to offend, humiliate and intimidate 9 people"

      Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Section 18C.

      I personally think someone of his profile should be held to a higher standard than you or I (and he should wish to achieve that), however that is not the law and had nothing to with the case or verdict. I did not mean to intimate otherwise.

      The distortion of facts was VERY pertinent…

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    13. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I agree they were pertinent to the case. My question is whether you also accept the 'inflammatory and provocative' language was equally pertinent? Given these appear in the very sentence you quote, I hazard you do.
      So I'm concluding that you would endorse a prohibition on any public statements of opinion on social and political issues that give race-related (but not racist) offence, if those statements fail to minimize the offence by using inflammatory and provocative language. Is that right?

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    14. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      The language was equally pertinent. I doubt the language, not coupled with the falsehoods, or vice-versa would have hade the same effect on the claimants. The language on its own, using truthful comments would be far less inciteful or harmful and the case for claiming it was artistic works, scientific debate or fair comment on matters of public interest (in good faith) which would protect the comments. I would not endorse prohibiting speech that remained within the confines of the law and I think…

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    15. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I see, so it comes from "The Australian" therefore it's wrong. You've not actually proven the statement wrong. You can see this, can't you? Perhaps I'll just dismiss your posts because you read The Guardian or some other left wing rag.

      You're right that Bolt was done for telling lies. Yet where in section 18c can you be charged for lies? It doesn't specifically state lies. It comes back to section 'a' of the aforementioned legislation - offend, insult, humiliate; the lie must have insulted, humiliated or offended them.

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    16. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I'm confused Steven. First you say that Bolt's distasteful remarks would 'more than likely have been protected' if they had been truthful. This qualification allows the possibility that they would not have been protected if they had been true (or, more weakly again, if they had been false-but-adequately researched).

      But then you go to say 'Therefore, inflammatory and provocative language is protected free speech under 18D'. But you have just admitted that even if Bolt's statements were true he might have been found guilty anyway. So such language plainly is not protected.

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    17. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      I answered you question in relation to whether I think the comments truthfulness was as pertinent to the language of delivery. Must you move the posts?

      In regards to how another judge may have ruled regarding something that didn't happen, I cannot claim to know, which is why I wrote "may" have been protected. That qualification does allow for other outcomes. If I am to devise a verdict based on hypotheticals (whilst trying to be accurate and consistent lest I "confuse" you) I would suggest that…

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    18. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      I didn't use the media you view to "prove you wrong". I accepted that there may have been hundreds of cases, as the rag suggested. I claimed it was not an unacceptable amount considering the amount of "free speech" that goes on and I used it to link you views with the media you prescribe to - "You can see this, can't you?"

      Also, I don't read The Guardian or any particularly left or right media. I prefer independent, factual sources that help form my opinions, not ones that support pre-existing…

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    19. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      You have answered them, thanks Steven.

      In the end, I think we disagree on the extent of what speech should be protected (a disagreement on moral/political principles) but we also disagree on some of the specifics of the judgement and what they mean for future/similar cases (a disagreement about the actual state of the law). I just wanted to work out how far (and why) we differed in this second way, and you've answered that.

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    20. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      Thanks Hugh,

      Just quickly, I am running out the door - it will be interesting to see how much lattitude the amendments allow and if it will really affect things as much as some legal commentaters have claimed with suggestions that it will be next to impossible to succeed with these types of cases in the future.

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    21. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      It comes from Section 18D whicd says if you knowingly tell lies (as both Bolt and HWT appeared to admit in pleadings to the court) then you can't claim the protection given statements made as "fair comment" or in "good faith".

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    22. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      I agree - so long as the "reasonable person" is from the same group as the victims. Of course, getting the majority group to accept that the minority group comprises reasonable people could be a bit tricky. The very basis of bigotry!
      The other factor should be that the Dolts of the world who use their various platforms and megaphones to abuse their fellow human beings must yield their platforms to give their targets the right of reply. The right of reply must be made available as soon as possible, and must be with the same volume and extent - no page 5 "clarifications" of page 1 headlines.weeks after the offence.

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    23. Kerrin O'Rourke

      Vocational Trainer and Learning Facilitator at Workplace Training

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      In my experience, "progressives" are highly educated and pretty intelligent. Maybe that's why they are offended all the time and you are not.

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    24. Kerrin O'Rourke

      Vocational Trainer and Learning Facilitator at Workplace Training

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      @ Steve and @Hugh, in particular. In another context. I was so frustrated with reading another of Bolt's missives (at a Maccas on Saturday - I don't buy the trash) that I wrote him a school report on his English essay performance and sent it to him. I explained why he should resubmit his work if he wanted to get a pass at Y11 because he was showing no evidence of clear thinking techniques, nor had he researched information but just quoted facts that looked like they had come from that well known authority "all clear-minded Australians will agree...".

      He just doesn't learn, does he? So here we all are having an entertaining conversation about a plodder with an average level of ability making it into a court where he his work was properly and publicly assessed. And he doesn't like it. So he gets in touch with his mates to change the standards and rules of assessment. Isn't that what losers often do, don't you think? Lets put it into a context.

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    25. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Kerrin O'Rourke

      Thanks Kerrin,

      I appreciate your point, but my worry is that I think even slipshod plodding losers of average ability really do have free speech rights, no less than the rest of us. I think they are entitled to contribute to public debate, even as the rest of us are entitled to be appalled at what they say when they do.

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    26. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      So mediocrities like Dolt with their various platforms and megaphones can say whatever they wish, but we are "entitled to be appalled at what they say".
      In all this debate, no-one has defined what bigotry means, how it can be identified, and how / if it can be challenged. Is "bigotry" the same as "bias"? We are all biased (I think) but I think bigotry includes the addition of bovver boots to the expression of bias. That is, Brandis (assuming he understands English) is saying that brutalism is human nature, and he thinks laws should not try to change human nature.

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    27. David Pearn

      Follower

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      ^^^so long as they don't have the advantage to bury their opposition by way of a broadcast licence microphone which is supposed to be treated as a privilege and not an abused one at that.

