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Freedom to speak badly: one rule for protestors, another for Andrew Bolt?

Andrew Bolt’s racial vilification case and the government’s subsequent hasty threat to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has placed ‘freedom of speech’ at the forefront of political debate. But its importance is always overlooked, or shunned, when it’s those of the Left side of politics who are exercising it. The media’s response to March in March rallies is an obvious case, writes Jennifer Wilson.

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Image: heraldsun.com.au

Peter van Onselen (pictured) devotes almost an entire page in the Australian this morning (paywalled. sorry) to complaining about the “unedifying” display of bad manners by some protestors who took part in the March in March rallies, comparing them with the infamously abusive banners held aloft by the three hundred or so activists who took part Alan Jones’s 2011 Convoy of no Confidence against Julia Gillard and her Labor government.

I would appreciate someone drawing up a comparison of the two situations, given my impression that the number of participants in the Jones rally carrying offensive placards constituted a far greater percentage of the whole than those in the March in March rallies.

As van Onselen concedes, in the Jones protest virulent expressions of rage and hatred were legitimised by the presence of leading politicians photographed under the placards. No such validation took place of the relatively few offensive banners on display during March in March.

“Calling a conservative a fascist and portraying his image to replicate Hitler is deliberately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a ‘bitch’ or ‘witch’ carries clear sexist intent,”  van Onselen states, in his comparison of the two situations.

I would not so readily presume an equivalence between sexist intent, and the desire to critique, albeit with a degree of hyperbole, an ideology. Sexism attacks the woman for nothing other than being a woman. Describing Abbott as “fascist” in no way attacks his gender, and is merely commentary on the manner in which he is perceived to enact his conservatism.

Placards claiming that the Abbott government is “illegitimate” are not abusive, offensive or threatening, rather they are simply wrong, and likely being employed as payback for the years of the LNP opposition equally inaccurately describing the Gillard government as “illegitimate.” What is apparent is that there are hot heads and wrong heads on both the conservative and Labor side of politics. This should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Along with Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, (I’m sorry, I don’t know what that title means) van Onselen is disturbed not at the exercise of freedom of speech demonstrated by both rallies, but at the ill-mannered, impolite, potentially violent and “irresponsible” speech used by a small number of participants in their signage. A similar rabid element is guilty of foully derailing many otherwise useful Twitter discussions, claims van Onselen, quite rightly in some instances, though there are sensitive souls renowned for “rage quitting” Twitter when they confuse disagreement with abuse.

Van Onselen and Wilson’s desire to see public speech free from offensive, insulting and at times threatening expression is shared by many people, but quite how to achieve that remains a mystery. Bad speech must be countered by good speech, Wilson has asserted, however, taking the case of Andrew Bolt as an example, it’s difficult to see how someone with a large public platform such as Bolt, or fellow shock jocks Alan Jones, or Ray Hadley can be challenged by the people they offend and insult, who rarely have an equivalent public platform from which to counter their attacker’s bad speech with good. It is for this reason we have legislation intended to protect people from racial vilification, for example, the very legislation Mr Wilson is now intent on seeing repealed, as he believes it interferes with the absolute freedom of speech he appears to favour.

I can see Wilson’s point, however, as long as there are more powerful enunciators of bad speech with large platforms than there are good, perhaps we need other precautionary measures.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I read the article, what van Onselen and Wilson would make of public demonstrations in other countries, Mexico perhaps, where I witnessed protests in which politicians were represented by enormous papier-mache figures with grossly exaggerated sexual organs, accompanied by banners that claimed they f*cked both dogs and their mothers and ate children. Nobody saw any cause for offence. Compared to such robust expression, the complaints seem rather prim.

Amusingly, van Onselen concludes his article with the reminder that “Protest is as an important part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well established political structure.” I am completely unable to see how any of the offensive signage fails to fit in with that spirit. Australian politics have, for the last few years and most certainly during Gillard’s entire term of office, been such that one would think twice before taking school children to witness Question Time, and I really don’t know who van Onselen thinks he is kidding.

