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Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade beats Turnbull’s 18C freedom of speech lies.

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honour, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” Joseph Heller Catch 22 


 

“Bat poo crazy”, sneers loyal Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. “Just plain stupid. Just plain dumb.”

A dab hand at restoring sanity to the national conversation, Joyce takes time out from urging the export of edible donkey skins to China, the next big thing logically, now returns on iron ore and coal are down a bit, to jeer at Pauline Hanson for her call, Friday, for ‘Straya to be “vaccinated against Muslims”.

The 18C law is an ass.  Imagine if Putinista Pauline and other Islamophobes could say what they really think. Yet Barnaby’s Hanson slap-down applies equally to his PM’s own bat-shit maniacal mission to drop energy, budget preparation – everything –  to make Australia bigly bigot-friendly this week.

Nothing special is required. No trick. All you need to turn hate speech into free speech is no character.

Turnbull sucks up to the 18C brigade. Next he’ll be rewriting the national anthem: “Australians, all let us rejoice in our dem-o-cracy. O-ffend, in-sult, hu-mil-iate; for these deeds make us free.”

Mad as a March Hare, the PM darts about the national stage. A lot of shouting is involved. He exceeds even his Shorten-bashing, in forsaking decorum. And it works. Sort of. It impresses the odd critic.

Mark Kenny, National Affairs Editor for Fairfax, writes inscrutably of a “growing sense around the halls of power that Malcolm Turnbull is finally starting to get somewhere.”

All week, Turnbull extols the nation-building virtues of racial vilification, the acid test of free speech.

It’s an extraordinary contortion even for a practised back-flipper, a retail politician who sold his soul to the National Party and who hasn’t looked back since. Or forward. Just sideways. But now he’s hydro-pumped. Free speech, he blows all week, is not just intrinsic to insult and injury, it’s a core Liberal value. Somehow he’s persuaded by his Snowy 2.0 propaganda that he’s nation builder and elder statesman.

“Our freedom of speech is the foundation of our great democracy that has caused people from every corner of the world to join ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world,” he honks loftily, rashly cramming three lies into one canard. Vapid, pretentious nonsense enchants him. Becomes him.

All week he pretends he doesn’t know that the Racial Discrimination Act’s section 18D protects freedom of speech.  It goes down well. The Australian’s Paul Kelly and gang gush thousands of words in applause.

Turnbull’s performance reminds us free speech in Australia is a ruling class privilege. He intends to keep it that way. If he were serious about free speech for all, he’d repeal the secrecy provisions of section 42 of the Border Force Act 2015. These led the UN special rapporteur on human rights to abandon a planned visit to Australia that year. The Act would prevent workers from providing any information.

Free speech? Anyone is free to report on Nauru if Dutton approves of you and you can pay an $8000 fee.

If he were serious about protecting free speech, Turnbull would stop Centrelink divulging personal details of clients to silence those victims of Roboclaw extortion who dare criticise its operations.

He’d rescind his government’s permission for ASIO to trawl through journalists’ metadata to discern sources.  He’d be outraged at the way the ABC, our national broadcaster, has had its independence destroyed through budget cuts and government interference. He’d recall Michelle Guthrie.

A government committed to free speech would establish a bill of rights to protect this inalienable human right, article 19 in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It would reform our defamation laws exploited by rich individuals and corporations who successfully threaten to sue to silence critics.

It would repeal the 2014 law which allows the Attorney General to define a “special intelligence operation” making it a crime for journalists to report on the operation.

The government would also persuade to its cause State governments, who restrict free speech.

In 2014 the Tasmanian government enacted new anti-protest legislation to prevent anti-logging protesters from objecting to clear-felling of native forests in January 2016. Bob Brown has launched a High Court legal challenge.  WA and NSW also have laws to muzzle protesters.

Beyond the law, there are countless informal ways freedom of speech is denied Australian people because of their colour, class or gender. Despite Turnbull’s week-long harangue – and partly because of it – our nation excludes the voices of those who do not belong to the dominant elite.

Of course he doesn’t want free speech for all. The PM’s performance is a stunt to divert an insatiable rabid right wing. Yet the right will simply want more. Accordingly, Turnbull duly receives praise from Tony Abbott, another bumper sticker orator; Abbott knows an empty slogan when he hears one.

