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Bigotry, mockery and humiliation

After telling us in the Senate that people have a right to be bigots, in a press conference today Senator Brandis said we must also defend their right to mock and humiliate others as this leads to a robust democracy. To defend this outrageous statement he referred to three examples.

First was the “infamous example of the Bolt case” where Andrew Bolt was found to have contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act when he published a series of articles suggesting that it was fashionable for “fair-skinned people” of diverse ancestry to choose Aboriginal racial identity for the purposes of political and career clout, implying certain individuals had been given their positions purely because of a distant ancestor rather than earning them on merit.

The applicants sought an apology, legal costs, and a gag on republishing the articles and blogs. They did not seek damages. In other words, had Bolt apologised and agreed not to republish before the matter went to court, there would have been no court case and no cost.

Senator Brandis says it is up to the victim to stand up for themselves. These people tried that – Bolt refused to say sorry and continued publishing related material. He has a large audience in both the print and television media. How were these nine people supposed to “stand up for themselves” without legal recourse?

The next example was even more bizarre. Senator Brandis said it was ok to mock and humiliate because they do it every day in Parliament. People’s feeling may be hurt but hey, shit happens. (The last sentence is me paraphrasing – the one before it sadly isn’t.)

I found this astonishing. He suggests that humiliating people is a crucial part of the robust debate necessary for a strong democracy. What a load of bullshit. That shows how low our Parliament has sunk. We naively think we are electing them to govern – to make decisions based on expert advice for the greater good. They think they are there to win the insult game.

The third example was the media. Brandis said to the assembled journalists “You mock we politicians every day and so you should”. Personally I would prefer if they reported accurately on what you are doing and provided informed comparative analysis.

These examples from Senator Brandis, that government and media like to mock and humiliate people, are why over 100,000 people marched in March. We want better. In fact we demand better.

Every year, people, many of them children, commit suicide because of mockery and humiliation. It is not ok to deliberately try to embarrass people. The damage done can be long term if not irreparable. While considering how you can protect Andrew Bolt from ever having to say sorry, consider this:

  • One student in every four in Australian schools is affected by bullying, says recent research commissioned by the Federal Government.
  • An estimated 200 million children and youth around the world are being bullied by their peers, according to the 2007 Kandersteg Declaration Against Bullying in Children and Youth.
  • Kids who are bullied are three times more likely to show depressive symptoms, says the Centre for Adolescent Health.
  • Children who were bullied were up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, say some studies.
  • Girls who were victims of bullying in their early primary school years were more likely to remain victims as they got older, according to British research.
  • Children who were frequently bullied by their peers were more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in their early adolescence, says more UK research.
  • Girls were much more likely than boys to be victims of both cyber and traditional bullying, says a recent Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study.
  • Children as young as three can become victims of bullying, says Canadian research.
  • Young people who bully have a one in four chance of having a criminal record by the age of 30.
  • Bullying is the fourth most common reason young people seek help from children’s help services.

Senator Brandis, you have said that victims should stand up for themselves and the community should accept the responsibility for raising standards. That is what we are doing. We find the direction your government is taking offensive. The community requires you to do better. The many signs at the march in March gave you an indication of what we find offensive and the list is growing every day.

But today’s lesson, Mr Brandis, is that we do NOT want a country where our children think it is “necessary” to mock, humiliate, and embarrass people. We do NOT want our children to be bigots. We do NOT want our government and media to set this example. It’s unacceptable. Lift your game!


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  1. Les Martin

    Brandis needs the ‘boys’ to visit and humiliate him and make him eat faeces, see if thats OK Brabdy Boy?

  2. Ian

    Head looks like one.

  3. john921fraser


    Does this mean that Australians voted in Abbott's gang to mock them ?

    All of them ?

    About anything ?

    Where's Australia's "First Lady" ?

    Doesn't Abbott lie with her ?

  4. Maureen Walton (@maureen_walton)

    Brandis, wants us all to allow the Liberal Party Coalition and their friends Bolt especially not to care what they say or do to others. But cry foul when some one says more than BOO to them…It is not the Australian way at all, but will soon be Legal for NLP and friends only..

  5. diannaart

    I was bullied throughout primary and secondary school – being white and blond (besides that was rather common way back in the days of White Australia) is not enough protection, if you have poor health – so miss out on learning how to play sport, are shy, naturally very skinny and the final insult – a bit brainy; you are an irresistible target. Sure I stuck up for myself – remember the ‘brainy’ part? This works mostly if bullying is on on one and equals (doesn’t work if bully is a lot bigger or a boss or teacher etc) so it’s all about power. Bullies at school usually have a team of sycophants as this makes the target standing up for themselves a lot more difficult when surrounded.

    I do believe that Brandis by ‘virtue’ of his office has the power to say pretty much whatever he wants.

    Thing I have learned about bullies whether children or adults – they like to think they hold the balance of power and can, therefore, say rubbish like “it’s everyone’s right to be a bigot”.

    Sure, and it’s everyone’s right to be a complete idiot – doesn’t mean we can’t work on a little self improvement – particularly if that means less harm is done to others.

    Mr Brandis, only a bully would say it is acceptable to be a bigot and doesn’t that say a lot about you and your boss Abbott. Like history is only written by the winners, bullies get to choose who is to be vilified and who is spared.

    Australia – just gettin’ weirder…

  6. Vicki

    When I was teaching G1/2s I had a fair few ‘problematic’ (budding bullies) in one particular year and my morning mantra to them was – it is your job when you come to school each day to make other people happy and if you do not want to make people happy then just leave them alone. It is NOT your job to come into school and make people sad. Shame I didn’t have Brandis, Bolt, Jones et al in my grade.
    My younger sister was bullied in primary school and I would always come to her defence but the two of us plus a friend were bullied by older girls (because they had a beef with our older brother) after we’d left the school and were walking home. We would walk several miles out of our way to avoid these loathsome creatures.
    I was also bullied and harrassed at grammar school by a male teacher and I realised as I got older that the intent was to gain some form of sexual gratification from what he was doing. When I didn’t respond to his ‘requests’ (out of naivety) I was constantly slapped on the back of my hands with a rule, hit on the head with large books and had my head bashed into a concrete wall by this person – if bullying in any form is ‘formerly’ allowed than the behaviour can become vicious.
    Think again Mr. Brandis

  7. Vicki

    diannart, being the focus of bullying behavior can be very distressing and I’m sorry you had that to deal with as a child. When it is an adult and an adult in a position of trust and authority the effect is to make the ‘victim’ feel they deserve what is happening to them and that they are of no worth. My parents only took notice when I told them that this particular teacher wanted me to go to his house after school to help him ‘catalogue his library’!
    “Catogue his library, the dirty old git! You’re not going.” was my father’s response. The excuse that my father would not let me go held no sway and the bullying behaviours intensified. Three years later my misery was alleviated when the teacher left the school. Strong rumour had it that he got a child pregnant and was sacked. The child was pregnant – fact.

  8. Dan Rowden

    I have to say in all candour there’s a serious whiff of hypocrisy in this whole discussion. The simple fact is without the freedom to mock and humiliate – or attempt to do so – half of what is written here at AIMN and elsewhere would have to be removed and never be repeated. Twitter would have to be closed down.

    If Brandis is wrong, then we’re all guilty on a daily basis. If Brandis is wrong then the daily diet of mockery and humiliating rhetoric aimed at Abbott and others must cease.

    I mean, if we’re fair dinkum that has to happen, right?

  9. Kade

    do not follow these people back to the Dark Ages – we are better than that Australia.

  10. Dan Rowden

    As for Brandis’ claim that people have a right to be bigots, I’d like to see how he’s defining the concept before I make any judgement. Depending on the definition I just may claim that right as there’s certainly things toward which I am bigoted.

  11. Kaye Lee


    Much as I could humiliate ( and an evil part of me wants to), I try to stick to facts, no doubt with opinion creeping through. I do not think Tony Abbott would be the least perturbed about anything I have to say, but I am extremely perturbed about the message being sent to our children, particularly in these days of cyber-bullying. What sort of a government says that humiliation and mockery are their stock in trade.

  12. Robolenin


    “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
    ― John F. Kennedy

    “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
    ― Nelson Mandela

    “People do have a right to be bigots, you know.”
    ― George Brandis

  13. diannaart

    Indeed Kaye Lee

    People in positions of influence be they politicians, sports-people, artists, whoever, do set examples to our children and the childish – whether intended or not.

    Leaders who have immediate and long term influence, need to reflect upon leading by example. The examples being set by Brandis and the rest of this exceedingly far right Federal government are dismal and have been and continue to cause people harm.

    We all have our darker facets to our characters – we do not need to have our darker selves somehow exonerated because some middle aged adult, old enough to know better, displays less wisdom than a three-year-old.

  14. Phil

    we have the right to be bigots … but the media makes a big deal out of ‘abusive signs and t-shirts in the march in march …… Brandis is a dickhead too then

  15. Dan Rowden


    Yes, exactly what you said.


    There is a difference between asserting a legal right to something and moral advocacy of same. Saying we have a right to something is not equivalent to saying that that something is ok.