The ongoing discourse about how we should conduct our discourse is unlikely to change anything. Van Onselen’s piece appears to make the claim that those who offend middle-class sensitivities undermine the more moderate message and concerns of mainstream protestors, and destroy their credibility. This may well be the case, but only because people such as van Onselen make it so, opportunistically denigrating the whole on the basis of the actions of a very few.

It is not possible to eradicate voices some consider undesirable from public expression. Otherwise we would not have to put up with the Bolts. A sign held aloft at a demonstration cannot do one tiny fraction of the harm done by Bolt, Jones and the like. If we are to conduct serious conversations about how public discourse influences attitudes and behaviours, surely we must start by interrogating the enunciations of those with the furthest reach.

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep and has been reproduced with permission.

89 comments

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  1. Anon E Mouse

    Maybe if one of the signs had a picture of Bronny, the kerosene queen, under a sign saying ‘Ditch the Witch’ Van Whosewhatsit might approve.
    Poor little Bolt is still sniffling because he as called a racist – Gee repealing the law could open up a new level of insult and hurt for the LNP.
    After all, if it was acceptable for Abbott and gang to stand under those outrageous signs against Gillard they must be ok if the ratbag element of the left return fire.

    I don’t think they really thought this repeal through.

  2. trishcorry

    One of the big differences in the Abbott/Gillard treatment, is one is by the public and the other was by people in Government and Journalists and other ‘friends’ like famous cartoonists.

  3. CMMC

    The sour triumph of leprosy, thats what the legacy media stinks of.

  4. Kelly

    What an utter ignoramous. A total bourgeoise twat. The last thing Democracy needs is for people to be polite (bigotry and vilification not withstanding) ugh. These people needa decent education.

  5. Matters Not

    Jennifer Wilson said:

    I don’t know what that title means

    Jennifer, here’s a clue. At the most fundamental (and basic) level words in themselves have no absolute, on-going meaning. Words were created by humans to convey meanings but the humans who created same have no control over the meanings that are now given to same.

    Had a ‘haircut’ lately? If so, is it the same ‘haircut’ the European banks took in relation to effective defaults by Greece, Portugal, and the like?

    I’m somewhat sure that your ‘haircut’ is different to that experienced by the banks.

    The point being that humans decide what meanings they give to words. Meanings aren’t ‘received’ but ‘given’.

    Time we all grew up and accepted responsibility for the meanings we give to words and … whatever.

    But it matters not?

  6. CurryforDinner

    If portraying someone as Hitler is in bad taste, then how do you judge the front pages of the Daily Telegraph in the lead up to the last federal election?

  7. Rob

    I saw a blue megaphone!!! Wow. Next.

    The real reason for wasting energy on this topic is to hijack the conversation. Instead of dealing with the question of why there were 120,000 people marching to parliaments across the nation, lets talk about the 20 that were being impolite.

    This is classic right wing argument tactics deliberately designed to deflect debate about important issues into a corner of no consequence. Don’t let them make you play there.

    The gender attack on our previous leader is not what this event was about so stop trying to draw the comparison, it’s not in any way useful.

    But by all means lets talk about rude now you mention it. Ripping up six years of research that went into Gonski. Dredging the reef. Appointing himself minister for women, man that’s rude to half the nation. Insulting our neighbours. Tossing the car industry into the bin – along with the scientists and climate experts. Handing the keys to our commonwealth to their undeserving mates. It goes on and on and on. So the march was about rudeness but not from the people.

    We are offended, but not by some colourful language. We are offended by the wilfully ignorant un-informed destruction we are seeing every day from this pathological liar.

  8. xiaoecho

    The ‘narrative’ must be stuck to no matter what the facts of the situation. The narrative has been decided –‘the marchers are a rabble of anti social disaffected who refuse to accept the election outcome’ and that is how it is being sold to the public. We (the marchers) must not fall into the trap of reacting to the lie but go on doing what we do. The fact of the march being so vociferously rejected signals it’s success. I have to admit I am a little bit scared. At the moment it is only ‘sniffiness’ If the next march is as successful as the last, the MSM are going to pull out all the stops.

