Review of Federal Australian hate speech law
Critical comments below by Mark Dreyfus. Mr Dreyfus is the federal opposition spokesman on legal affairs. He is Jewish.
His article below is a typical bit of Leftist cherrypicking. He quotes a couple of instances where the hate speech laws were arguably used to proper effect and completely ignores the Bolt case -- the case which has motivated the intended change in the law. And it was a Jewish judge who made the immoderate judgment that led to Andrew Bolt's conviction.
Judge Bromberg had plenty of room within the act to find Bolt not guilty but he chose to go for the jugular -- possibly because of his Jewishness. Jews have good historical reasons for a horror of defamation. Bromberg should really have recused himself from the case.
So Dreyfus would have been much more persuasive if he had deplored the misapplication of the law by Mordechai Bromberg but he totally ignores that. Is he endeavouring to add substance to the old accusations of Jewish "clannishness"? He is a disgrace. Even some Leftists found Bromberg's verdict "profoundly disturbing"
If Dreyfus had been arguing responsibly, he might have said that the provision of an appeals court to review judgments such as Bromberg's would be more appropriate than watering down the act. In the case of another Leftist-inspired kangaroo court -- the Fair Work tribunal, the present government is doing exactly that.
But what Dreyfus will not admit is that there is just one man responsible for the review of the law being presently undertaken: Mordechai Bromberg. Bromberg's zeal to persecute any suspicion of defamation will soon be seen to have facilitated defamation
FOR almost 20 years, since the Racial Discrimination Act was enacted by the Keating government in 1994, section 18C has embodied Australia's condemnation of racial vilification, and protected our society from the poisonous effects of hate speech.
Labor strongly believes in the continued need for laws that prohibit racial hatred in Australia.
The new Attorney-General and his Prime Minister have made clear their intention to repeal section 18C in its current form, which makes it illegal to vilify people because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
The Attorney-General claims that the prohibitions in section 18C are a threat to "intellectual freedom" and "freedom of speech" in Australia.
One can only assume that he has an extremely poor grasp of history, of the appropriate limits imposed on free speech in all Western democracies, and of the dangers of giving a green light to hate speech under the preposterous claim that racially vilifying individuals in public is necessary to support intellectual freedom in our nation.
Section 18C has functioned well for 18 years in our community, without being criticised as some kind of affront to freedom of speech.
Rather, the provision has been used to respond to egregious examples of hate speech, such as the publication of false statements by infamous Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben, who wrote, among other offensive lies, that there was serious doubt the Holocaust occurred and that Jewish people who were offended by the denial of the state-sponsored murder of their families and communities were of limited intelligence.
Using section 18C, the Federal Court ordered these deeply offensive public statements be removed from the relevant website.
The Coalition's policy would allow Toben to publish material of this kind, and would take away the power of our courts to stop such racist hate speech being disseminated.
In another infamous case, an indigenous woman used section 18C to defend herself against a neighbour who had waged a campaign of intimidation against her family by attacking them with offensive racist insults such as "nigger" and "black bastard".
It is disingenuous to attack section 18C as a threat to freedom of speech by presenting it in isolation from the linked provision, section 18D.
Following extensive public consultations at the time the provisions were crafted, the drafters were well aware of the need to appropriately protect freedom of speech.
That is why section 18D provides extensive protection for free speech and political communication in our society.
Section 18C is also entirely consistent with the objectives of the London Declaration on Combatting Anti-Semitism, which was signed on behalf of Australia by former prime minister Julia Gillard in April, and was subsequently signed by Coalition MPs including Tony Abbott and George Brandis.
In May this year, I wrote to Mr Abbott calling on the Coalition to respect the pledges in the London Declaration, and to reverse the Liberals' plan to repeal section 18C.
I pointed out that section 18C is precisely the kind of legislated protection against anti-Semitism and racial discrimination that the London Declaration calls on its signatories to enact, and that repealing it would unequivocally contradict the spirit and the terms of that important declaration.
In an interview two weeks ago, the Attorney-General made clear that he intends to persist with the repeal of section 18C regardless of deep community concerns.
However, in senate estimates this week, he at least withdrew from arguments earlier suggesting that the protections provided by section 18C were somehow covered by the Criminal Code Act.
Sections 80.2A and B of the Criminal Code Act create serious criminal offences for individuals that urge the use of force or violence against a group or a member of a group distinguished by race, religion, nationality, national or ethnic origin or political opinion.
These provisions prohibit criminal incitement to violence and do not operate to prohibit the civil wrong of racist hate speech as section 18C does.
In response to questions at senate estimates, Senator Brandis revealed that his "engaging in community consultations" would be limited to "private conversations" with "community leaders" to be selected by him.
He then refused to elaborate on which community leaders he was speaking to or the nature of those discussions.
There is an unpleasant irony in the spectacle of an Attorney-General who claims to champion free speech refusing to answer questions regarding secret consultations he is conducting in a bid to remove legislative protections of great importance to communities across our nation.
It is essential that the communities affected by any potential change in this area of the law have the opportunity to put their views to Senator Brandis, not just the private group of unidentified individuals that he deigns to have a conversation with.
Public discussions regarding proposed legislative changes on matters of concern to the community such as this are essential for any government that claims to value freedom of speech.
This is a further example of how, in the short time since the election, this government is prepared to shamelessly hide their actions from the scrutiny of both the people who elected them and from the media.
Mr Abbott and Senator Brandis have refused to back down on their proposed watering down of hate speech laws in our nation, reflecting their ignorance of history and the dangers of permitting racially motivated hate speech.
In contrast, Labor is committed to supporting the rights of all Australians to dignity and protection from racially motivated hate speech ahead of enabling bigots and extremists to say in public whatever they want.