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    28. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      I did not say, I do not believe, it does not follow from what I said, and it conflicts directly with what I have said earlier, that people 'can say whatever they wish'.

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    29. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      Hugh,
      "I appreciate your point, but my worry is that I think even slipshod plodding losers of average ability really do have free speech rights, no less than the rest of us. I think they are entitled to contribute to public debate, even as the rest of us are entitled to be appalled at what they say when they do."
      1. I think you are being rather condescending that "even slipshod losers of average ability really do have free speech rights, no less than the rest of us." Assuming you include me in…

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  5. Ken Alderton

    PhD student, former CEO

    I was also intrigued by Brandis' references to an “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community”
    What are the characteristics of this member? Is Andrew Bolt an “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community”. Or is he excluded by his Dutch heritage which constitutes a minority in Australia? Is it to be people who agree with Brandis that “people do have a right to be bigots” and have the freedom to spread untruths. Is the "member" to be a judge as the author suggests? If any case goes to appeal then will the test change because of a different judge.
    This is like deciding what comprises the "Australian values" that al immigrants are enjoined to follow. Whose values, who chooses?

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    1. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to John Phillip

      So what is your template for “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community” or even "reasonable member of the Australian community”?

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    2. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to John Phillip

      Now you see the problem with Senator Brandis' solution! Smart laywers will make it impossible to prosecute just on this point. They could call up 22,999,999 potential witnesses who disagree with the plaintiffs' interpretations of what vilifies or intimidates them.

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    3. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      BOLT is of Dutch background? Certainly not cut from the same bolt of cloth (actually unintended pun - but I have decided to not change the metaphor) as the many folk of Dutch immigrant or Dutch background with whom I grew up or to whom I am otherwise related! What is the man's story, one wonders! To make him so bigoted against successful Indigenous people!

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    4. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      I think the Dutch are no longer the placid, easy-going folk we all remember from the past. There's a lot of social discontent there these days, mainly due to uncontrolled immigration, mainly from Islamic countries. Geert Wilders has developed quite a large following as an MP, since the murder of two prominent Dutch people by Islamic fanatics.

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    5. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Yes. It is all the fault of Muslim Extemists. Everything.

      Please take your agenda to another site. This is so 2010.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, try actually looking at the legislation under question, try reading the actual judgement in the Bolt case and you will realise that you are simply spouting irrelevant crap.

      People DO NOT NOW have legal recourse merely because they feel offended. That is so gross a misrepresentation of the actual situation that your comment is simply nugatory.

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    7. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      One of his many boigraphies is here, http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2521053.htm
      I picked this one because it is the easiest one for him to disown. It is from that nest of lefties, the ABC and Q&A no less.
      Note that apparently "he spent much of his childhood in remote parts of Australia".

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    8. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I am always puzzled by this fear of Muslim extremists introducing sharia (no "law" needed, sharia is law.) into Australia.
      Indonesia with a population that is 85% Muslim has strenuously resisted all attempts since indpendence to introduce sharia nationally. The last one in 2002 even failed to find enough supoort in the legislature to bring it to a vote. This is despite the presence of countless "Muslim extremists" whose sermons make our home growm variety seem positively liberal,
      And yet we have people in Australia reaching for their muskets to protect themselves against these "eminently more dangerous" people who are going to introduce sharia with the support of less than 3% of the population.
      Personally I think I can safely ignore them like I do other religiuos nuts.

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    9. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Read the act again, Felix. Why wasn't Bolt exempt from the act under the provision in 18dc(ii): "a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment. " when indigenous Australians have made the same claims as stated in the Quadrant articel I referred to?

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    10. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      'Personally I think I can safely ignore them like I do other religiuos nuts. '

      Ignore at your peril. They're not ignoring you.
      Read about the global caliphate and the 'mantikis' or areas of regional government. Australia is the southern mantiki, to be ruled from Jakarta once the caliphate is declared.
      We're still safe while we can help maintain a secular govt. in Jakarta, but the radicals are a lot more than your 3% and growing. It doesn't take a lot to create chaos as we saw in Bali and Jakarta.

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    11. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Phillip

      Read the Bolt judgement, John, and you'll see why. It centred on serious inaccuracies of fact, which he could have checked, and should have checked, as a professional journalist.

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    12. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Personally, I worry more about the damned Vikings - I mean, they've got form, haven't they?

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    13. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The only thing that was false in his articles was the imputation that the named individuals claimed Aboriginal status in order to access support that was no available to non-Aboriginal people. Unfortunate, the decision effectively shuts down the discussion about heritage - who we are, where we come from, who we identify as etc.
      The other problem is the inconsistency in the law - taking the examples from the Quadrant article, it's appropriate to ask what is just about a law that allows one group of people to comment on the racial ancestry of someone and not be subjected to the same legal process that Bolt was?

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    14. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      I think British common law once used the common sense of 'the man on the Clapham bus'. In Oz maybe it could be the man driving the Commodore. But never the one driving the Prius.

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    15. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Oh, I don't know about the Dutch being so easy going. The Netherlands saw the greatest proportion of resident Jews sent to death camps (around seventy five per cent) with the full co-operation of the state. So, their history of easy going is about as extensive as your historical knowledge.

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    16. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      'The Netherlands saw the greatest proportion of resident Jews sent to death camps (around seventy five per cent) with the full co-operation of the state'

      As well as with help from other Dutch Jews, a minor detail Jewry would rather not concentrate on. For more, read the book by Gertrude van Tijn:-

      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/the-ambiguity-of-virtue-gertrude-van-tijn-and-the-fate-of-the-dutch-jews-by-bernard-wasserstein/2012229.article

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    17. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      If you believe what these people say you are sillier than they are. How are they going to implement the caliphate when for more than sixty years Indonesia has totally rejected the idea of an Islamic state? The idea of the caliphate has been dead in Indonesia since the mid 19th century. The total vote of the all the nominal Islamist parties, those who believe in an Islamic state, is less than 14% and they are all committed to using the democratic system to achieve their aims. The three secular parties…

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    18. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      We clearly read from different sources. But frankly there are too many mistakes in your post for me to bother about, especially as I was responsible for leading off-topic.