  16. FryaDuck


    You forgot;

    “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” – G.W. Bush

    “it’s baddies versus baddies” – Tony Abbott

    “‘no one can be a suppository of all wisdom” – Tony Abbott

  17. E

    “You mock we politicians everyday and so you should.” George Brandis
    “We will do everythink we can . . .” Tony Abbott
    I am a bigot about language.

  18. Kathryn

    Criticizing a public figure for what they do or say is different, I believe, from humiliating a person for an innate characteristic. Of course, you could then counter that arrogance, selfishness etc are innate characteristics…

  19. diannaart


    Thank you. There are times when we need to share our stories – without reliving them.

    There are times when we even may be able to forgive those who caused harm (some being so ignorant they don’t even realise the harm they have caused). That does not mean our experiences should be put out of mind – that’s just suppressing our own life experience – we know what happened, we know the truth – we also are able to do what no bully is capable of doing – acknowledge what happened (it is a part of ourselves) and still live our lives as we choose, not as those who bully would have us.

  20. Michael Taylor

    Dan, if ridicule or defamation is noted on these pages then the comments are removed. We can’t catch everything, but we keep an eye out.

  21. mikisdad

    This is just another example of the arrogance, ignorance and insipience that characterises the statements of current LNP ministers.

    That Senator Brandis can seriously suggest that it is acceptable to mock and humiliate others is, as others have pointed out in personal anecdotes and other observations, above; outrageously insensitive, heartlessly uncaring, and represents a notion of morality entirely inconsistent with what we might reasonably expect from any holder of public office, let alone a senior member of the government.

    Certainly, to argue that such behaviour is necessary for the conduct of robust debate is not only untenable but, in fact, quite the opposite. Useful debate on any issue is impossible when any party to it descends to the level of personal abuse or opinionated nonsense. Far from supporting positive progress in resolving an issue, such behaviour is most likely to stop progress completely or, at the very least, divert attention away from the issue. In the process it will almost certainly also alienate those on the receiving end of it and disturb even those who are not but who recognise it for the wrongful and intolerant bullying that it is.

    Senator Brandis’s defence of his stance appears to be that sound democracy necessitates freedom of speech and that such freedom must include the right of individuals to demean, mock and humiliate other individuals. If we were to give him some leeway for hyperbole then we might reasonably assume that he is basing his expression on the notion that we don’t all have to agree and that, if we feel someone is putting forward something with which we don’t agree, we should be free to disagree with it. I doubt that any of us would argue with that proposition. It is one of tolerance for difference and one of understanding that there can be many views of the same issue and often more than one that can be reasonable.

    However, I don’t believe that we can give Senator Brandis that leeway in this case because he clearly isn’t referring simply to occasions of “heat” where someone steps over the line and calls someone a bad name. No, Senator Brandis is actually endorsing bigotry, i.e. intolerance. Quite apart from this being contrary to one of the attributes that his Party claim is a virtue of Australian society and therefore a hypocritical stance, it is also, effectively, an incitement to prejudice, which is exactly what produces the intolerance of bigots and, where not checked, results in massive inequity and injustice.

    It seems this attitude really is rampant in the ranks of the Liberal Party for this morning I listened to an interview with the Immigration Minister in which he constantly reiterated to the interviewer that a “claim” of mistreatment did not call for an investigation, despite being supported by witnesses, “because it was just a claim” and it was up to the claimants to prove that the event happened. His argument was that because Navy personnel are trained and have a code of conduct and regulations to which they are required to conform, that meant that the claims couldn’t be true. In other words, his argument appeared to have two elements:

    1. That because the alleged perpetrators had investigated themselves and claimed that they hadn’t broken the rules, then they hadn’t.
    2. That because the Navy has rules and its people are trained the incident couldn’t have happened anyway.

    The really disturbing thing about this is that if our government is following such reasoning, it logically follows that if your child tells you they’ve been abused then you needn’t do anything about it if the person who did it is trained or a member of an institution that has a code saying that they shouldn’t act in such a way. That also would apply, of course, to any other “claim” that you may make to the police, the headmaster, the ACCC or whoever – if it’s just a “claim” and the other side says it didn’t happen or has a code that says it shouldn’t happen, then o.k. that’s good enough for our government. Nothing else needs to be done.

    Both of these examples, it seems to me, are characteristic of the current government’s arrogance and loss of moral sensitivity. Even allowing for social, financial, cultural and religious differences within our population and despite many many hours of thought and soul-searching and attempting to rationalise a point of view that would legitimately and morally support this government’s attitude and behaviour, I have been unable to educe even a single rational explanation that would support any reasonable, honest, moral and half intelligent person, giving a single vote to the current Liberal National Party Coalition. If any one of them can then I’d encourage them to do so for perhaps I’m missing something. As it stands however, I can only say:

    Mr Brandis. Mr Morrison. You disgrace our nation – as does your leader and most of your colleagues.

  22. jasonblog

    We’re sort of entering the murky territory of semantics as to what ‘humiliate’ ‘mock’ & ‘embarrass’ constitute. It depends on context and intention.

    The Racial Discrimination Act, on the other hand, has a clear purpose & section 18c & 18d were devised as direct result of incidents that were occurring in Australia. They were added to Australia’s legal framework after a considerable process and are grounded in evidence as to why they were needed and the necessarily useful role they play in Australian society.

    Brandis is a pompous git dreadfully out of his depth. Some may consider that previous sentence to be insulting. I should hope so because that was my intention. I wish to insult Brandis and question his competence to be Australia’s attorney-general. My comment regards to Brandis is far removed from what Bolt did. Bolt deliberately sort to vilify people for no other reason than their ancestral heritage and to appeal to the crude prejudices of his readership so as to stir up hatred. He did this by telling lies. He told lies to stir up hatred. The Bolt vs Eatock judgement is available online & people should check it out.

    There is absolutely no reason or decent justification for the repeal of s18c & s18d whatsoever.
    The problem for Brandis is that he’s nothing more than a sock-puppet for Murdoch and the IPA. They say jump and Brandis says right after I’ve finished fellating you.

    The zealotry with which Brandis pursues this repeal is indicative of the wider sense of intransigent ideological thinking that propels the Abbott government.

  23. mars08

    Brandis reckons that it’s fine to insult and humiliate someone based on the colour of their skin, shape of their eyes, or ethnicity of their parents.

    And then the wingnuts will moan and whinge that not enough foreigners make an effort to assimilate into Australian society.

    So, naturally, the wingnuts will feel justified in insulting the foreigners even more.

    And the beat goes on…

  24. scotchmistery

    Humorously, speaking of Alan Jones which someone was, back in the 1960’s he was a teacher at Ironside school in Brisbane.

    At a recent reunion from the time, it was amazing how many students remembered Mr Jones favourite thing to do was to gently touch the small boys around the head, then smash their heads into the desk for virtually any mistake.

    Now of course he prefers his boys to be beefy and sweaty, under 21 where possible, and dressed in tight shorts, after a rugby game.

    One wonders whether Jones shouldn’t be having long chats with a certain Royal Commission in Sydney at the moment.

  25. Kaye Lee

    I agree john but we are not all equal in privilege or strength and resilience. Not everyone is able to stand up for themselves as Tim Wilson suggests they should do. For the vulnerable, for those who don’t have the words, for those who are still growing with all the self-doubts that youth entails, and for all our minority and marginalised members of society, why would we remove protection from them to protect Bolt??????

  26. george


    So they can also call Obama a Monkey as well like that young liberal guy did!

    Charming stuff for our national discourse..

    Proud to be a bigoted Australian today

    Onya Straya.

    I see many far right losers given the false sense of superiority today.

    So sickening to see holocaust denials already on social media.

  27. Dawn Whitehand

    Insulting people (mainly white middle/upper class well resourced men) is part of their everyday macho entrenched system (not that it is correct). But to extend that to others is a different kettle of fish. These other groups will usually be minorities who may not have the emotional and/or intellectual and/or financial, etc resources to support them against such humiliation – and of course Brandis, coming from a privileged environment, would have absolutely no experience of this situation, and obviously can’t even be empathetic toward it – he is unfit for the position he is in (as are many of the Libs)

  28. Dawn Whitehand

    EDIT **** FIRST SENTENCE ABOVE SHOULD READ : Insulting people in parliament (mainly white middle/upper class well resourced men) is part of their everyday macho entrenched system (not that it is correct).

  29. johnlord2013

    The fact that we are having this discussion only confirms that man is advancing intellectually at a snails pace. There might come a time in the far distant future when we will have done so and realise that we are all equal to each other.

  30. john921fraser


    All my life I have thought it was a unique Australianism to mock politicians.

    Brandis ….. how's that for "mockery" ….. because I would never stoop to doing such a low act.

  31. Steve-0

    In Senator Brandis defense, his mother always told him, “George, if you don’t have something nice to say then you should say it anyway, you fat prick.”

  32. mikisdad

    John, we are not all equal – never have been and never will be. It’s probably even a good thing that we are not. One person’s strength is another’s weakness. One person’s knowledge is another’s lack of it. One person’s good experience may be another’s horror.

    However, there should be equity and respect for difference. Difference should not be regarded as deficit, as is too often the case. “Might is right” should not be our guiding mantra.

