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Coalition MPs push for legislation to ban opposition to change to race-hate laws

Yesterday in Parliament several government MPs, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, decried Labor’s opposition to proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) as a claim that Australians are racist. “[The Opposition] believe[s] that Australia is a nation of racists only held in check by Gillian Triggs and section 18C,” said Turnbull. “We have more respect for the Australian people.” Turnbull and at least three other government members claimed that Labor’s opposition to the changes stemmed from Labor’s belief that Australians are deeply racist.

Now some government MPs and Senators are pushing for opposition to the changes to the bill to be outlawed as discriminatory and offensive. “When Labor opposes our very reasonable changes to strengthen the race hate laws by weakening them, they make the very clear, very specific claim that I personally am irretrievably racist,” said Senator Eric Abetz. “This personal attack is intolerable and I have suggested to my colleagues that we need a new package of free speech law to protect against this kind of bullying.”

The government is trying to secure support for its changes to the RDA to remove the words “offend, insult or humiliate” and replace them with the single word “harrass”. “We are strengthening the race hate laws,” Prime Minister Turnbull told reporters in a press conference on Monday. “We are strengthening it because it’s clearer, it will be a more effective protection against race/hate.”

Senator Mathias Cormann said that “Blocking our very necessary changes to 18C is profoundly un-Australian. I’m proud to be a real Aussie, not like those Aboriginals who just want to cause trouble.”

The concerns about the 18C provisions were sparked by multiple court cases brought against columnist Andrew Bolt and cartoonist Bill Leak. Some conservative members of the Government would prefer clause 18C to be abandoned entirely, arguing it is a constraint against free speech. Even the current changes, however, face an uphill battle in the Senate.

The existing provisions of 18C have been in place for two decades and there now exists many years of case law clarifying the legal definitions of the terms “offend, insult or humiliate”. Experts have warned that changing the wording of 18C to remove these terms and replace them with “harrass” will inevitably lead to a large number of new cases as complainants seek to test the law.

When asked about the likelihood that changes to the law would embolden potential offenders to use hate speech and that vulnerable minorities could be damaged, Senator Cormann argued that this was part of the process of legislative reform. “These people should be proud. By being bullied and harrassed they are helping to make Australia a place where bullying and harrassing behaviours are not tolerated.”

Some Coalition MPs are understood to be investigating whether they can bring a lawsuit against Opposition members under the provisions of 18C. “I am offended that Labor is making me out to be a racist just because I want the freedom to mouth off at will about those people,” said one Minister who did not want to be named. “That’s exactly the kind of offensive behaviour these laws are intended to protect against.”

Note: this is a work of satire and should not be taken as news, either real or alternative. Yet.


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  1. Rossleigh

    Be careful. Even though it’s satire, I’ve found that some of my best pieces have been stolen by Tony Abbott and turned into Liberal Policy!
    And just for the record, Cory Bernardi is actually real and not one of Barry Humphrey’s recent creations.

  2. Terry2

    “multiple court cases brought against columnist Andrew Bolt and cartoonist Bill Leak”

    I may be wrong here and if so I apologize but referring to multiple court cases, particularly as regards the late Bill Leak, is incorrect. There was one complaint to the Human Rights Commission and the HRC did ask Leak if he would respond. Through his lawyers he told the HRC he would not respond, the claimant withdrew her case and the HRC closed their file.

    That was all that occurred. Had Leak responded using the 18D exemptions as justification, there is little doubt the HRC would have dismissed the matter and upheld his justification :

    18 D Exemptions

    Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:

    (a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or

    (b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or

    (c) in making or publishing:

    (i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or

    (ii) a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.

  3. ozfenric

    Terry, that may very well be true. In fact, the HRC does not bring cases to court; it is specifically a conciliation body and cases can only be brought to trial if efforts at the HRC fail. That didn’t stop the Coalition from using Leak’s example prominently in their various responses in Question Time attacking Labor’s stance and proposing the vital necessity of changes to 18C.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Rossleigh is right. I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy ninjas are drawing up the legislation already.