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    19. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Yes, I was wondering who would be classified as a 'reasonable member of the public'.
      Certainly there are many writers in this forum who are very un-reasonable and whom I would hate to be judged by.

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    20. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      By all means detail the mistakes if you can, My bet is that they are not supported by any evidence.

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    21. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      You seriuosly want to use Greg Sheridan as your expert source on radical Islamic terrorism in Indonesia? Would you care to detail some of his writing for our examination?
      You will note that in the ABC interview Solahuddin gives no idea of the size or influence of these "salafi jihadist" groups like Darul Islam he talks about. Two examples will surfice.
      Darul Islam was founded in 1948, with the objective of introducing an Islamic state. It used every possible method including armed rebellion to…

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    22. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      "I think the Dutch are no longer the placid, easy-going folk we all remember from the past." What a wonderful piece of platitudinous nonsense! "...we all remember..." Who's "we"? Not I

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  6. Ron Mackie

    Retired

    Having the right to be a bigot is hardly the same as championing bigotry. This is the kind of wrong-headed mischievous nonsense that some prefer in order to attack Brandis.
    Brandis has stated on several occasions now that he doesn't like bigots of any stripe, but supports someone's right to be as bigoted as they wish, leaving it to others to make judgement. Twas ever thus.

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Mike, did you see the uncontrollable laughter in parliament yesterday? "Brollie" has had it deemed unbecoming and had it banned. Those bigots in the Labour party are not allowed to laugh, particularly when our esteemed PM, tone, discusses the words "Knights and Dames"
      This is most important, and there shall be no giggling and derision in 'the house'
      If I could uncontrollably have a fit of swearing here I would now do so.

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    2. Pythinia Preston

      writer

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Yes but... he is in a position of power can make change, not like Joe Bloggs down the road.

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    3. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      What is your trite justification for Brandis' statement that there is also a "freedom to spread untruths" (ABC, Lateline 25/03/2014)?

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    4. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Allowing people to get away with bigotry IS the same as championing it. As much as it the epitome of classlessness, individuals do have a right to be a bigot. They should not have a right to express it were it will offend anyone.

      There is no need for it to ever be made public and I for one am glad that the crusty old guard will be dead soon and the new, well travelled, multi-cultural, progressive generation will be the majority. Mind your, there will still be bigots and indoctrinated conservatives afraid of progress.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Ron people ALREADY have the right to "be" bigots under the current legislation, just not the right to unreasonably inflict that on others in a way that causes serious offence or humiliation.

      What people object to is Brandis championing people's rights to do the latter, not the former.

      It's the kind of distinction most children can grasp by the time they reach secondary school, if not before.

      So please try looking at facts and thinking calmly before prattling on about 'wrong-headed miscievous nonsense'.

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    6. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      'What people object to is Brandis championing people's rights to do the latter...'

      He's not 'championing' anything, he's 'allowing'.....
      Big difference, seemingly lost on some here.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      No, Ron, he's not merely 'allowing' - he's taking active and very generally unpopular actions to change a piece of legislation that has been operating quietly for some years without causing any discernable restrictions on people's ability to speak freely in good faith. there is no substanticv eevidence of any harm being caused by the legislation and some reason to believe that it helps set a tone of courtesy and tolerance that is a key to maintaining and building the already high levels of social capital in this country.

      Given that he has very low support among the Australian population in general, the professional legal community and, indeed, quite a few elements in his own party, and bugger all evidence of harm being caused by the current legislation, that sounds pretty Quixotic to me - in short, a form of ideological 'championing'.

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    8. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      No. What he is doing is paying back some political debts. For decent Australians, there is no defence for relaxing the laws no matter how hard redneck Australia may try.

      There is no need to change the law at all. You have explicitly stated that you offend people, yet have they ever taken action against you under the old "strict" law that crushes your freedom of (bigoted) speech? I would guess that you have never had to censor yourself because of the law, however one would hope you may may have done so out of personal decency.

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    9. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I agree that allowing the public expression of bigotry is championing bigotry According to some respondents here the right to be a bigot is the forgotten human right and probably further proof of the rottenness of the UN Charter.

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    10. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      I agree mate. Look, forcing prisoners to wear the pink triangle was really a service to homosexuals because it made same sex attraction easier; no need for formal introductions, see?

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  7. ANDRE OTHENIN-GIRARD

    RETIRED

    Just wait until laws on bullying are enacted. It could be an even more interesting debate.

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  8. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Simon, the problem with your argument is made explicit when you state that "It is not for us to say that someone who actually – and, in their circumstances, reasonably – feels offence that hey should not."
    The problem with 18c is twofold: Firstly it places the feeling of offence as the defining parameter in deciding whether or not an offence (no pun intended) has occurred. Using the issues around the Bolt case, this endangers free speech in that an individuals in similar social contexts may have…

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    1. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to John Phillip

      Firstly, the article by Windshuttle is primarily about the debate about "Disputation over real and fake Aboriginality". In the Bolt case, there was no dispute about the "Aboriginality" of the plaintiffs. Bolt addmitted in his "pleadings" that the were all Aboriginals and had been since childhood. From the judgement:
      "By their pleadings both Mr Bolt and HWT have admitted that each of Ms Heiss, Ms Cole, Mr Clark, Dr Wayne Atkinson, Mr Graham Atkinson, Professor Behrendt, Ms Enoch, Mr McMillan and…

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    2. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to John Phillip

      Why is it that offence taken on the basis of race is more privileged than offence taken on the basis of weight, height, baldness etc?

      The answer is simple. History.

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    3. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken, you've misinterpreted my post. The Quadrant article talks of aboriginal people making the same types of 'accusations' that Bolt made towards other people who've identified as aboriginal.
      How does 18c address the 'errors of fact' point? It doesn't. Hence it can be effectively argued that Bolt wasnt actually convicted on the basis of that act. Hence it is redundant.
      Ken, if indeed we followed the advice you offer non-aboriginal people in cases where they may be 'offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated' by anyone (not just aboriginal folks), our courts would be filled with people who feel agrieved for whatever reason. Much of the anti-conservative vitriol posted on The Con would have to qualify as offensive, insulting, humiliating and/or intimidating.