    You are right that there appears to be a massive disjunct between humanity’s technological intellect and its social intellect. Philosophers argues as to whether this is down to biology or culture / nature or nurture / innate or learned. Some, as do I, think it implausible that is anything but both. Most adult human beings control urges towards behaviour that is at odds with the prevailing moral standards – else we would have anarchy. It seems though, that whilst we are generally able to do this in regard to behaviours & actions closest to us, the more distant or abstracted it is, the fewer of us respond.

    22,000 children die *each day*, largely of malnutrition or other avoidable causes and we barely discuss it, let alone put an end to it, which we could do quite easily. At the same time, there is mass consternation and mournng when a single celebrity dies.

    It seems that when it suits them, our “leaders” can manage to put together a coalition of twenty or more nations from across the Globe and of widely varying politics, resources and size to mount a multi-million dollar operation to find out what happened to a jet airliner that has gone missing with a couple of hundred people on board. A tragedy, yes – but a “one-off” tragedy of only one thousandth the size of that happening each day to children in the world.

    Why is this relevant, I can hear some of you saying – what is the “troll” or the “crazy” or the “pedant” going on about now – that’s of those who didn’t see my name and just pass on. Well for anyone that’s still reading, its relevant because it speaks to your point, John. It also speaks to the attitude of the current government and the topic which began this particular thread.

    It is relevant because our society is cursed with selfishness. It is replete with egocentric individuals who excel at feeding themselves and supporting whatever appears that it may have benefit for them, *regardless* of the cost to anyone else – particularly those who reside lower on the value scale of our society – net monetary worth. In a sense, one might say that we do get our just desserts for we support such obscenities as capitalism, might is right, and “I worked hard so I have a right to more than you.” That is too harsh, though, for we are conditioned, acculturised – brain-washed – if you like, into acting this way. Nevertheless, most of us do engage in this “winner takes all” race to the grave – only to leave it all behind having given nothing to our children but the notion that such is the way to be.

    And that, my friends, pretty much sums up how your worth will be assessed by this government and accordingly what consideration will be given to your opinion and how you will be treated. In fact, John, most of us will be treated *equally* for the bulk of the population will be *equally* disregarded.

  33. xiaoecho

    I mock and ridicule Abbott daily on my anti Abbott facebook page. It gives me a great deal of pleasure as well as the readers who visit the page. While we mock ridicule and try our damndest to embarrass, it is not a hate page. Discourse is polite and trolls, abuse and hate speech is given short shrift. I agree with Dan, isn’t it a little bit hypocritical to say we can deride the complete and utter fwits who are ruining our country but Bolt is somehow different because he has more reach and influence?

  34. mikisdad

    Yes, olddavey, in regard to the Navy that was my point – the argument is nonsense.

    I did think that my opinion of Morrison was clear, too, and that it probably doesn’t differ too much from your own, with the exception of the “unChristian” which, in the context of your paragraph, implies that “Christian” is synonymous with good behaviour and although it is used that way, it most certainly isn’t the case.

    I do have a problem with the language and sarcasm that you (and others before you) use to describe Morrison, not because I have any respect for either him or Brandis but because it seems to me to be a contradiction to hurl insults in response to an article that, in effect, decries the suggestion that the hurling of insults is acceptable, even desirable, behaviour.

    The rational argument here seems me to have been that such behaviour is not reasonable or helpful or respectful or tolerant and therefore it is extremely improper and inappropriate for anyone to suggest otherwise, particularly a senior government minister. Do we then reinforce our case against the minister’s proposal by indulging in exactly what we are arguing against?

  35. mars08


    “…pretty much sums up how your worth will be assessed by this government and accordingly what consideration will be given to your opinion and how you will be treated. In fact, John, most of us will be treated *equally* for the bulk of the population will be *equally* disregarded.”

    Yes indeed… I can see how some in our society would the the cahnge of legislation as a win for the white dominant culture. Maybe they see it as the LNP’s attempt at restoring the balance in today’s Australia. After all middle-class anglo men are the voiceless oppressed of the 21st centrury. Apparently.

    Sadly those cheering on Senator Brandis don’t realise that this government sees THEM as exploitable and expendable as any other group.

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out…

  36. Ted Radford

    Tony Abbott and his ministers remind me, so much, of George W Bush and his administration. So embarrassingly thick, corrupt and hypocritical. Now I know what the average Democrat supporter felt like.
    I can only hope the up coming Senate Election will dilute some of the poison in our federal parliament.
    Perhaps by the time of the next election, enough Liberal supporters will have passed away, to allow for a descent government to be elected. I hope that’s bigoted enough for them.

  37. olddavey


    “1. That because the alleged perpetrators had investigated themselves and claimed that they hadn’t broken the rules, then they hadn’t.
    2. That because the Navy has rules and its people are trained the incident couldn’t have happened anyway.”

    The ADF has a lot of rules about behaviour that are broken constantly, vis “Jedi Council”.

    What more can I say about Morrison. The man is a monstrous, loathsome, tonguetalking, hillsinging piece of unChristian detritus who is not fit to serve as a waiter on a maggot infested dog turd, let alone as any kind of representative of the people.

    I wish I could think of something hurtful to say of him’ but I respect him too much.

  38. party time

    Politicians really don’t know anything about anything except money and power do they, IF the purpose of politics is to humiliate each other, it should only ever be because a parties policies are so much more beneficial for the population than the oppositions that it makes the opposition look like a joke. Of course, a politician is actually humiliating the people of his country if he gets voted in and does not deliver his promised policies.

  39. Stephen Tardrew

    God its up to the victim to stand up for themselves so if I vilify and lie about you and cause you incredible suffering and harm that’s OK. Brandis for a QC you are a fool. Typical big mouth who thinks because they are aggressive and of thick hide everyone else should be. Heard if the kids that have committed suicide through bullying. Btabdis’s when law come along after the fact its too damn late.

    Typical irrational contradictions and paradoxes supported by some nebulous appeal to free speech when the evidence demonstrates no one is free. More money; more power; more freedom to do what you like by owning the means of so called free speech. You know the objectivity of the Australian, Jones, Bolt etc.

    They think by treating us like dummies we will not ask sensible questions. Then use democracy and free speech as a cover for not protecting those who deserve our protection. You think by saying free speech that it is true.

    Lets swear at a policeman or woman in Queensland and see how long your free your speech lasts. There is so much hypocrisy and strait out obfuscation going on here that it’s ridiculous and yet many people parrot the free speech mantra without a second thought. Its too late after some kid commits suicide or someone is arrested and fined for swearing. My head wants to collapse in a vacuum of incredulity.

  40. scotchmistery

    We are the product of our own laziness, and we have the government we deserve as a result.

    As ALP members (where appropriate) we didn’t go after the branch managers/secretary and say don’t be thinking to parachute some tard in and expect us to bite the bullet. Instead the branches did as they were told. The tards came four years ago and now we have an Abbort government. What does that say about the branches? They are tards as well.

    We allowed the ALP to forget, root and branch, to our cost as consumers of Canberra tards, that if the party forgets its roots, then the party is lost to the likes of the current “opposition” leader.

    I rang his office this afternoon to offer him a transplant of some spine. The tard who answered had no idea of what I meant.

    We have what we deserve people.

  41. olddavey

    Mikisdad @5:34

    I was just practising to get the feel of the new law.

  42. Don Winther

    Well I can only say that I really hate Abbott and I have never really hated any one before . I hate him because of the way he spoke to and about Julia Gillard in the protection of Parliament. And his arrogance towards working class Australia ( its all for sale ). He is not a man he is a private school boy smart arse bully. There was a kid at school just like him, l put up with it for a while then I punched him right in the mouth one hit. He was never a smart arse around me again. Had to be done.

  43. Don Winther

    That’s what I don’t like about him, he has no respect. The Indonesians didn’t like him either for the same reason.

  44. mikisdad

    scotchmistery – Speak for yourself if you wish but don’t label every other ALP supporter in the same way. I have followed this and other columns for long enough to know that many people have put a great deal of effort into attempts to change things for the better. Many of them have gone about it in a very different way to myself and sometimes in ways with which I strongly disagree. They have done it none-the-less and done it in good faith. Those people don’t deserve this government and don’t deserve your abuse.

    Your language is crude and pointless. Your post is similar. Your sentence structure also needs significant improvement.

  45. mikisdad


    Yes, I’m sorry. I do get fairly passionate and intense sometimes. Some would say, all of the time. For me, it’s a problem I attribute to living in a world where, as John indicated, people seem unable to apply themselves as well to understanding one another and working together for the benefit of all; yet are able to split the atom, view the beginnings of our universe and even, physically, mend broken hearts. If only we could and would mend or even learn to avoid creating the broken hearts in the first place.

    However, I’m certain that members of our present Executive government would not have a clue about what I mean.

  46. Wayne Turner

    Here’s a new idea,that this Liberal party would NEVER support,because they do the exact opposite:-

    Encourage “free speech” which is informed,factual with actual EXPERTS to back up your views.NOT parroting the MSM and NOT people in positions of power ie Independent EXPERTS.

    Plus,to have a truly functioning democracy,we need to get away from the saying: “you are entitled to your opinion”.Instead:-

    “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

    Also,this is the Liberal party legalizing “minority bashing” based on race.Making the powerless,even more powerless.Plus of course they are making it possible to STILL sue for defamation,which is generally in the domain for the well off to be able to afford to do eg: The FAKE of “free speech” Tony Abbott who sued Bob Ellis,among others over a book written about him – So much for “free speech”.