  5. babyjewels10

    Why are they fighting so vehemently for the right to be cruel to people? It’s unbecoming of a government to support bad behaviour, I would have thought. But it seems, anything goes with the LNP, they have no shame whatsoever.

  6. kerri

    Given the “definition” of harass implies a continued series of attacks, could each one of us apply a nasty bigoted comment to a politician we abhor and thereby all be absolved from “Harassment” as we each only supplied ONE slur?

  7. ozfenric

    Kerri, there is some legal precedent that “harassment” can be a single incident, i.e. it does not require multiple attacks. But that has not been exhaustively tested in law and will definitely be the subject of a large number of cases until the precedent is fully settled.

  8. Freethinker

    Cormann said : “Blocking our very necessary changes to 18C is profoundly un-Australian. I’m proud to be a real Aussie, not like those Aboriginals who just want to cause trouble.”
    I am reading this correctly!!??
    I cannot believe it, this man is the most un-Australian politician that I have ever saw in my 49 years in Australia.

  9. ozfenric

    The mark of good satire is when you cannot easily tell the line between fact and… alternative fact. No, Mathias Cormann did not say that. Some of the statements in the article, though, are real. And the most un-Australian politician is Peter Dutton.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I wish I was writing satire.

    The Human Rights Commission has rejected a complaint made by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm about a newspaper column that called him an “angry white male”.

    Mr Leyonhjelm made the complaint under the much-debated section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, alleging the column by Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny was in breach of the law.

    The Commission said the terms “white” and “male” were not considered to be derogatory.

  11. Matters Not

    The available evidence suggests that Mr Leyonhjelm only shoots blanks. And at so many levels.

    In making that statement, I refer to 18D because my comment is a matter of public interest … and my comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by me.

  12. Michael Taylor

    This article is very similar to what’s happening in real life in the USA. You MUST like the President.

    While we were there last month a Canadian women was denied entry into the country. Why? The brown-shirt at immigration asked her if she liked Donald Trump. She gave the wrong answer. She was meant to say “yes”. She said “no”, so she was turned around.

    Carol and I had dinner one night with a writer we know, and her husband and parents. For two hours we sat there while they spilled their hearts. As we were leaving the manager came up and told us there had been a complaint against us. Why? Because we were saying bad stuff (true stuff) about Trump. I was assured that this is now quite common in the country. I was horrified.

  13. Matters Not

    until the precedent is fully settled.

    Yep! But legal precedents, while powerful at particular moments of time, don’t necessarily reign supreme forever.

    In the US, Plessey v Ferguson (1896) lasted until it was turned on its head by Brown v Board of Education (1954). The ‘common sense’ of Separate but Equal was replaced by Separate Is Not Equal.

  14. Harquebus

    18c does not eliminate bigotry and hatred. It masks them so that they can not be seen and then, subsequently not dealt with. Problem solved?

  15. Denis Hay

    As far as I know, the Federal Government already ban opposition to government policies when they provide funding to communication organizations. The funding is conditional on not criticizing government policy.

  16. ozfenric

    Harquebus, there is a case to be made that social attitudes are influenced and set by the norms of the society in which they exist. Preventing blatant hate speech, apart from being its own reward (and protecting people from bullying behaviours) will contribute to a more genteel society going forward. When the next generation of kids have never heard the kind of racist vitriol that used to be endemic, they might grow up with a less skewed perspective towards other groups. Hatred is learned, not born.

    That said, this article is less about the actual changes to 18C and more about the Coalition’s belief that somehow anyone who disagrees with them is less worthy. As a free speech advocate I have some sympathy with those who argue that the terminology in 18C is too broad, but I am also aware that in practice and jurisprudence those terms have been well established at a reasonable level.

  17. Harquebus

    “Preventing blatant hate speech, apart from being its own reward (and protecting people from bullying behaviours) will contribute to a more genteel society going forward.”
    “hatred is learned, not born.”
    Are these your opinions or do you have some evidence to support these claims?
    Could it be that bigotry and hatred are forced underground to fester unseen and unheard only to emerge again at a later date?
    My opinion is that inequality has a far greater influence and will continue to increase.