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    4. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to John Phillip

      You clearly haven't read the Act nor understand how it operates. Sections 18C and 18D act together. 18C says a person cannot commit an act, in public, that "offends, insults or humiliates" another person on the basis of "race, colour or national or ethnic origin". Section 18D gives the exceptions to this rule. It begins "Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith aid or done reasonably and in good faith...". Two of the exceptions are "a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest" and "a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment"
      Without the errors of fact and the admissions in Bolt's pleadings he would have been totally protected by Section 18D.
      The law is there for for any of the non aboriginal people to take up if they feel aggrieved. It is up to them to take advantage of it, or not.

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    5. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to John Phillip

      As a mark of respect - the adjective-become-noun-by-use "aboriginal" is usually and respectfully when written given an upper case "Aboriginal" form. (When Koori/e or Murri or Nungar or Balanda or other Indigenous word for non-Indigenous person is not employed.) As with Greek, English, Jewish etc.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      Nice point Steven - as a professional short person I can tell you that there is actually more heightism spouted than sexism or racism and do you know what? I just suck it up because it doesn't really matter. Sexism DOES matter. Racism DOES matter. They have real, nasty, divisive implications.

      Heightism doesn't matter (though that episode of The Goodies about 'Apart-height' in a South Africa denuded of black people because they had all migrated to the UK was an absolute hoot).

      We only recognise something as discrimination or bigotry where real harm is done.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Thanks, Ken.

      John, could you please go away and do a little basic research on the Act and the Bolt case?

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    8. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      The writing was clearly written on the wall when some self-elected cultural/linguistic clique decided to make an adjective a noun. Heaven knows what the thinking was behind this.

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    9. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to John Phillip

      Sorry John, I will elaborate for you:

      Historical actions have led to prejudice that cause greater offence, or hurt to arise from racism when compared to baldness or weight. My fault for assuming you might understand that.

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    10. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Please advise me specifically where my research is at fault in the Bolt case so that I don't, through sheer ignorance, miss a key point.

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    11. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      I apologise unreservedly for this last post. In my email edition it was written:
      "Thanks, Ken. John, could you please go away and do a little basic research on the Act and the Bolt case?"
      I mistook the period for an apostrophe and answered on the run.

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    12. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      There was no great master of language that DECIDED to make the word a noun and no thinking behind it, language evolves through use and then is added to dictionaries. It is not the other way around. As contained in Jim's post: "the adjective-become-noun-by-use..."

      Aboriginal is a word used all over the world and its etymology is Latin. It has always been a proper noun in reference to broad term for any of the languages spoken by Aboriginal (original, not Australian) people.

      Aborigine(s) are also respectfully designated with a capital letter. Much as you would expect 'Australian' to be. It does not take much to observe respect towards fellow humans, particularly ones that have suffered historically; in much the same way it does not take much to observe respect and refrain from displaying one's bigorty in a public forum.

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    13. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      '...language evolves through use...'

      There's a natural evolution and there's a forced change for political purposes. Aboriginal has never been a proper noun anywhere except in Australia for the aforementioned reasons.
      They're still called 'aborigines' by most people who don't follow coded speech.

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    14. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      No problemo - I was being a bit lazy and trying to kill two birds with on epost!

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    15. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Ron, unless you can show clear evidence of how someone or some secretive group forced a change to language, I hope you'll understand if I reject your comment as unsubstantiated paranoia?

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    16. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to John Phillip

      No, firstly you suggested the anwser was rhetoric and not valid. That is your opinion, I merely offered a valid answer to your question: "Why is it that offence taken on the basis of race is more privileged than offence taken on the basis of weight, height, baldness etc?"

      Then secondly, you pointed out you think I am wrong. If so, what do you believes causes more offense at race or religion than weight/baldness if not the history of conflict over such matters?

      It isn't hard to work out why race or religion causes far more offence than baldness. To my knowledge no group of balding people have been persecuted, murdered or similar such have ethinc groups throughout history.

      It is the truth, I don't claim it is right.

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    17. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Mate, mate, the rot started with decimalization. Bring Back The Pound!

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    18. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      There are plenty of 'artists' who are still free to say outrageous things, for now!
      The SBS program 'Housos', and a couple of related programs, hold ethnic and disabled groups up for some fairly stiff ridicule. But I guess that's OK seeing as the 'artists' mainly come from those backgrounds. Just don't let anyone outside those groups attempt such portrayals.
      It all gets pretty silly.

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    19. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      I like 'Housos' in small doses. 'Shift and Swift' was better IMO. I identify with the white, bong pulling derros in 'Housos' but that's because I grew up on the docks of Newcastle, around such people, and 'Housos' has their foibles and humanity down pat. I don't find it at all offensive.

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    20. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen at Drehmex Sales and Services

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      "aboriginal" is an adjective - as per "aboriginal person".
      "aborigine" is a noun - hence "male aborigine" or "female aborigine"
      "Indigine" is a noun, and "indigenous" is an adjective - hence "Indigenous Australian" means a human being from Australia whose forebears include the original set of humans that came here 40,000 years ago.
      Whether people call *** themselves*** Aborigines or Indigenous Australians or (in some groups) Kooris or (in some circumstances) Boongs should be up to them, and other people should listen carefully about how to use these labels for various purposes with their consent.

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  9. Joss Stehbens

    Teacher

    This is vital reading for Australians who might only be getting their information on this matter directly from this particular horse's mouth; naturally, as is par for the course, politicking is busy spinning disingenuous argument for its positions, masking it with words which you THINK you know but of course, you discover that by this redefinition, you don't. There is far too much at stake here for Australian society. This proposal is short-sighted and one-sided and will likely fail to protect anybody from racist speech unless the abuser is Hitler reincarnated. But this is the plan, even if subconsciously; have no doubts about it. The goal is to water down certain protections under the pretext of an ideal which not a soul would reject: freedom. Unfortunately it is a very subjective concept, prime for this kind of manipulation.