  47. Pingback: Bigotry, mockery and humiliation | lmrh5

  48. mikisdad

    Well said. I completely agree.

  49. Dan Rowden

    Wayne Turner,

    Plus of course they are making it possible to STILL sue for defamation,which is generally in the domain for the well off to be able to afford to do eg: The FAKE of “free speech” Tony Abbott who sued Bob Ellis,among others over a book written about him – So much for “free speech”.

    I’m not sure what your point is here. Are you suggesting we remove defamation laws because, as with so many other laws, the wealthy have better access to them? Ellis was sued by Costello, Abbott and spouses because he stated false things. That is entirely as it should be.

    Only insane people advocate for a notion of free speech that includes the ability to say false things about people with impunity. No one in the Coalition is advocating for a such a concept that I can tell.

  50. Cathy

    They mock and humiliate each other everyday in parliament based on race? That’s news to me. I actually thought they did it because they all have schoolyard bully mentality and never learnt how to behave as adults. Mocking and humiliating someone because they behave like idiots is fine with me but why allow it based on race, gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs…

  51. mikisdad

    Dan, they’re not spelling it out because for them it just comes naturally – it’s a given. The fact is that they tell lies with impunity – and, yes, defamation and libel proceedings are effectively only a restraining measure for the wealthy.

  52. Wayne Turner

    Dan I’m pointing out how hypocritical these Libs are on “free speech”.They claim they are for “free speech”,yet Abbott SUED over what was said about him.If they are NOT for “free speech” they shouldn’t claim us such.They haven’t argued for honesty in “free speech”,in fact they claim to want to legalize being a bigot,and “truth” doesn’t have to a part of it.It’s legalizing “racial minority” bashing.

    I totally agree with mikisdad.

    Personally,I don’t think they should get rid of either.That the Liberal party are keeping defamation laws in place,who are mainly used by the well off,but want to get rid of protection for “racial minorities” (Most likely NOT to be well off) says it all.

  53. Wayne Turner

    Abbott as a so called person for “free speech” should NOT have SUED over what was said/printed about him.Especially,when he runs around now as the champion of “free speech”,without adding truth/honesty in free speech.He is a hypocrite.

  54. Dan Rowden


    I’m sorry, what you are saying is silly. Please show me where any member of the Coalition has articulated the belief that the fact or spirit of defamation law is inappropriate and that they want it repealed. Your suggestion that Abbott is hypocritical in this matter only has merit if – IF – you can show that he has said such a thing.

  55. Dan Rowden


    and, yes, defamation and libel proceedings are effectively only a restraining measure for the wealthy.

    In practice that may be somewhat true, but not entirely. Such laws act as a significant restraint on the population in general. Without them social and political chaos would ensue; people would feel free to throw malicious false accusations around like confetti (publicly rather then merely in the quasi-private realms of social gossip). The laws exist to stop that very thing. I think they work fairly well in that respect.

  56. Kaye Lee

    Dan I must disagree with you about defamation laws working well. They are a game for lawyers to play. Slater and Gordon work on a percentage, not charging their client. They pursue any case regardless of its merit because the vast majority of such cases settle out of court and they get their cash. Insurance companies advise this – cut your losses because the legal bills to fight it can be crippling.

  57. Dan Rowden

    Kaye Lee,

    What would you change regarding defamation laws to make them “work well”?

  58. Paul Pot

    So he’s going to legalise abuse.

  59. Kaye Lee


    I am not a lawyer so the minutiae of the law is beyond me but I will give you an example.

    I was the chair of the management committee for a youth refuge. A resident made an allegation of sexual abuse against one of our youth workers. The worker had gone on stress leave before the allegation was made and was receiving workers compensation for an “anxiety disorder”. We immediately contacted the appropriate bodies, an investigation ensued, and the evidence indicated the allegations were genuine. Shortly after we received a phone call from another refuge where he had apparently applied to work. We explained that he was actually on workers compensation leave and that he was also under investigation. He didn’t get the job, sued us for defamation, and even though our insurance company’s own investigations made them conclude he was guilty, they were not prepared to spend the money to fight it – he was only asking for $10,000 and to them, it’s easier to pay than go to court.

  60. Matters Not

    Kaye Lee said:

    Slater and Gordon work on a percentage, not charging their client. They pursue any case regardless of its merit because the vast majority of such cases settle out of court and they get their cash.

    Except when ‘they’ aren’t. Slater and Gordon and other ‘ambulances chasers’ run the very real risk that the judge will dismiss their case and award all costs against the ‘no cost’ advocate, which can be considerable.

    While it was ‘once were true’ I suspect it now isn’t. Well according to my legal family members. But I never trust lawyers, even near and dear ones. Just sayin ..

  61. Kaye Lee

    S&G still come out in front because of the number of cases that settle before a decision. The longer they can string a case out, the more chance that is of happening as the legal bill for the other side mounts. It’s a game of chicken that insurance companies, businesses and individuals are unwilling or unable to play. As has been said to me on various occasions, “it’s not about what’s right and wrong, it’s a commercial decision.” I have grown to hate that phrase.

  62. randalstella

    There is no equity in insult between someone with ready recourse to legal counsel and the ordinary punter.
    Defamation law is simply an irrelevance as a practical measure for most people. It suits the wealthy with legal connections and those with a hankering for years of disputation. This rules out most people on the risk of costs, and nearly everyone on the irrationality of redress for slander or libel.
    Unless you are a public figure, who seeks redress for important public damage to reputation. Usually public figures are wealthier and with access to legal know-how. It is geared as celebrities’ law.

    That is one part to the context for the present law on racial vilification. It gives much easier access to the law for some of the most vulnerable. That is why removal of the grounds of insult and humiliation is an act of low perfidy, done to reestablish privilege and inequity.

  63. mikisdad

    Dan, I appreciate the moderate tone of the input you make to these discussions because far too much of what is written amounts to opinionated rhetoric rather than reasoned opinion. On that basis I’d admit that you may be right in claiming that the defamation laws have a dampening effect on what might otherwise result in an all out explosion of libel and slander across the community. The problem is, that without taking them away, it’s not really possible to establish which of our views is closer to the truth.

    I came to my own view, that these laws only really assist the wealthy, both from personal experience of having had my career ruined or at the very least, severely damaged, as a result of slander by “pillars of the community”, and on the basis of what I read and witness in the community generally. It appears to me that many “shock-jocks” can an do slander with impunity and that elements of the press similarly get away with libel not uncommonly. As I’ve seen it, it is only the wealthy that are able to afford to take redress using these laws.

    As an aside, I would also suggest that a Minister publicly claiming that we “have a right to be bigots” is tantamount to encouraging the sort of prejudice likely to result in cases of defamation, whether slander or libel. Certainly I believe that most reasonable people would agree that it is no model for a responsible Minister to present.

    Whichever of us happens to be closest in our estimation of the usefulness of defamation law, it is really a separate issue to that of approved bigotry and the “right” to demean and mock others – regardless of the grounds, for it is not just a racial issue. In fact, it seems to me that it affects another issue that is at least as important and that is the massive incidence of bullying which afflicts us, particularly amongst youth and in work places, and which the advent of online media seems to have accelerated. Brandis’s attitude is, in my view, only likely to encourage the perpetrators of bullying and relaxation of vilification laws allow them more chance of getting away with it.

  64. mikisdad

    I regret that some here seem to believe that contingency legal representation is synonymous with “ambulance chasing”. I find the naming of particular lawyers as being motivated in that way as extemely offensive and, interestingly considering the discussion, bordering on, if not defamatory.

    For the record, although I would accept that there may well be lawyers who indulge in “ambulance chasing”, the availability of contingency representation is one of the few ways that someone on a low or average income can ever hope to get representation.

    I have personally been helped on two occasions by lawyers willing to take my case on a contingency basis. In each case I had to go to some trouble to find a firm that would help me and it was I that “chased” them, not the other way round. In neither case could I have afforded to take legal action at all if I had had to pay the costs up front. One of those firms was Slater & Gordon who have been, in my opinion, unfairly characterised in posts here. They took on a case for me when I was in a regional town in rural Victoria where the local lawyers belonged to the same “club” as the “significant” figures in the community; several of whom sat on the Board of the institution with whom I had dispute. The local lawyer, who incidentally was recommended by the local ALP and Trades Hall representatives, whilst at first appearing willing to take the case, then backed out, I feel sure (though I admit I can’t prove it) because of pressure from some of those community leaders.

    Had it not been for Slater & Gordon I would have had no chance of obtaining any consideration for the injustice that I suffered and, at all times, their dealings with me were completely professional and open.

  65. Wayne Turner

    Dan you missed my points totally.Abbott is a hypocritical because he claims he is a champion of “free speech” – He has NEVER mentioned the speech has to be “true” or “honest”,just “free”. Yet he SUED what was written about him.A so called champion of “free speech” wouldn’t have sued regarding what has been said about him.

  66. Kaye Lee


    David Horton believes so.