  18. ozfenric

    Harquebus, I believe there is plenty of evidence. Anecdotally I can point to any number of multicultural societies where children brought up together are entirely unconscious of race – my own young daughter amongst them. A quick Google search brings me to, where it is so well understood and accepted that racism is learned behaviour that the premise of the study was about *how quickly it was learned*, not whether it was learned at all. That article included the following: “As children age, let us say past 10, environment begins to play a tremendous role in how they perceive in-group and out-group people – people who look like them, and people who do not. … So the good news is that even a child whose parents make no conscious effort to teach [him] not to be prejudiced can shed that prejudice if he finds himself in a diverse enough place and consistently observes in-group and out-group people interacting positively and as equals.” For something a little more academic, look at

  19. Harquebus

    Thanks for that. I will follow up on your links later as I still have some other reading to do first.
    Prejudice and discrimination, if learned then, can be unlearned. 18c, in my opinion, removes that opportunity.
    18c has not removed the bigotry from my low socioeconomic environment. I hear it in private regularly and it includes despising single mothers (leaches), Aboriginals, immigrants and Muslims. I am shitting you not. Also, most of this comes from those dependent on pensions and Newstart. This is my anecdotal evidence.
    My opposing arguments are limited as it comes from my neighbors and I do not wish to upset them. My methodology now, as it is with theAIMN, is persistence.
    Soon, we will all need each other whether we like it or not and if we don’t cooperate, we will instead fight amongst ourselves as we regularly seem to do.
    Hatred is, I believe, another matter and religion is something that I am definitely prejudiced against.

  20. Kyran

    “The government is trying to secure support for its changes to the RDA to remove the words “offend, insult or humiliate” and replace them with the single word “harrass”.”

    You can’t write about a desire to define ‘racial discrimination’ and then insert a post script like this.

    Note: this is a work of satire and should not be taken as news, either real or alternative. Yet.

    In the interest of fairness, we need to be much more careful of how we define and use the word ‘satire’.
    Armando Iannucci is currently peddling what little is left of his wares. Satire. He describes it thus;
    “Satire is all about exaggerating. It’s about taking something and making it absurd, essentially fictionalising something. So, actually lying, coming up with an untruthful version of a true fact. But that’s what Donald Trump does anyway.”

    Having no idea of who he is, there is this;
    “The writer behind landmark political satires such as The Thick Of It, In The Loop and Veep”.
    He also said;
    “I got increasingly angry with some of his tweets, but then I thought, that’s what he wants.”
    “It’s a great diversionary tactic that he uses.”
    “He’s someone with such a thin skin who is easy to make fun of, but the problem is when you make fun of him, he reacts in such a way that you just can’t predict.”
    From the same article;

    “And last year, Australia’s own Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, appeared on his radar for using a slogan the writers of Veep had coined.
    “When our Vice President [in Veep] was running for President we thought we’d come up with the most inane slogan we could imagine, that would please everyone,” he said.
    “So, our slogan was ‘continuity with change’.”
    “So when Malcolm Turnbull was trotting that out not long after I just couldn’t quite believe that no-one had checked.
    He saw it as just another illustration of the blurring of the lines between politics and showbiz.
    “We do a lot of things in the show — we make them up, because we think, what could be the most absurd thing we can come up with? And then it usually happens two or three weeks later.
    “Or, we put something out that is just weird and awful, and then a politician will contact us a couple of days later saying, ‘How on earth did you find that out? I thought we kept that quiet’.”

    How can you parody the truth, when the truth no longer exists?
    As Mr Brisbane noted;
    “Be careful. Even though it’s satire, I’ve found that some of my best pieces have been stolen by Tony Abbott and turned into Liberal Policy!”
    Then there is South Park.