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  10. Andrew Gilmour

    logged in via Facebook

    There is nothing new in the principle when feelings of an average person would be assessed instead of a particular person. I was told that when skilled migrants come to Australia and pass a medical test, the results for people having illnesses are not assessed individually. I mean, if someone is having a problem, our lovely medical department looks at an average person here in Australia with the same problem and says how likely this average person would require treatment, what sort of treatment and…

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  11. Alice Kelly
    Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

    sole parent

    This is what TA has said..
    "Let us empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, teachers, nurses, not for profits and business to tell us what works - rather than demanding policies that fit the rhetoric of the moment - an approach that empowers, not directives from the top down"
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-12/abbott-delivers-closing-the-gap-update/5254188
    This is a bit difficult when the man has declared himself to be the minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and hand picked supposed…

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  12. Bruce Harding

    Self employed

    "No member of the Australian racial majority – politicians, policymakers, opinion writers – can understand what it is to have one’s life defined by one’s difference."

    What about a white Muslim? A white gay? A white woman? A transgender white? Your views are suggestive of a profound naivete. We're all a bit different, and usually everyone else can tell.

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    1. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Bruce Harding

      But of course everyone can tell "difference" - this is the magic of humanity. But when the difference - rather than sparking joy and delight at the capacity for human beings to create brilliance in world outlooks (philosophy/religious expression/cultural aesthetics/value of the natural world/etc) is seen automatically and bigotedly as something lesser or to be feared - then there have to be safeguards preventing the visceral (?) stereotypical negative discrimination which such reactions can lead to - before appreciation and the finding of the similar - which the "accentuating of the positive" can and will bring!

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Bruce Harding

      Bruce, I think that statement ...

      "No member of the Australian racial majority – politicians, policymakers, opinion writers – can understand what it is to have one’s life defined by one’s difference."

      ...is fundamentally correct. There's a wealth of literature on this subject. The issue with difference is that not all differences attract the same levels of negative social sanction. In Australia, the history of dispossession shows the degree of special treatment Aboriginal people received subsequent to their 'difference'

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  13. Ron Mackie

    Retired

    The most disturbing nature of this entire debate is the emphasis solely on attacking white conservative males like Bolt, Brandis and Abbott.
    Nobody seems to worry about the viperous public utterings of Islamic zealots like our home-grown Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon or his UK amuensis, Anjim Choudary, who spew the worst forms of bigotry and physical threats imaginable.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/pm-go-and-let-the-muslims-take-over/story-e6frg6nf-1225991362018

    http://www.ozwitness.net/blog/?p=1164

    These men are eminently more dangerous to the public peace in Australia than anything Bolt writes about aborigines.
    Some emotive disjunction here?

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    1. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      If you seriously believe you are intimidated by the statement of Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon, then get a laywer and file a law suit under the Racial Discrimination Act Section 18C before it is changed. Anjim Choudary is beyond th reach of the Act.
      But by Senator Brandis' standards wouldn't you be curtailing both Mr. Siddiq-Conlon's right to freedom of speech and his right to be a bigot?

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    2. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      These men are Irrelevant to the discussion, however they are not politicians. Bolt, Brandis and Abbott should know better. It doesn't matter anyway, under the current laws none are permitted to racially vilify the other. I don't understand the point of your rant? Keeping the current protection against racial vilification has no bearing on whether one supports these extremists.

      You have your head on backwards if you fail to understand the reason the debate concerns Bolt, Abbott and Brandis. It…

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    3. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      I have no problem with these men ranting as loudly as they like, allowing ordinary people to see the dangers they would pose to democracy and to people of other faiths, or people of no faith in fact.
      I merely point out the discrepancy between some people's obsession with Bolt's writing and the far more damaging writings and ambitions of Conlon and Choudary. The latter was allowed a visa to come here to preach his paeons of hatred 2 years ago while David Irvine, another man of contentious opinions about the Holocaust was banned.
      Puzzlement upon puzzlement about priorities.

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    4. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      Ron, that's the very point, though! Bolt, Brandis and Abbott have the nation's eye. It's every hourly news break - every evening news program. The PM, the A-G, the negative shock jock (for those who love that kind of radio/TV performance)! The other names you mention - (thereby ironically - or is this with some intent - giving them slightly wider notoriety - should we bother to take the time) - are nonentities!

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    5. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      'The other names you mention...... are nonentities!'

      Shows how little attention you pay to any news outside your own narrow obsessions about Bolt et all. These people are a lot more likely to damage the fabric of Australian society than anything Bolt writes.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      How are they going to do that, Ron?

      Will the huge non-Muslim majority hear their words and suddenly become hypnotised?

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    7. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      David Irving was declined a visa by Phil Ruddock. in 2001. Ruddock wrote to Irving, according to Irving's own website, stating:

      "Section 46 of the Act outlines the requirements for a visa application to be valid. One of these requirements is that any fees payable in respect of the application under the Migration Regulations have been paid. As the cheque you enclosed with your visa application form did not specify the correct visa application fee, your application is invalid. Therefore, I am returning your visa application form and cheque to you."

      Now why would you insist on entry to Australia for a man so stupid he couldn't send a cheque for the right amount?

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    8. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      My recollection was that Irving was refused a visa because of representations from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies who objected to him as a Holocaust denier.
      Geert Wilders was also refused a visa at first by the Federal Govt. a couple of years ago and only got lucky when it was pointed out to the Feds that they'd allowed Islamic radical Choudary in to preach his message of hate. It would have been sheer hypocrisy to refuse entry to Wilders.

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    9. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      You hit on a very important point: Hatred of white conservatives. "Progressives" spend almost every waking hour slandering them. Yet it's seen by them as "moral". "Progressives" are such hypocrites.

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    10. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Your obvious distaste for "progressives" clouds your thought processes. Your post is slander. It accuses and does nothing to further the discussion. Hypocrits you were saying?

      Regardless of whether you think your anecdotal statement is true or not, it is not an important point. It has nothing to do with the current, or proposed changes to the law and the reasoning behind them. That is due to cases like the Bolt one where conservative spokespersons have broken the law and the current government is in their debt. Your efforts to divert the conversation and install a "hate" agenda shows limited mind, at least in terms of what you believe the rest of us are capable of identifying from your words.