    “These people don’t miss a trick. Oh they know that having the media onside, playing with electoral laws (voter ID and the like, just like the Republicans in the US), smashing unions, undermining parliament and so on are all important in keeping them elected while they transfer even more of the wealth of the country from the poor to the rich.

    But you also need to fundamentally alter culture, as important, if not more important, for long term neoconservative rule, than the rest. Hence the attacks on the public broadcaster and the support of right wing shock jocks, hence the determination to change the school curriculum to one in which only Liberal rule seems natural, hence the removal of racial discrimination laws, because a country in which racism can thrive is one in which neoconservative politics can thrive.”

  67. Joe Taranto

    As I see it bigotry lowers the standards of the human race to the level of our political Leaders who promote bigotry. But I ask is there a hidden agenda behind the bigotry promotion?

  68. Dan Rowden

    Wayne Turner,

    Please show me where Tony Abbot has stated or implied beyond doubt that he thinks defamation laws should not exist. If you can’t, then your point is invalid.

  69. Dan Rowden

    Kaye Lee, randalstella, mikisdad,

    I think two issues are being a little wrongly conflated here. I agree defamation laws are mostly the plaything of the rich, but what law isn’t? Indeed, law itself is the plaything of the rich (good morning, Clive, who are you suing today?). I don’t think, however, that such a social equity issue has much to do with the overall efficacy or moral rectitude of such laws. I don’t want to find myself in a situation where some person who has a grudge against me for some reason feels they have carte blanche to attack me by publicly claiming they I am, say, a pedophile and that they have ample proof of this but can’t reveal it for the sake of the children involved.

    It may be that in practical terms I would have little recourse to legal assistance, the legal fraternity being the profiteers that they so often are, but at least the existence of the laws acts as a deterrent to those who would openly and maliciously act this way. Yes, it may still not be enough to stop some, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that such laws have an overall, shall we say, soporific affect on the emotional extremes of many in the community.

    Access to legal representation is, I would say, an exceedingly important issue for modern nations. I’m not sure, however, anyone is going to act on the problem any time soon.

  70. Kaye Lee

    I agree that there is more than one issue involved. The legal system is indeed the playground of the rich and connected. We must have defamation laws. But what I don’t get is why we need to repeal 18c. The only person adversely affected by it so far is Andrew Bolt and that was only because he refused to say sorry. It does not hamper free speech and it gives protection to vulnerable people.

    But beyond the legal discussion, I am just aghast that politicians would say things like people have a right to be a bigot, that mockery and humiliation should be part of everyday life. What sort of world do these people want? Were they bullied as children and think it is normal? Or were they so privileged and cossetted that they were protected? The letter of the law is one thing – public pronouncements by politicians is a whole other thing and I find what they are saying completely unacceptable.

    As a high school teacher, the kids in my class knew that harassment and bullying would not be tolerated. My room was a hassle-free zone. I treated my students with respect and I expected them to do likewise to each other. There were times when I had to enforce that but generally the kids lived up the standard expected of them – they knew there would be consequences if they did not.

    For me the argument is about the standards we require rather than the letter of the law.

  71. Wayne Turner

    Dan my point is valid,because Abbott said he is for “free speech” – He has not mention for “true and “honesty”,I am NOT talking about repealing defamation laws,that’s your words,NOT mine.I am talking about a person that claims to be for “free speech”.

    Check out this link,regarding Abbott on “free speech”-

    Especially this part: Prime Minister Abbott said he supported Senator Brandis’ comments, adding that freedom of speech was to be “enjoyed”, even if it offended people. –

    Except of course if the “free speech” is about Abbott that he doesn’t like he will sue you.

    On principle,and if Abbott was NOT a hypocrite – HE’S A HYPOCRITE,he would have chosen NOT to sue over something written/said about him.After all he claims he’s a “champion of free speech” – Champions of free speech wouldn’t sue over what was written/said about them.

  72. Dan Rowden


    I’ll say this for the last time: your point is wrong. I dare say you don’t know what defamation means. It has nothing to do with the free speech principle that allows for insult or offense. Nothing. Abbott and Costello did not sue Bob Ellis because their feelings were hurt (there is simply no recourse for such). They sued him because he defamed them. I mean, if it were possible to sue Bob Ellis for insult and offensiveness, he’d be in the courts every day of his miserable life. Indeed, he tends to cut so close to that particular bone I strongly suspect he has his lawyer on speed dial.

    Abbott is not a hypocrite on this point because his law suit had nothing to do with the principle of free speech he and others in the Coalition are espousing.

  73. Dan Rowden

    Kaye Lee,

    Your point regarding the civil standard Brandis seems to be apologising for, if not outright advocating, and the related idea of the example we set for others, specially the young, is salient and well made. I don’t think he’s handling the matter at all well. I don’t know how he ever made it to QC with that lack of mental subtlety.

    But there is something of a clash between certain notions of free speech and our perceptions of what constitutes civil engagement and relationships. It’s a clash that’s not so easy to resolve and may ultimately have no truly satisfactory resolution unless we are prepared to sacrifice one principle for the sake of the other.

    Being rude, giving insult and offense are things that we instinctively know to be negative behaviours, but, legal measures to remove such forms of freedom from our everyday communications are not merely fraught with danger, but I think inherently wrong. People must remain free to express views and ideas that others may find to be all of those things. You ask why 18C needs to be repealed. That’s a pretty damn good question because as far as I can tell there’s precisely zero reason to do so, simply because it does not remove a person’s right to express a heart felt, good faith belief, even where people might be offended by it. It’s as though no one knows that the exemptions articulated in 18D even exist. I really can’t get past the feeling that it amounts to no more than the Government facilitating an act of vengeance on behalf of Andrew Bolt.

    But have you noted the clever politics involved? What is it we, and most people, are discussing right now? 18C specifically? No, the general notion of free speech is being discussed and there’s really no reason for that, given the specificity and contextual parameters of our various anti discrimination acts. The Government has cleverly pushed this into an area of discussion that ignites emotions, that gets people cheer-leading about rights and expressing fears that are completely irrelevant to the matter at hand. It’s a cynical and underhand ploy, but nevertheless politically clever. I think we’ve all been sucked into it to some extent.

    There’s is no reason whatever to repeal 18C because only those with malicious intent have anything to fear from it in a freedom of speech sense – or any other …

  74. Dan Rowden


    I’ll grant you the point of Abbott’s hypocrisy in this context: that of Parliament, when he runs to the Speaker to demand a statement by the Opposition be withdrawn merely because he’s offended by it. I would agree that such behaviour is hypocritical in the context of utterances regarding freedom of speech.

  75. Kaye Lee

    It is the same spin they put on Conroy’s media reforms. We must fight for the right of Rupert to be saved from the Stalinist Conroy’s censorship. Rupert became a victim – now THAT has to viewed as one of the great propaganda coups of all time.

  76. Wayne Turner

    More on Abbott the so called “champion of free speech”:-

    Abbott's Free And Easy Speech

    Also,Dan making an ASSUMPTION I don’t know what defamation is.I’ll say it AGAIN – Any CHAMPION of “Free Speech” wouldn’t sue over what was said about them,they would point out why what was said was false,NOT SUE.He’s a HYPOCRITE.

  77. mikisdad

    All the talk of “free speech” is a Furphy. The fact is that in Australia we do not have any right to free speech and have never had such a right. Indeed, in Australia we really have no rights whatsoever. This situation is just one of those that contributes to wealth and position being the real arbiters of what people can do without being penalised. Another is the adversarial nature of our legal system and its exercise and control being largely the province of the privileged.

    The fact is that in this country you count for nothing unless you have wealth or position – and position is largely the prerogative of the wealthy. As far as I can see, that has always been the case and will always be the case, given the worship of materialism and uniformed and undiscerning pursuit of a capitalist agenda that afflicts the World.

    Much as it galls me to have to say it, the Left have never won any social betterment of any significance in Australia’s history. Apparent “victories” or gains are more readily attributable to changed technology and the needs of the wealthy for labour to both produce and consume for it.

    Our nation perpetuates, beneath the egalitarian myth, all the worst facets of British feudalism and hereditary aristocracy even to the extent that we still have significant approbation and deference, not only within our formal governance structures but across the population, for a monarch. No enlightened person without a love & desire for privilege and its perpetuation would ever accept a position as a representative of that monarchy, yet even someone who appears to be genuine, such as Quentin Bryce, is not only prepared to do so but is also ready to shake Tony Abbott’s hand and accept the first of the ludicrously re-introduced British style Royal Awards which are a total sham and have always existed simply to reinforce a privileged class structure.

    I grew beyond the deluded notion that stratification of society into levels of privilege was appropriate and that worth should be determined accordingly. Unfortunately, most of the World’s population hasn’t or is too under-privileged and disadvantaged to care for their time is taken with simply attempting to stay alive.

    Tony Abbott is a hypocrite on the “Free speech” issue, Dan, not least because it doesn’t exist. However he also supports a Minister who openly calls for the population to be bigots (i.e. obsessively narrow-minded and immoveable about a particular issue) and suggest that such is necessary for a healthy democracy. He appoints and supports a Speaker who, on any reasonable evaluation, has to be the most biased incumbent of the position in our history and yet purports to believe in free and frank debate. He decries the ALP opposition leader as someone who tells lie after lie after lie, continually – when, in fact, it is Abbott that is the perpetual liar. And I could go on ….