Yet Abbott, who’s busily alarming an adoring media about Victoria’s power crisis, ups the ante. He asks Turnbull to keep Hazelwood Power Station open until Snowy 2.0 starts pumping its hydro.

Turnbull quickly dismisses his rival’s latest mischief. It’s too expensive and unnecessary. He’ll put Abbott back in his box even if it means another U-turn from his catastrophising over renewables and his love of coal-fired power a week or so ago.  At least the truth is out. He doesn’t seem to have told Josh Frydenberg.

Turnbull also will tackle 18C – something Abbott failed to do – even though it was on his IPA-led agenda. What the PM proposes, however, has nothing to do with free speech and everything to with appeasing a few old, white, ruling class warriors feeling hard done by who love to beef about being bound by law; men whose privilege and power mean they will never suffer vilification or discrimination.

Or be overlooked. In a virtuoso display of duplicity and indirection, the Coalition devotes all Tuesday to diluting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, a section added in 1995 to make it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the basis of a person’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

It’s a big back-flip. Leaving 18C alone was a Turbull campaign promise. He once told the IPA’s John Roskam “About 100 people care about 18C and there are about 16 million people on the electoral roll.”

The RDA helps the Australian Human Rights Commission, (AHRC) resolve conflict. Fewer than five per cent of complaints go to court. Yet critics claim fear of being dragged through court stifles free speech.

Never one to overshare, fearing leaks, or with his team plan still a work in progress, the PM neglects to mention the 18C changes he has planned when he addresses the full cabinet on Monday at 6:30 pm. Oddly, MPs come to feel excluded; slighted. Those in electorates with large ethnic communities fear that the issue will lose them votes. Some would cross the floor if they thought it would save their seats.

Turnbull’s timing is impeccable: 21 March is Harmony Day and the International Day of Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day, moreover, is a Howard invention,  a day and a campaign dedicated to a truth self-evident to Howard’s band of reality deniers: racism could not possibly exist in Australia.

There’s a hint of this self-delusion in the statement on multiculturalism which the PM releases. It’s been doctored a bit to ensure that migrants know they have to assimilate. It’s almost no trick at all. Greens leader, Richard di Natale, however, calls him out on it; his One Nation dogwhistling:

Di Natale nails it.  New arrivals should adopt so-called “Australian” values?

“The new multiculturalism statement is an attack on multiculturalism,” Di Natale says in a statement.

Julian Leeser, David Coleman, Julia Banks, Russell Broadbent and Craig Laundy, oppose the proposed 18C re-wording. Only news that the law will go to the senate first, where it will surely be lost, persuades them not to cross the floor.

The group’s dismay illustrates how the PM wooing of his right wing is alienating the middle. It remains to be seen if the right will be appeased by a process where the new bill is set up to be lost in the Senate. It’s too tricky by half.

A snap Senate inquiry Friday by the legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee, to report back by Tuesday, is announced. Attorney General, George Brandis, whose previous reform proposals were ignored, has his submission quietly incorporated into Hansard. Also invited are the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The inquiry allows Liberal senator Ian Macdonald to continue his bullying of the Commission’s President: “You’re here to answer questions, Professor Triggs, not to go off on a frolic of your own.” His belittling harassment of Triggs is a case study in freedom of speech at work in senate committee.

Triggs has been pilloried and accused of political bias since her 2014 report on children in immigration detention centres, The Forgotten Children was critical of government policy. Attacks have been mounted in parliament and Triggs’ findings have been howled down in Newscorp media.

Media attacks include accusations about her personal life and a piece by Piers Akerman alleging that she was an unfit mother. It’s an insight into the real constraints on our freedom of speech which the Prime Minister’s rhetoric ignores, and an illustration of the cruelty inflicted by the Old White Male brigade.

Macdonald is a veteran of the Coalition’s long-running war on the Human Rights Commission, begun by Tony Abbott and capably assisted by George Brandis who has insulted and demeaned Triggs mercilessly. He chaired the committee which looked into her Forgotten People report but he didn’t bother to read it.

“I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I thought it was partisan,” he told the committee. It is an insult not only to Triggs but to the nation. Macdonald doesn’t get it.