      I for one do not hate white conservatives. I think they mostly lack intelligence (as studies have shown) and an open mind, but no more so than non-white conservatives.

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    11. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      What 'studies' might they be? Studies amongst the like-minded at the 'School of Inconsequential Studies'? Very left wing by definition.
      I think we conservatives are just less prone to rush-to-the-brain wild statements. Hardly defines us as lacking intelligence.

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    12. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      There was a large studyInformation with references for your interest. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/unique-everybody-else/201305/intelligence-and-politics-have-complex-relationship

      If you prefer tabloid style reporting, try this:
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2095549/Right-wingers-intelligent-left-wingers-says-controversial-study--conservative-politics-lead-people-racist.html
      http://www.livescience.com/18132-intelligence-social-conservatism-racism.html

      Cognitive dissonance will surely see you dismiss this as anything from unreliable data to ourtright and intentionally falsified.

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    13. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I don't hide my dislike of "progressives", therefore there can be no hypocrisy on my part.

      My point is relevant to the discussion. I know you'd like to minimise it to suit your agenda, but the hatred of white conservatives amongst "progressives" is everywhere. I've lost count of the amount of abuse heaped upon them on discussion forums like this. Then there's the denigration of Western civilisation by many academics, some creating entire curriculums and courses around this (although, I am aware they by-pass this through section 18d of the legislation).

      Those 'studies' you refer to have "progressive" valuations and moralisations running through them. I've read them. They're little more than the authors values attempted to be puffed up as objective.

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    14. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Your point about hating white progressives is not only unsupported, it is not relevant in respect to the article, or the fact that in the majority of cases only diversionary posts without credibility, references or data to support them are met with abuse on TC. That those generally come from progressives merely support those studies your cognitive dissonance forces you to disregard.

      On what planet is it a "very important point: Hatred of white conservatives"? Hatred, however distasteful is protected by the law. Racial abuse, particularly untruthful abuse such as Bolt was guilty of, is not.

      Again, I think white conservatives are as dim as any other coloured conservatives but I certainly don't hate them. I pity their narrow, fearful view of the world. It must be terribly tiring.

      I must now depart, I have an afternoon of sailing in the rain ahead.

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  14. Lena Dimopoulos Mail

    logged in via LinkedIn

    What next - people have the right to be loud, obnoxious bullies? Those who are bigots and feel free to verbally denigrate others due to their cultural or ethnic backgrounds are nothing more than ignorant bullies. I was born in this country and have had to put up with "funny" comments about my name and cultural background my entire life - these comments have offended, hurt, angered and times depressed me, and I do consider them to be racist. It's also interesting that the front man for this change in legislation does not have an Anglo-Celt background - is this supposed to make the rest of us feel that we are just too sensitive, when someone of from the non-dominant culture says it's ok for bigots to abuse us? Where has the idea of social justice gone and our sense of civic duty?

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Lena Dimopoulos Mail

      Well put Lena. The issue is that the other person often has no idea of the effect their "messing around" or "name calling" can have unless they have been systematically on the receiving end of it.

      Being a bigot shold be like being a nudist; it is all well and good to do it at home or in specified areas, just don't do it in front of the general public.

      Being a bigot shows supremely low intelligence and class, yet that is a person's right. Those rights end should there, they shouldn't extend making anyone feel inferior beacuse of their own narrow, intellectual limitiations.

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Lena Dimopoulos Mail

      Good point Lena. My favourite Oz racism story is told by the great grandson of an Indian founder of a major Australian bank in the colonial period. With a Greek father and an Indian great grandfather he is swarthily handsome. Driving to Darwin, he was greeted by a garage attendant with "G'day Abdul, what sort of towel head are you?" You couldn't make this stuff up.

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    3. Ron Mackie

      Retired

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      "G'day Abdul, what sort of towel head are you?" You couldn't make this stuff up'

      Nevertheless, I think you did make it up. Rather a too convenient example, wouldn't you admit?

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    4. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Ron Mackie

      "Nevertheless, I think you did make it up".

      You wish! I'm of Irish/Prussian/Jewish descent dating back to Newcastle in the 1820's. Pure pink fella and I've never laughed so hard at racism as when I heard this young bloke's story. His story is why you blokes are on a hiding to nuffink: he worked for various Aboriginal agencies in the NT for four years or so before commencing a PhD in Law down south again. He is an agent of the inner west of Sydney, deeply entrenched, under cover of bourgeois respectability. Sweet dreams.

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    5. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      Seems you're being bigoted toward people of low intelligence and class.

      See, this is where "progressives" go wrong - they think that being bigoted is only connected to racial issues or maybe gay issues. Being bigoted is simply being intolerant of others' opinions. The specific opinions or issues being intolerant of are irrelevant. "Progressives" have decided to reinterpret the term for their own purposes. Just as well people still think critically and aren't duped by their propaganda.

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  15. Russ Hunter

    Healthcare Professional

    Well said, Simon Rice. The drafted changes look like virtually anything will be defendable. It lays out the welcome mat for bigotry, even based on deliberate lies -- this has to be a bad 'freedom'. And all this to appease Bolt.

    The government proclaim it's not all about Bolt but the wording of the draft makes it quite clear it is. And the purported free speech motives are belied by the hypocrisy this government displays on the issue in other areas like internet censorship.

    Look at the political…

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  16. Nicholas Orford

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    “Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn't exist in any declaration I have ever read.
    If you are offended it is your problem, and frankly lots of things offend lots of people." Salman Rushdie

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Nicholas Orford

      Being offended is different to being vilified, particulalry on race as is the point of the topic. If Mr Rushdie was referring to vilification, the UN Declaration of Human Rights might disagree with that pointless quote from someone that has a vested interest in others not being offended.

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    2. Pog Throgmorton

      Manager

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I don't really understand what point you are making. I think the Rushdie quote is far from pointless - it's extremely relevant.

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  17. Hugh Breakey

    Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

    Apologies for the long post, but I’m interested in people’s opinions on this and I’d like to hear where people stand.

    It seems to me there are three sorts of speech acts concerning us here.