    I thought, when Howard was in power, that I had seen the height of hypocrisy and mean spirited parsimony, coupled with extraordinarily sycophantic reverence for monarchy the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the arch xenophobe and right wing hero Menzies was in power. I was wrong. Along came Abbott.

    The ALP lost the last election for a complex of reasons but among them and not least was their blatant imitation of the worst of Liberal slanted policy, epitomised by support for off-shore processing of refugees. It was this pragmatism over principle approach that put the final nail in the coffin for many of the most ardent of Labor supporters as it heralded the end of what, probably wrongly, they’d believed was a principle at the heart of Labor philosophy – fair and equitable treatment for all people. Until and unless we find an individual with the heart and spirit of a “true believer” to once again provide inspirational leadership to the ALP, the movement is doomed and, with so many of all persuasions willing to decry the Greens as “tree-huggers” and the like; despite the fact that they are the only political activists in this country to have achieved anything of real significance for the welfare of this nation, in recent times – we will have to suffer an increasingly right wing, elitist and profit at any cost society in which a greater and greater percentage of the population will fall through the cracks.

  78. Wayne Turner

    Well said miksdad.

    “Free Speech” – This time ONLY a 2 word SLOGAN used by this Liberal party.

    Imagine if we actually had a “bill of rights”.

  79. Dan Rowden


    You are doing nothing more than assigning a particular and radical notion of free speech to Abbott – that he has never espoused – so that you can call him a hypocrite. That’s intellectually dishonest and frankly, tedious. There are plenty of legitimate contexts in which Abbott displays hypocrisy without inventing them.

  80. Dan Rowden


    I totally agree that Abbott is a hypocrite on the issue of free speech. I have never suggested otherwise. His conduct in Parliament evinces that hypocrisy wonderfully well.

    I trust you understand the specific nature of my disagreement with Wayne on this.

    You’re also correct that freedom of speech is a right we do not have in any legal or constitutional sense, but it is, nevertheless, a right that is almost universally desired for and by human beings (with differing notions of where limits ought apply and noting various political attempts to suppress it). It therefore exists conceptually and culturally as with so many other things that do not have any formalised legal expression.

    Looking to the future I can’t really see us being able to move towards any formalisation, given that we can’t even agree as a nation that something like 18C passes the reasonable person’s test.

  81. Stephen Tardrew


    This is it in a nutshell. Great response.

    “But there is something of a clash between certain notions of free speech and our perceptions of what constitutes civil engagement and relationships. It’s a clash that’s not so easy to resolve and may ultimately have no truly satisfactory resolution unless we are prepared to sacrifice one principle for the sake of the other.”

    Its the same with ridiculous notions of “our freedoms” or “our rights”.” it just doesn’t make sense when nature primarily gives you little freedom. We can then somehow forget our legal and moral obligations just by blurting out the word freedom. These are not freedoms they are negotiated rule of law. Democracy is about participation in deciding what rights we have and what obligations. Some free and some constrain. Damn that nuanced language thing again. In fact its not really nuanced its just a reflection of bad thinking.

  82. mikisdad

    Yes, Dan, I have little problem with the substance of what you say. I would clarify that the “notion” or “concept” of free speech certainly does exist but that this is not the same as the “reality” of that notion existing and, in our imperfect world, as close as we can get to the reality being implemented is through legislation. That is one reason that I believe we do need a Bill of Rights and that those who claim it is unnecessary because we already have those freedoms and rights – “they are understood …” are wrong. It is also why, for me, it is important to clarify the distinction, for those people use your argument to justify theirs, which is not, of course, to say that you would do the same.

    Another problem with this discussion is the very notion of what, “free” actually means. I would argue that nothing is free because everything has consequences, ergo a cost of some sort. It is for that reason that I believe that there an be no freedom without responsibility. Ideally, that responsibility would derive from some objective morality or ethic but it is arguable as to whether such a thing is possible. So, because we are social animals and need to live together in reasonable harmony if we are to feel safe and be capable of achieving more than the most basic survival, we device conventions, codes of conduct, rules and laws. Some we enforce with strict sanctions for a breach, whilst with others we tend to provide varying degrees and often substantial latitude, assuming – in the way that you have described – that “common sense” will prevail.

    My experience and study tells me that “common sense” is not. Ironically, the best piece I’ve ever read to illustrate that it is really a misnomer for “common nonsense” was written by Winston Churchill – someone for whom I had a strong dislike, but that’s another story. I don’t believe that the average man and woman are very capable of exercising appropriate responsibility for the freedoms they take for granted. Perhaps that is a result of conditioning and too little freedom to determine their own boundaries, hence they haven’t learned to do it; or perhaps it is an innate motivation to do what satisfies us, regardless of its consequences for others. I don’t know.

    Certainly, we are fortunate to live in a country where, currently, we have a large measure of freedom to discuss, read, think and engage with one another whilst expressing myriad and often diametrically opposed points of view, without (generally) needing to fear retribution, incarceration or the like. However, many of the sort of measures and changes that are presently being proposed by our government represent, for me at least, the narrow end of the wedge that holds open the door to extremism, severe dissension and social strife. That, in turn, provides the conditions against which the “Right” can claim the need for reduction of freedoms; for more control; and increased concentration of power. – All, of course, carried out “in the name of the people” or in more contemporary parlance, “for the good of the nation”.

    Perhaps I’m paranoid. Perhaps I’m naive. Perhaps I’m stupid. I don’t pretend to have the answers, indeed I am so disheartened that had I the courage to suicide I would have done it by now and still hope to do it before things get much worse. For “get much worse” is exactly how I see the situation around me and the message that I get from the incredible volume of vacuous diatribe and opinionated malice that comprises most blog comment, tweets and other social discussion.

    I sincerely hope that I’m wrong and that I prove to have been a pessimist, rather than the realist that I consider myself to be.

  83. John.R

    To have a debate about what should or should not be free speech is a contradiction in itself.
    The absolute last thing any country needs is a boffheaded bureaucrat or politician telling anyone what is correct or incorrect. Governments and bureaucracies change but the laws remains to be used by those in power.
    Every time you give power to another to determine what you should do you are giving away your ability to have SELF DETERMINATION.
    Do you really trust a politician to act in your best interests?

    To improve the standard within a society we should be condemning those who lower the standard and exposing them as the poor person that they are.

    That is a real job for the media,especially when the MSM is at the lowest standard and continuing a race to the bottom and large parts of society seem to be going down with it.

    On the other hand most Australians use words to have a go at each other in a friendly manner and it is part of our makeup that enables us to do this without being generally offended and ultimately being offended or not is a choice we make

    Yes there should be a line in the sand but that is for us to determine not an insecure Politician or bureaucrat.

    Any form of censorship ends up as a tool of an extremist as they will hone it to use upon their opponents.

  84. mars08

    It looks like Brandis had backed down for the time being. Insulting or humiliating an individual of group just because of their colour, race or ethnicity will still be frowned on by the law…. for now…

    So what’s the short-term result of this recent brainfart? What has been achieved?

    Well, I suspect there are a lot of ignorant, middle-age men out there more convinced than ever that THEY are being oppressed. There are a lot of frightened anglos who have had their belief that THEY are the REAL victims further reinforced. These people feel powerless (emasculated?). They probably feel they are losing their country to minority groups. Some of the young ones will be certain that “foreigners” are a protected species who only exist to take THEIR jobs.

    This nations bigots now have proof that they are being denied their NATURAL right to free speech. They need a champion. They need someone with the courage to restore balance. Come the next election campaign… Abbott will be that man!!!!

  85. Dan Rowden


    I agree with much, if not most of what you said in that last post. I’m heading out for the evening but I’ll reply in a substantive way as soon as possible.

    I think your “pessimism” is actually closer to realism, but more on that later …

    Oh, and I do regard a process of codification and formalisation of abstract ideas of free speech to be necessary and important.

  86. mikisdad

    “To have a debate about what should or should not be free speech is a contradiction in itself.”

    No, John, it isn’t. The statement you make simply means that, to you, in this context “free” means that anyone, can say anything, to anyone else (or no one else) at any time, in any place, and regardless of context or circumstances. In reality, I don’t know of anywhere that that is the case. From a child in the home to an author who sells worldwide to a politician or journalist practicing their trade or to a person such as yourself making a blog post. There will always be context, meaning, motive, and consequences that contain what is said, regardless of what legislation does or does not exist.

    Discussion of what constitutes “free speech” is therefore highly desirable, in fact necessary, if we are to be able to communicate productively with one another.

    You, yourself, say: “Yes there should be a line in the sand but that is for us to determine not an insecure Politician or bureaucrat.” (How about a secure politician or bureaucrat?)

    The fact is that what “we determine” is implemented through our system of representative government which makes the decisions and the civil service (the bureaucrats) who implement them. Those elected representatives supposedly translate what “we determine” into decisions and actions. The alternative, which I admit that I’m assuming you aren’t proposing, is anarchy.

    “Any form of censorship ends up as a tool of an extremist as they will hone it to use upon their opponents.” – I agree with you that censorship is a poor tool, though I would see it as a very blunt one and not something that is ever honed. There is a common confusion in society about the nature of censorship and, as usual, this is because people use language carelessly and often don’t understand what they say or what they hear.