    To all of the comedians and satirists, for the sake of humanity, take a stand.
    Sue these bastards on a class action basis. If they want to be comedians or satirists, let them declare that.
    No harm, no foul.
    But they can’t be comedians and satirists, whilst saying they are ‘leaders’. They are depriving real comedians and satirists of a living, surely?

    For the rest of us, they merely deprive us of real leaders. Or a real living.
    How can you parody the truth, when the truth no longer exists?
    Thank you ozfrenic and commenters. Take care

  21. Kyran

    “As many as one in five federal politicians use their travel allowances to supplement the cost of second homes in Canberra.

    “How parliamentarians use the flat rate allowance to support their accommodation in Canberra is a matter for them,” said the review, which was released a year ago and forms the basis of many of the government’s changes.

    “As determined by the independent Remuneration Tribunal, members of Parliament receive a flat rate for accommodation in Canberra,” which “is paid regardless of an MP’s position, electorate and party”, he said.

    The payment was examined as part of an investigation into MPs’ allowances but the review recommended no changes.”

    Thank you, Kronomex, for the link. Truth and absurdity are now the same, and the norm. If there is any dispute, appoint an ‘independent tribunal’. How come their ‘independent tribunal’ bears no resemblance to our ‘Independent’ ‘Fair Work’ tribunal?
    Surely, we are doing this wrong? Otherwise, we are having a serious wrong being done against us.
    Satire is no longer a defence against these obscene wrongs. Surely?
    Take care

  22. Richard Creswick

    I may be excessively naive or gullible, but I found the article believable ( though repellent) , despite the quote attributed to Cormann, it must say something about my jaundiced view of the LNP.

  23. Kaye Lee


    I can’t read the article due to paywall but as a teacher, I would be more than happy to talk about penalty rates because when I attended parent teacher night, the best I could hope for was to get chicken in a basket provided by the P&C in between my broken shift that began at 8am and ended after 10 pm. It would have been nice to get penalty rates when I took kids away on week long excursions where I was on duty 24/7- groups of teenagers away from home don’t sleep. Some recompense for Saturday sport or the endless Sundays spent rehearsing the school musical or preparing for, and supervising, the school fete, or the kids disco etc. Claiming expenses? Hah. You donated everything you could to help the school community.

    But politicians, who sit for 22 weeks a year (if they choose to turn up which isn’t in any way compulsory – it’s not like you are leaving 30 teenagers unattended), and who have a long weekend every weekend they do sit, and who have no essential criteria/study/qualifications/experience to get the job, no KPIs, no assessment of their performance beyond an election every few years that goes to who lies the best, who have an army of minions to do any work that may be required beyond ribbon-cutting and photo shoots, should get “entitlements” to go to sporting matches and the opera and to pay off their property investment portfolios. They get paid to go to fundraisers. I cooked endless cupcakes and manned the barbecue for the inevitable sausage sizzles to help subsidise kids, not my “party”. F*ck they make me angry with their sense of entitlement.

  24. Matters Not

    As many as one in five federal politicians use their travel allowances to supplement the cost of second homes in Canberra.

    I don’t have a problem with politicians who do that. I don’t have a problem with TNCs who transfer wealth to tax havens here, there and everywhere. I don’t have a problem with a Prime Minister who, for taxation purposes, is an effective resident of the Cayman Islands. After all, I am a believer in the ‘rule of law’ and what all of the above are doing is perfectly legal. In fact, if they were doing otherwise, they would have to be mugs.

    No my problem is twofold. First, that we have legal structures that allow, even sanction, such arrangements. Second, that we have a voting populace that tolerates, even condones, those perfectly legal structures.

    That we lie back and think of mother England rather than confront such legal artefacts makes us all mugs. Ain’t ‘democracy’ just wonderful.

  25. Anomander

    I can’t comprehend exactly what people need to say to each other that doesn’t involve insult, offence or racial/religions slurs?

    Surely intelligent people can have robust discussions without demeaning or insulting each other’s ethnicity or beliefs – or is that something rich white people need to do, to feel superior?

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