    1. Direct vilification, where, a) the speaker effectively asserts that one race, colour, nation etc is by its very nature worthy of hatred, scorn or paternalistic treatment; b) there is no evidence the speaker aims to inject an opinion into a political or social debate, rather than to merely wound their…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      A simple, initial comment, Hugh.

      Given the power of general/existing defamation law, I would have thought that your (3) was so clearly in line with the spirit of that law that it was eminently reasonable within broad 'precedent'.

      And, as you say, in the Bolt case, it seemed to me that the judgement hinged strongly on the falsity of the accusations and the fact that even a little basic fact-checking would have shown that falsity - in many ways it was the lack of responsibility that queered Bolt's claim to fair public comment.

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    2. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Thanks Felix.

      So I think you’re saying you’d be happy to allow (3) except in cases where there the offensive comments are also false and fairly easy to demonstrate as being false, in which case they should be prohibited.

      I guess I just read the Eatock v Bolt judgement a bit differently. Falsity wasn’t the only problem and I wonder why it is the only one commentators seem to refer to. The judge also referred to Bolt’s inflammatory and provocative language. Indeed, the judge decided the burden…

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    3. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Hugh Breakey

      Hugh, I don't want the legislation touched. It has proved its worth in the Bolt case. It took a trouble maker to task. Bolt has been a professional drama queen at others expense for a long time. I think he should have to watch what he says.

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    4. Hugh Breakey

      Moral Philosopher, Griffith University at Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Okay, time for me to bow out of this discussion.

      We simply have a substantial difference in principle on what the law can and should hope to accomplish on these matters, and therefore on how far free speech should be extended. I accept the importance of the reasons people here have marshalled to curtail free speech. I agree most of these reasons are sensible and powerful. I just also think there are sensible and powerful arguments on the other side of the equation too. But I won’t try to recount them here (they are effectively the arguments given in John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’). A comments section is hardly the place for such an extended argument, and I have already taxed readers here with some lengthy posts.

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  18. Ed Hotan

    logged in via email @outlook.com

    All this aggrieved ranting to deny free speech to bigots seems amazingly bigoted to me. Sticks and stones, et cetera . . .

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ed Hotan

      Nobody is trying to 'deny free speech to bigots' - merely put some limits on the nature, extent and accuracy of that speech.

      Given the power of generalised defamation law on all sorts of other maters, compared with the relative weakness of 18C etc., the desire to repeal it is eccentric and trivial in terms of genuine free speech.

      But I guess someone who describes interested debate on an important question of public policy and law as 'aggrieved ranting' has a rather idiosyncratic understanding of what free speech entails.

      By the way, have you ever heard of something called psychology? it helps explain why the 'sticks and stones' canard is utter crap and not worthy of an educated adult.

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    2. Ed Hotan

      logged in via email @outlook.com

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Er ... what is "genuine free speech" as opposed to presumably non-genuine free speech? I suppose it is when someone like you describes as "utter crap" someone's comment that irritates you. Does that not strike you as being somewhat bigoted in your self-serving conviction?

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    3. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Ed Hotan

      Ed, I wonder if you have considered that irrational venting or ranting is a choice rather than a right. Are you still caught up in the interpretation of Enlightenment Ideality by the US i.e., the immature phase that values freedom (whatever that may mean) and the determined effort to defend free speech no matter what? I view this phase as romantic but not pragmatic.

      Words/speech acts/hate speech can harm. The old sticks and stones adage is passé and smacks of naiveté.

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    4. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Ed Hotan

      Ed, I wonder if you have considered that irrational venting or ranting is a choice rather than a right. Are you still caught up in the interpretation of Enlightenment Ideality by the US i.e., the immature phase that values freedom (whatever that may mean) and the determined effort to defend free speech no matter what? I view this phase as romantic but not pragmatic.

      Words/speech acts/hate speech can harm. The old sticks and stones adage is passé and smacks of naiveté.

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  19. john tons

    retired redundant

    Why are we discussing this? Why has it raised its head? Is the status quo so abhorrent that we need to invest time and money into changing the legislation? Or is it merely the case that this government needs to repay a political debt? If it is the latter then the government needs to think carefully about the price that they will pay. Approximately 25% all Australian voters have had direct experience of racial abuse of one form or another. These are the Australians whose family members went…

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  20. David Pearn

    Follower

    I'm still finding it hard to accept the reality of a throw-back govt of ideologues elected by a supposedly educated first world society.
    It gives me the creeps and depresses me.
    Fancy; a nation run by shock jocks!

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  21. John McKeon
    John McKeon is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Teacher (of English; to Refugees)

    Thank you, Simon.

    As you said: “It is not for us to say that someone who actually … feels offence … should not (feel that offence), or that it is to be borne with resignation.”

    When I think of racist bigotry being expressed in Australian society it occurs to me how that bigotry contrasts paradoxically with our mythical propensity to demand ‘a fair go’ for the ‘underdog’. It seems that we recognise the imbalance in power relationships in some situations but totally ignore the imbalance in other situations.

    What I find outstanding in the Bolt case is how he - a man in a powerful position in mainstream culture and working within a newspaper organisation that expresses that same power - can dish out the kind of abuse that he did against a minority that has nothing like the clout or means to dish it back to him and his media organisation.

    Bolt has been bitten. And he has thin skin. The law should stand as it is to be the protection for the vulnerable that it is meant to be.

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  22. Erica Jolly

    Writer about education

    This is what bigots do. They humiliate, set out to offend, set out to insult, set out to deny those they hate any value in their personal identity. They pass on their bigotry to their children who take it to school and make life hell for the children and the teachers who have to deal with the results of that bigotry inthe home. We, the Australian nation, passed the Racial Discrimination Act after indigenous people were accepted as citizens after 1967, and 'boat people' were accepted by both parties…

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  23. Tantri Orr

    Senior Trainer AOD and Mental Health

    In an time when we need to learn about other cultures and religions, when we need to learn how to understand an 'other' in our society, it's hard to imagine someone standing up for bigotry and ignorance.
    It almost looks as if this government is prepared to support or even encourage a Bolt like position based on incorrect facts. That's giving a lot of power to one journalist's views.
    Tolerance and understanding aren't easy or effortless; legislative changes out of spite won't help.