    Yes, I’ve indicated that I agree that censorship is a poor tool. I am, in fact, a strong opponent of any sort of censorship. However that stand has frequently brought me into conflict with, for instance, parents who believe that it is not appropriate for their children to read a particular book or watch something on television and so on. Are those people bad? Are they exercising censorship?

    Well, by common community standards, most would say they are not. Indeed, most people support the classification of films, videos and tv programmes in a way that is intended to restrict access according to age groups.

    My belief is that more often than not this *is* censorship, well meaning as it may be. It seems therefore that there is a form of “positive” or “good” censorship, if you like, and contrary to the implication of your post that all censorship is bad.

    However, I still tend to agree with you but for this reason. Censorship is the deliberate denial of access to particular content determined by those with the power to enforce it, regardless of whether those views are rational, based on evidence, or in any other way at all valid beyond the opinion in the mind of the censor. It is, by definition, a negative action taken for no better reason than an opinionated view.

    Contrast that with a positive approach that still, effectively, limits or, I’d prefer to believe, “guides” access and which is done to benefit the audience and open their access to content rather than close them to it. This approach is called “Selection”. When we go to the bookshop and choose to purchase particular books for our chldren, or when the librarian selects books for the shelves, by definition they will reject others. It may or may not result in the same choice as the act of censorship but in this case it is – as you suggest is right – a choice that we make, for ourselves, for our chldren, for our communities.

    Yes, some will say that this is just semantics. It is not. Selection is the other side of censorship – it is the positive side. It is also analogous to the requirement for responsibility in order to exercise a freedom. There can be no freedom without responsibility and unless people have the space in which to learn to exercise that responsibility – to choose the worthwhile book rather than the poor one – they will not learn to exercise it well.

    Bigotry is the currency of the censor. Open-minded awareness is the currency of the selector. Our society needs to encourage us to develop the ability to select or choose what is positive and nurturing. Brandis’s endorsement of bigotry is the equivalent of censorship and encourages negativity and restriction.

    If we expect our politicians to be untrustworthy that is exactly what they will be. It is not condemning those that choose poorly that will improve standards; rather it is providing examples of the difference between making positive and negative choices and equipping people with the understanding to see the differences and act accordingly. To propose condemnation, as you do, is simply to give strength to the argument (if it can be dignified with such a title) of Brandis. Let’s not fall into that trap. We can be better than that. If we want our politicians to improve then we must improve and model the principles we expect from them.

    However, as I’ve said earlier, I see little sign that our community is mature enough to do so.

  87. Stephen Tardrew


    You know when things look grim a bit of art, literature, poetry, music and sunshine can wipe a way the blues. Even a walk in the rain. Things will get better and worse in cycles however the bulk of research demonstrates that, all up, thing are getting better it’s just that evolution is a bit of a slow beast. When possible look on the bright side. The universe and universes are infinite and encompass vast mysteries and potentialities we are not yet proxy too. Yes we all have to kick the bucket some time and when and where seem to be of little import because dead is dead. However you have fiends on this site that would be happy to converse with you and share our hope and love for a better world. Everyone; every living thing is a necessary part of the infinite web of context that is our self. Pretty awesome really.

    In art and Love,

  88. scotchmistery

    On the bright side – 1,023 days to go.

  89. Stephen Tardrew


    Whaddaya want to do make me throw up?

  90. Kaye Lee

    I learned when working on a factory production line that it takes 15 minutes to sing 50 green bottles hanging on the wall soooooo….

    4,905,600 green bottles hanging on the wall…

  91. Stephen Tardrew

    God been there done that Kay. Clock watching anxiety in an attempt to escape hellish boredom.

  92. Stephen Tardrew

    Lost me “e”

  93. mikisdad

    Thanks, Stephen, you’re very kind. I’ll shut up now feeling ashamed that, yet again, I lost control and let my feelings overwhelm my reason. Apologies to all.

  94. Stephen Tardrew

    Don’t apologies to me mate. Been there myself. Just take the concern as genuinely meant and accept someone cares. Goodonya fella.

  95. Kaye Lee

    Actually I have found the exchange quite interesting mikisdad.

  96. Stephen Tardrew

    Scoto you some kind of masochist or what?

  97. scotchmistery

    My father used to say, if it is really bad, look for something that makes the bad look better. That was about half an hour after he found me with a rope around my neck in the garage, aged about 12.

    We can complain and we can whinge and we can pray for a falling sky on the lodge. But we have to wait, and every day the wait gets shorter.

    I listened today as the dear leader wished the leader of the opposition had as much class as his mother in law. I wish the prime minister had that amount of class as well. We can blog, and carry on in here, where no one hears and no one but us sees, and we all know in our hearts we would never want the elected prime minister to disappear. When it happened the first time, the pain was palpable. We don’t want a repeat.

    What we want to do, is wake every day and make someone aware of our feelings for the country we love. We know that there are those for whom “news” is an 8 second sound-byte on Channel 7, or a quick look at page 1 in the ‘Tele’, then over to sports. We need to recruit those folk who think Alan “little boy head smasher” Jones is wrong every time he opens his gob (unless in a London public toilet of course).

    We need to set ourselves, each of us, this task, so that when we go back to the polls, all Australians will feel the shame this man has visited upon us. We need to say to the mirror each morning, today I will talk to “whoever” and tell them of my shame to be an Australian right now. This is not who we are. We are better than our representatives. They put this rubbish up in the house, because the people they “hear” tell them to do so. We are not being heard.

    March in March? and May and June until the rest of the world understand and say in diplomatic circles “how did Abbot ever get to be Australia’s prime minister?

  98. Michael Taylor

    On the bright side – 1,023 days to go.

    I fail to see anything bright about that. 🙁

    Other than the fact that after tonight it’ll be down to 1,022 days.

  99. Dan Rowden


    That is one reason that I believe we do need a Bill of Rights and that those who claim it is unnecessary because we already have those freedoms and rights – “they are understood …” are wrong. It is also why, for me, it is important to clarify the distinction, for those people use your argument to justify theirs, which is not, of course, to say that you would do the same.

    Yes, I agree with that. For one thing, our abstract notion of free speech, however real in a conceptual and emotional sense, offers no real protection from political whimsy and ideological excesses. It would be enormously vain of us to imagine we are a nation that lacks the capacity for a shift to the extreme right such that freedoms like the one being discussed would not be severely undermined. I think we all know what can happen when you take something for granted.

    Another problem with this discussion is the very notion of what, “free” actually means. I would argue that nothing is free because everything has consequences, ergo a cost of some sort. It is for that reason that I believe that there an be no freedom without responsibility. Ideally, that responsibility would derive from some objective morality or ethic but it is arguable as to whether such a thing is possible.

    I agree about the responsibility part. As for “objective” morality or ethics, I would assert that it’s possible to more than cogently show that such things are, in fact, logically impossible. Anyway, to make this shorter for the reader I won’t quote anymore of your original post but simply respond to its sentiments.

    I agree with the need for a process of codification and formalisation of things such as the principle of free speech, whether that be an a Bill of Rights type amendment to the Constitution, or other means. I don’t think your view that it will be a difficult undertaking is pessimistic in the slightest. I believe it’s pretty much spot on.
    It’s simply the case that the average Australian is not particularly engaged or sophisticated philosophically or politically. Reverse intellectual snobbery and a sort of sardonic suspicion and disregard for genuine intellectual endeavour – and reason itself for that matter – is alive and well in the Australian psyche. By and large, Australians lack the level of sophistication in such areas of thought to be up to the task of a general cultural dialogue regarding free speech. And it’s true that it is not an easy subject to get one’s head around. Even philosophers have been disagreeing about aspects of the matter since the Ancient Greeks.

    Like so many other things it will largely be up to the intellectual “elite” to sort things out. That’s not such a big deal really, if they do it well enough. But it surely must be done. The current political climate and direction shows us the necessity of it quite clearly. The current paternalistic approach to governance is bad in so many ways. I mean, it’s easy enough to see the potentially sinister undertones of it, but from a boarder cultural viewpoint, it’s just really shitty for us. A patronising, condescending “don’t you worry about that” Governmental attitude does nothing to aid the process of political maturation this country needs. That maturation and increased sophistication can only come through greater engagement and thoughtful attention. What we need is a respectful and, if not directly consultative approach – governments are supposed to govern after all – then a meaningfully communicative approach. We need to know what’s happening at any given time, but more importantly: why.

    Perhaps on some level the Coalition is doing us a favor. Perhaps by their actions they are crystallising in our minds an awareness of the need for serious debate and resolution regarding such a primary social issue. I alluded earlier to the idea that you don’t really know what you have till you’ve lost it – regarding things we take for granted. Maybe current events will make people see that the potential to lose those things we treasure and mistakenly believe are somehow sacrosanct, is real. If that doesn’t act as a catalyst for meaningful and considered discussion and action, we arguably deserve to lose those things.

    It would be quite a tragedy if that’s what it takes for our eyes and minds to be opened.

  100. mikisdad

    Dan, I appreciate your considered comments both in response to my posts and as straight-forward expressions of your own views.