In March 2015, the Senate passed a motion declaring Brandis “unfit to hold the office of Attorney-General” over the Government’s criticism of the Human Rights Commission president. As Penny Wong noted at the time, Brandis failed as AG not merely to defend the AHRC as an institution but he actually led the charge attacking Gillian Triggs on charges that her report on children in custody was political.

Somewhere in the excitement, MPs misrepresent the change as sanctioned by the AHRC itself. It’s not.

“It’s very, very clear that we do not approve the changes to the substantive provision of the [act],” Gillian Triggs, AHRC President says on Friday.

“The current language has worked extremely well.” Inserting the word “harass” instead is “curious”, “an entirely circular process” and “highly unsatisfactory”, she says.

The Coalition’s amendments include substituting “harass” for the words “insult and offend”, a weakening which the PM pretends will make the law stronger, clearer, fairer. Inserting a reasonable member of the community test will discount minority experience.  It’s a disingenuous double-bluff.

In reality, the changes will weaken the law to “… give a free pass to ugly and damaging forms of racial vilification which do not satisfy the stringent legal criteria of harassment and intimidation”, say Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Indian, Aboriginal and Jewish communities in a signed statement to the PM.

Silence from the Kiwi migrant community, a whopping fifteen per cent of New Zealand’s population, does not equal consent. New Zealanders, along with the South Sudanese  report highest levels of discrimination in Australia, in a survey of 10,000 respondents, conducted by the Scanlon Foundation and Monash University and reported in August last year. Yet the Sudanese are twice as happy to be here.

It’s a report Zed Seselja, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, channelling John Howard “simply cannot understand”, exposing an inherent flaw in the “reasonable community member” test.

The Kiwi underclass is not asked to comment. Some may even be on Christmas Island awaiting deportation at Peter Dutton’s pleasure, courtesy of the character test an amendment to the Migration Act, of December 2014 which provides for mandatory cancellation of visas of anyone who has served a year in prison or who, “in the minister’s judgement” is a known associate of a criminal organisation.

Our immigration detention centres now hold more New Zealanders than any other national group. Kiwis are often held in detention for months awaiting “processing” of their deportation or appeal. Cut off from families and legal support, detainees report violence, abuse by guards, and a lack of medical treatment.

The government has no hope of getting its bill through the senate. At best, Turnbull’s bluff buys off bigots in his own party as well as those in the Murdoch press who deride his government for not making it easier for privileged white racists to abuse persecuted minorities. It is common knowledge now that 18C killed freedom fighter St Bill Leak, a racist cartoonist whom the PM has helped canonise.

“Political correctness did not silence Bill, any more than terrorists did, every cartoon he drew was an exercise of freedom.”

What the PM really hopes to do, however, is forestall a budgie smuggler putsch he fears is out to get him. Crazy? He’s read Catch 22. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

Tactically, Turnbull’s batshit crazy; deluded. Every inch he yields, every capitulation he makes to his party’s right merely increases their demands and weakens his lame duck leadership of a government overwhelmed by such basic tasks as taking charge of its agenda. Yet after his cunning plan; his brilliant double dissolution disaster he lacks the political capital to defy his bullies.

Appeasing racists ought to be low down the list for a government with so much else that is pressing. It has yet to formulate a coherent energy or environment policy. It has yet to end Abbott era hangovers; zombie measures. It is racking up a massive deficit. It has no idea of what to do with the 854 asylum seekers on Manus Island once PNG closes the camp.

The refugee people-swap deal with an inept, crisis-ridden US administration appears flakier by the week.

Above all there’s the war on the poor, a crusade on behalf of the rich to cut up to $7,700 per annum from the wages of our lowest paid earners by axing Sunday penalty rates, a move which The McKell Institute reports, accelerates the mass casualisation of the Australian workforce which is now spreading, inexorably, into other workplaces and occupations.

The PM cannot bring himself to publicly announce his support for the pay cuts on the floor of the house but finds ways to announce that he’s in favour of a decision which he blames on Labor and the FWC.

Turnbull’s 18C stunt demeans the work of the bipartisan parliamentary committee which recently advised against any change and is yet another offence against democratic process committed as this government and its predecessor have sought to abrogate power into the office of the Prime Minister.

Increasingly, as one wag puts it,  what is good for the country is what is good for Malcolm Turnbull. His decision to devote himself to the repeal of a law he knows won’t get past the senate has to be the ultimate in cynical political manoeovreing.