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  24. robin linke

    stamp dealer

    We need free speech for informed debate in order to devise and enact legislation to make Australia a better place, and to give ordinary citizens a right to participate.

    For example the greatest policy disaster since Menzies has been the descent into hell of much of our Indigenous population by policies of political correctness. Health housing education and health are worse than most African countries. Indigenous Jail population has gone from 25% to 28%. 1000+ babies are born with alcohol foetal…

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    1. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to robin linke

      When you say "Andrew Bolt was condemned for 'hurting' the feelings of a group Europeans with a small amount of Aboriginal inheritance" you are making a generalised statement that is not true in allcases. I, along with a number of people in this conversation, have condemned Andrew Bolt because, according to his own "pleadings" in his trial he knowingly made untrue statements about a group of Aboriginal people. He uses his position as a journalist in a major media outlet to get wide coverage for his opinions. He has more ogligation than most to ensure that his statements are accurate. I do not agree with George Brandis when he insists there is a freedom to broadcast untruths.

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    2. robin linke

      stamp dealer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Andrew Bolt is a prolific journalist with a very large audience of readers because these readers obviously on balance believe his articles are very worthwhile,. A small minority of Europeans of some Aboriginal descent for political reasons took him to court. Thus you support depriving the majority to hear all relevant points of view.

      This principle reflects on the political bias of the ABC which is publically funded. Public money is trust money, but the ABC has a long history of bias. Instead…

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    3. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to robin linke

      So you are quite comfortable with the fact that "a prolific journalist with a very large audience of readers" can knowingly tell untruths about a group of people just because his "readers obviously on balance believe his articles are very worthwhile" .
      You therefore believe that in the media popularity trumps accuracy. A very modern attitude.
      I support the proposition that the majority and the minority are entitiled to hear and read the truth, not distortions that fit a partiuclar viewpoint.
      If you are most interested in the plight of the indigenous population why do you support them being maligned? You do realise that the intended effect of the Bolt articles was to insinuate that Aboringinals receive undeserved benefits.

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    4. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to robin linke

      Robin,

      Dolt's "point of view" was found, in a court of law, to contain factual errors and language of an inflammotary or racist nature. It was not simply his "point of view". you should look into the case and judgement.

      Do you have any support for yout claim the ABC is biased? Many studies and inquiries into the ABC have shown the opposite. In fact, in the lead up to the last election, it showed favourable coverage to the Coalition by a narrow margin. I understand for those used to Bolt, Murdoch…

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  25. Malcolm Harrison

    journalist

    yes it is okay to be a bigot. i have seldom met anyone who wasn't bigoted about something or other. and in the last week i have read and watched and listened to a lot of people who certainly seemed bigoted about bigots.
    being a full on bigot is not nice of course, but it's not really the point that Brandis is making, is it?

    he is not saying he likes bigots, he merely wonders whether it is appropriate to make laws against bigotry, and what kind of laws, and how bigoted you need to be in order to fall foul of such a law.

    i was certainly offended by the wanton bigotry against bigots I was subjected to in the past couple of weeks, though not humiliated or overly intimidated by it.

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Malcolm Harrison

      The fact that you are not humiliated or intimidated by it shows you cannot understand where the people that have been are coming from. They understand what is like to be defined by their difference and targeting that difference, especially with factual errors as Bolt did, with the purpose to intimidate or humiliate SHOULD be an offence.

      There are plenty of ways to allow your inner bigot out, mostly proctected by Section 18D, they just don't allow public bigotry for the explicit purpose of vilification. That makes sense to most people here.

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  26. Gerrit Hendrik Schorel-Hlavka O.W.B.

    Constitutionalist

    Everyone seems to put his two bit in but few if any really understand the true meaning and application of our constitution.
    See also my posting on my blog at http://www.scribd.com/doc/215241896/20140326-G-H-Schorel-Hlavka-O-W-B-to-Mr-George-Brandis-Attorney-General-Re-s18C-Etc and do keep in mind:
    Hansard 2-3-1898 Constitution Convention Debates (Official Record of the Debates of the National Australasian Convention)
    QUOTE
    Mr. BARTON.-Yes; and here we have a totally different position, because…

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  27. michael mills

    consultant

    I thought this site prided itself on "intellectual rigour" It would seem few really appreciate the meaning of Bigotry. The article implies Brandis condones bigotry which in itself betrays the bigotry implicit in this article - claiming brandis is "the champion of the right to bigotry" which totally misinterprets his meaning and applies some form of legitimacy. This is outrageous and bells the cat on your political leanings contrary to the claim of academic rigour.
    The lurch to curtailing freedom of speech is pointless and as O'neil points out curtailing freedom of speech was of great assistance to the nazis and as with all totalitarian regimes they all seek to deny freedom of speech and association. Passing laws does not and never will modify social behaviour only debate and peer pressure will accomplish that objective.

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  28. Richard Clowes

    Retired Urban & Regional Planner

    Congratulations Senator Brandis, I do hope that you prevail.

    Better still, why not repeal the Age Discrimination Act 2004, Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and enact a single anti-discrimination act that includes age, race, gender, disability, marriage, sexual orientation, etc but which does not impinge on freedom of expression? That should cut some red tape.

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Richard Clowes

      What a moronic lastr line. Red tape? If you think that a law protecting racial (and other) vilification and discrimination is red tape, it is clear where you are coming from. The good old "I'm not racist but...." angle.

      There are already laws explicitly pretecting "freedom of expression" while covering the prejudicial acts you describe. I'm not sure you understand the current laws which make almost all freedom of expression legal, unless the purpose is to generally prejudiciously incite, intimidate or humiliate. The fact that you also want those actions allowed shows even more of your personality.

      The types of discrimiation and vilification you have mentioned are different and require different terminologies, exepmtions and ultimately laws.

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    2. David Pearn

      Follower

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      I agree.
      If it's acceptable for an 'award winning' journalist to describe Mr J Hird as a narcissist, what more power to vilify do you need?.

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