    What you’ve written fairly cogently sums up how I feel about this issue but probably more concise and eloquently than I was able to so myself.

    I, too, share what appears to be your view that an “objective morality or ethic” is not possible and that cogent argument can be made to support such a stance. I would differ with you only in one sense and that is your assertion that such arguments can *prove* the notion to be impossible. We can only prove the possible, not the impossible, so in that sense your assertion fails. Philosophically, the question is an interesting one and, by coincidence, one in which I have recently been engaged in substantial discussion with other members of a course in ethics under Dr Peter Singer. It created much diversity of opinion and, surprisingly to me, stalwart support was shown for the alternative view to ours; though the majority verdict seemed to go along with us. However, that’s an issue all of its own and I won’t make more of it here. Indeed, I hadn’t intended to comment further but have done so because I’ve welcomed your exchanges and the thought & effort you put into them and felt it only courteous to reply.

    Thanks again for the mental stimulation you’ve given me through your input.

    * As a small aside & rather than making another post, I’d just like to thank Kaye, too, for her taking the trouble to mention that she’d found the discussion interesting. As someone who, unfortunately, regularly seems to upset far more people than I inspire, and Kaye having been one of those people, I’d just like to acknowledge that her comment – even if it was only a general affirmation to all – gave me some relief from the feeling that, yet again, I’d probably said too much or said too much badly.

  101. Dan Rowden


    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I do have an en passant response to one thing you said:

    I would differ with you only in one sense and that is your assertion that such arguments can *prove* the notion to be impossible. We can only prove the possible, not the impossible, so in that sense your assertion fails.

    I would assert it’s entirely possible to demonstrate that certain things are impossible. I would argue the notion of “objective morality” falls into the same logical category as “married bachelor”, and therefore the impossibility of the former can be shown in the same manner as the impossibility of the latter.

    Cheers mate.

  102. mikisdad

    Dan, I don’t think that your example shows a proof of impossibility. Rather, it is simply the bringing together of two mutually incompatible labels which have definable boundaries relative to context. I don’t believe that this is the case with “morality” or “ethics” which are concepts relating to judgment and not subject to absolute definition.

    I would suggest that we quite probably have married bachelors right at this moment for only recently (and unfortunately I can’t remember where, off the top of my head) some 30 or so same sex couples were legally married under State legislation ( I’m not sure whether it was here or in the USA) and then, within a few weeks, the federal government over-rode the State and declared these marriages invalid. As far as the couples were concerned – and there were both male and female partnerships – they were “married” and had even been endorsed as such under the law, yet the male couples then once again became bachelors by the federal determination. They were thus, effectively married and bachelors at the same time.

    Of course, it’s possible to argue that they were bachelors and then married and then bachelors again and that may be arguable in the example I give, where the marrying jurisdiction is subordinate to another. However, there are other cases where a same sex marriage is valid in one jurisdiction but the parties to it then move to another jursidiction where their marriage is not recognised but where neither is it quashed, i.e they are still recognised as married in the place from which they’ve come but are not recognised as such under the law of the place in which they’ve arrived, i.e. they are both married and bachelors at the same time.

    In theoretical mathematics there are supposed proofs of impossibility and I readily admit that I don’t have the intellectual nouse to be able to argue at that level. At the same time, intutitively and intellectually to the extent that I can reach, while I bow to the superiority of these minds on one level, it seems to me that because they can only work with what is known or able to be evaluated in terms of the cumulative experience and knowledge of the day; and because throughout history we have seen the supposedly proven “impossible” become “possible”, I cannot accept those proofs as more than theoretical exercises – perhaps valid enough in the present but not absolute because for that to be true we would have to *know* with *absolute* certainty that we have reached the *absolute* limit of what there is to know and of all the variations of the application of that knowledge. I think that we are far from that.

    Leaving all that aside (!) my own argument would be what some will consider fairly simplistic., i.e that because morality and ethics are human constructs and reference points which are true only in as far as their context in a particular culture, time and place make them so; and even then are interpreted differently by different groups and individuals within that culture, then they can be nothing but subjective. I can’t see any way in which they could possibly exist in a the vacuum that would constitute a totally objective sense. I can’t though, assert that that couldn’t ever be the case – perhaps, as with the mathematics – I’m just not knowledgeable enough.

    Anyway mate – it’s a good talk but the top of my head has blown off so I’m going to leave it there though happy to listen … always. 🙂

  103. Kaye Lee

    “In theoretical mathematics there are supposed proofs of impossibility and I readily admit that I don’t have the intellectual nouse to be able to argue at that level.”

    An easy example of proving something impossible is by looking at division by zero. If a and b are defined to be non-zero digits and a/0 =b then bx0=a
    which is impossible.

  104. mikisdad

    Thanks Kaye – I’m obviously a bigger dummy than I already felt myself to be.

    To me – and really, I mean no offense, it’s just how I see it: if a = 6 then we have 6/0 = 6, so b also = 6. So a = b Then you say, effectively, that 6×0=6, which is impossible – that much I can see. It’s just that it seems spurious to me for why would anyone multiply nothing by anything – it makes no sense for if there’s nothing there’s nothing to multiply. Equally, to me, it seems spurious to divide anything by nothing for that amounts to not dividing it all. Neither make any sense to me.

    Don’t get me wrong, I bow to your superior maths knowledge; I admit that the only time maths made any sense to me was when I learned set theory using concrete shapes because it was being introduced to the primary teaching curriculum, which I was teaching at the time. For the first time in my life some maths made sense to me. Strangely, most of the other teachers hated it and within a short time it was dropped.

    I guess I always was more attuned to the affective than the technical but I did think I had a grasp of basic concepts. Clearly that’s not the case so I really do think that it’s time I shut up for good. If you have the time and inclination and you can explain why my reasoning is all askew, I’d be really interested to know – I’ve felt like a dummy most of my life / strike that – all of my life, and now I feel even more so.

  105. randalstella

    This is a reply to some comments above.

    The racial vilification law was decisively no plaything for the rich. And that was the topic; how this law is being limited by a Government intent on reinforcing privilege at the expense of the most vulnerable.

    It is not a law about any insult or humiliation. It is a law about racially or ethnically slanted insult and humiliation. It has nothing to do with the insults and the (rarer) attempts at humilation on this site. If it did, this site would not be supported by me.

    If you live in a society founded on the rule of law you can usually guess what might be serious criminal liability. Criminal law is a deterrent.
    Civil law is not such a deterrent for people who are intent on harm; except if their target is wealthy or powerful. Then such moral specimens are more likely to beg favour than concoct harm. Law has to deal with human nature. Non-dominant ethnicities tend to lack the signs of petty prestige.

    To use an example given above, false claims of paedophilia and other sexual criminality are increasing. It leaves the target with the predicament of seeking civil legal redress with the risk of making contentious what are completely gratuitous allegations; and paying for this danger. Hardly an attractive scenario. The deterrent is more often on the victim than the perpetrator.

    It really depends on who you meet. Lies can come out of the blue. Bad luck may poison any sense of community; but good luck tempts an unwarranted assumption of moral reliability – and legal deterrence – among those you happen to meet.

    Among civil law;

    1. Defamation law is set for redress of the big reputation. Little reputations should not bother.
    2. Deterrence by the “law” assumes at least some conversance with that law. Again, at large there is a vague knowledge of defamation law. And its terms are themselves inherently abstract and contentious.
    For civil laws that do not have familiar, daily applications – such as builders have to comply with – knowledge in the community is unreliable and often misconceived, with legends common misapprehensions: e.g. ‘possession is 9/10ths of the law’.
    3. Troublemakers have disregard for the law, especially any legal niceties the wrongdoer may or may not (bother to) know. People presume and bully. ‘You sue me then.’
    Unless the law is well-publicised, such as in the Bolt case, I see no widespread or reliable deterrent effect by the mere existence of the civil law. With deliberate wrongdoing, people who might be deterred would be more than likely restrained by moral considerations anyway.

    What does the voting in of Abbott indicate about the general ability and willingness to follow any degree of detail, and the moral competence to assess on civil fairness and equity?

    4. With its protective affinity with the privileged, defamation law is a particularly inapplicable backup remedy for removal of rights under racial vilification.
    It was the inadequacy of law which led to this legislation on racial hatred; as a further cover needed, not supplied by the Racial Discrimination legislation of 20 years earlier.

    When Howard was elected, the old fool he appointed ‘Aboriginal’ Minister set about ramping up the concerted LNP debunking and decrying of indigenous claims made over the Hindmarsh Island. This campaign of deliberate disrespect, along with its weasel words, is reprised in the early Abbott regime by this ‘Bolt Amendment’. To turn Bolt’s actions legal, and render that case irrelevant at law, is to turn the racial hatred legislation more murky and obscure, for victims in particular.
    The LNP are incorrigible. They will never learn; except more weaselling vocab about “free speech”.

  106. randalstella

    If legal right and moral right are confounded simplistically, the scenario of Freedom of Speech in the highly administered State is:
    (1) at law, those with the greatest impact and power can act with impunity; and their targets are presented with less legal means to defend themselves;

    (2) moral sense is addled in this pernicious nonsense, as if equal Freedom of all.

    An Attorney-General prone to discriminatory, punitive measures is liable to provide such a compound defence for powerful bigotry.

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