In the process, his attempt to puff his posturing into a stand on free speech is likely to backfire and illuminate the extent to which his government is the catspaw of mining, business and media groups who are motivated only by the narrowest short-term, self-interest.

The PM’s hollow rhetoric this week is no substitute for vision or policy or leadership but is instead the desperate posturing of a hollow man intent on appeasing his right wing critics at any price.

Turnbull’s attempt to dilute the RDA’s section 18C to save his political hide, under cover of a fog of lies about freedom of speech and high-sounding lies nonsense about our multiculturalism makes Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade with China honest and virtuous, a tangible public good by contrast.

 


18 comments

  1. metadatalata

    Fizza is an empty gourd covered with the skin of a human.

  2. Tugsley Too

    What a great read David – the header is a corker as well. I’m going back for a 2nd helping. Thanks.

  3. Tugsley Too

    Barnaby Joke would have to be riddled with archetypal carpetbagger DNA – he aw , he aw , he always has some scam oozing forth. Edible donkey hide for export ? WTF ?

  4. Möbius Ecko

    “Our freedom of speech is the foundation of our great democracy that has caused people from every corner of the world to join ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world,”

    Did anyone point out that people from every corner of the world continued to come here for the 40 years of the RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18C. Indeed, they want to come here in increasing numbers with only government restrictions on immigration numbers curtailing that, and that despite Section 18C supposedly suppressing their freedom of speech.

  5. Keith

    While 18C is the hot topic, it hides other matters, such as tax reimbursement to the mining industry. The mining industry had been pushing for tax reimbursement for donations to green groups to be stopped. Yet, the mining industry benefits through their lobbying to gain significant tax savings.

    https://newmatilda.com/2015/06/17/inquiry-targeting-green-groups-accidentally-exposes-145-million-mining-tax-dodge/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork

  6. helvityni

    …sad, terribly sad, and all true, David; I felt sick when Abbott became our PM, after all we knew he would be worse than Howard…yet we have sunk even lower with Fizza… Now I have an extra worry; nurse Hanson is coming to town to vaccinate us against Muslims….

    I cry for you, Australia.

  7. John

    All the column inches devoted to a bill that won’t pass the senate and which “About 100 people care about..”.

    Meanwhile the senate is set to vote on Brandis’ proposed changes to the Native Title Act to replace consensus provisions in deals with mining companies with the (less democratic) majority agreement. And this to enable the Adani mine.

    It appears Labor will support it unless we all complain.

  8. Roswell

    Where did you learn to write so damn good, David?

  9. Kyran

    Out of curiosity, Mr Tyler, is there a prospect we can make hats out of donkey skin?

    “If people want edible donkey skins, Australia is going to provide them,” he said.
    “We’re going to make sure if you want to eat donkey skins, you’re going to eat our edible donkey skins.”

    At least the next time Bananas offers to eat his hat, it will be palatable. For him. Just trying to be helpful. Goodness knows, that miscreant needs all the help he can get. We pay him a lot of money for his help. Yet we consider him nothing more than a boorish ass. What ingrates we are.
    Unlike the diet these miscreants offer the rest of us. Having become (nearly) immune to the constant diet afforded us by these miscreants (bullshit), I am becoming increasingly incensed at their insistence we refer to it as ‘foie gras’.

    “Mark Kenny, National Affairs Editor for Fairfax, writes inscrutably of a “growing sense around the halls of power that Malcolm Turnbull is finally starting to get somewhere.””
    As Keating observed, we need windscreen wipers on the rear window, as we are reversing so fast.

    Your reference to “A snap Senate inquiry Friday by the legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee” and the link both failed to mention that Old McDonald was the Chair of that committee. Seriously, somebody needs to find this thing a farm. Put him out to pasture.
    From your link;
    “Senator Hinch publicly accused Professor Triggs of misleading the Senate when she said Leak’s lawyers had refused to use the “free speech” defence to have his case dismissed. His lawyers say they did make such a claim, accusing Professor Triggs of being “just wrong”.”

    Hinch, FFS. In his previous manifestations, he has been convicted of contempt of court, he has bragged about not voting, he has been bankrupted. He has, time and time again, demonstrated he has no regard for law. What grander inquisitor for Ms Triggs. Really? This miscreant is now the arbiter of law? How low do we need to go?

    “Professor Triggs said Senator Hinch had been “utterly irresponsible in relation to the truth”.
    “That is a false statement, and I believe that I am owed an apology,” she said. “It is very clear … that you have misled the Senate itself in making the allegations.”
    Senator Hinch replied: “I don’t accept that and you will not be getting an apology.”
    Documents shown to Fairfax Media by the commission indicate Leak’s lawyers believed the cartoon did not breach 18C in the first place but did not make a formal submission regarding an 18D defence.”

    As many commenters on many related articles have asked, ‘What is it these miscreants want to say, that they can’t say now?
    Just by the by;
    “Free speech? Anyone is free to report on Nauru if Dutton approves of you and you can pay an $8000 fee.”
    There is currently an outbreak of ‘dengue fever’ on Nauru, that is surpassing the last time it occurred. Ironically, the ABC reported it in 2014, when there were three reported cases. The ABC is now silent (in so many ways), whilst The Guardian is reporting 70 current, active cases.
    It has never been about free speech. It is about denial of rights. Welcome to the new ‘Catch 22’. Spot on, John.
    Thank you Mr Tyler and commenters. Take care

  10. David Bruce

    Thank you David, for an excellent update on the Canberra Swamp.

    Our “parliamentary democracy” isn’t working. Blind Freddy can see that. I wonder what will have to happen before we decide to take action and go to the highest threat level and cancel the barbie for the weekend?

  11. jimhaz

    “Turnbull would stop Centrelink divulging personal details of clients to silence those victims of Roboclaw extortion who dare criticise its operations”

    “Roboclaw” – that Robocop movie analogy is pretty spot on. (or was it the Terminator or maybe both movies)

  12. susan

    Good article but it would be better if you had not given voice to the five MPs supposedly against the 18c changes. They are just empty vessels hoping that their own constituents never follow up on what happened. Craig Laundy used the multicultural platform last election and seemed to convince the new migrants attached to churches that he was working for them. I hope , one day, that these people take a long hard look at what the Libs have actually done for non economic migrants.

  13. David Tyler

    Thank you, Susan. Appreciate your concern that the group does not gain any unearned kudos.
    No hope naming them helps to keep them honest? Call their bluff?
    Probably not. Hides of elephants or (Chinese Export) donkeys.

  14. David Tyler

    Native Title Act must remain as it is. Labor needs to get a grip. Unbelievable betrayal if they do support changes.

  15. lawrencewinder

    It would seem that the more wobbly the wheels get on this ruling rabble’s omnibus the more hysterical Truffles Murdoch-fascista cheer squad rave about how well it travels.
    I dunno… I reckon that the public’s turn-off point has been well and truly reached because they have become aware, at last, that destruction is the only operational mode these office boys to IPA theories can implement. What a F****G mess they are making of everything.
    http://shanewombat.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/taking-piss.html

  16. Ian

    ““I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I thought it was partisan,” he told the committee. It is an insult not only to Triggs but to the nation. Macdonald doesn’t get it.”

    Macdonald doesn’t get anything. This is the clown who attended parliamentary sittings in a hi-viz work shirt.

    http://images.canberratimes.com.au/2014/07/17/5603985/thz36-20140717182034650969-620×349.jpg

    Other than that, he wouldn’t know if you were up him with an arm full of deckchairs.

  17. eefteeuu

    If one side says that removing “insult”, “humiliate” or “intimidate” from 18C weakens it, and the other side says “harass” strengthens it, why not just INCLUDE “harass”. Problem solved.

  18. Rais

    Imagine what would happen if the No Notion person and other Islamophobes could say what they like? THEY CAN. The Racial Discrimination Act says nothing about abuse of religious groups and that’s precisely why the bigots have open slather abusing Muslims. Why do people keep writing stuff without checking the most basic of facts? It’s bad enough having these nutcases vilifying Muslims who believe they have something positive to contribute in society without being used, as Abbott did when he dropped the idea of changing 18C, as the “reason” why 18C needs to, or alternatively, can’t, be changed. The RDA is about race with the sole exception of Jews who are considered, for the purposes of the Act, to be an ethnic group.

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