  9. jusme

    Before Bolt broke the law, there was no general desire to remove this regulation, nobody thought or talked about it.

    Poor prioritisation, but I’m not surprised looking at their other intentions. This will only encourage the worst in people, civil society will suffer.

    Meanwhile MANY demand deregulation of drug use, which could create jobs and a whole new industry, reduce crime, with the only harm done to the users that overuse, but ALL those people are ignored.

  10. Stephen Tardrew

    You know sometimes I think it just helps to have sense of humor and stop getting all worked up over nothing. Words is words so what. Read em or leave em. I think I can discriminate between good and bad. Hope most of you can so wheres the problem. If a coalition of nastiness and dogmatism forms then it is time to fight but I don’t need anyone to tell me how or when. Sometimes it’s good to leave those who are angry to express themselves so that they can be challenged from a more reasonable perspective. Overtly showing ones face is a good thing rather than hidden underground groups fomenting violence and abuse. At least we know where we stand.

    The Australian, Jones, Bolt and their ilk are a comedy show. Sadly some of the comedy is downright destructive, selfish, cruel and vindictive. I am not going to let them put shit on my liver.

    Bit of a laugh bit of a joke and move on to better things.

  11. paul walter

    The very first poster senses the relationship between the rest of this and Brandis and the silly bigot nonsenses in the senate. It puts those idiot remarks in context.

    Put one way, how can you justify hate speech as the desirable mode without at first lipsticking or rehabilitating bigotry whilst smearing and delegitimating reason.
    Only when bigotry is the norm, have you then defeated and overthrown rationality and invalidated the nasty questions it raises about fascism.

    It reminds of the very early European thirties of last century, described on an SBS doco last Friday night.

    They werent just stupid remarks, but very contrived and amoral. They valorise ockerism and Hansonism as scepticism, it is a dangerous move for a civilised society.

  12. Greg O

    Does anyone here think it is reasonable to have signs at a rally expressing a desire to kill a political leader, be it Gillard or Abbott?

  13. Dan Rowden

    Greg O,

    Of course no one here thinks that. Should the crowds have forcibly removed those marchers who possessed “inappropriate signs”? By what right and by what judgement of “inappropriate”?

  14. Greg O

    So Dan, if Ditch the Witch was so outrageous, why is there no mention in this discussion about the signs calling to kill Abbott?

  15. Kaye Lee

    Greg O,

    Any sign advocating violence is NOT ok. If people do so in their comments on stories I write I delete them.

  16. Dan Rowden

    Greg,

    The existence of inappropriate signs at March in March has been acknowledged. Personally I think that acknowledgement has been a tad too dismissive of the fact and I do think a degree of hypocrisy and double standard dynamic is in play. However, in the case of “Ditch the Witch” etc, it became “so outrageous” because Parliamentarians stood with those signs and made speeches. No one would have given a toss otherwise.

  17. mars08

    Forget for a minute that bigotry is by its nature illogical, impractical, unoproductive, dangerous and lazy. Forget that it inherently divisive…

    I ask myself who gains by changes to the wording of 18C. I can only imagine that it would benefit someone who intends to (with malicious intent) offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin. And that improves things… how????

  18. Dan Rowden

    Q: Should we make it illegal for religious persons to express the view that atheists are amoral?

  19. Kaye Lee

    Matters not,

    I think the written word is far more open to misinterpretation than face to face communication. In both, context matters so your haircut example doesn’t really count. But the difference with face to face is that the spoken word is accompanied by tone of voice, facial and hand expressions, eye contact (or not), body language…a whole host of things that add meaning to the words.

    Writing for an audience has taught me that humour often fails. An exchange on one of John Lord’s stories is a good example. I was belittling Aussie Rules. Coming from a rugby household in NSW I am almost duty bound to do so. For proponents of the game, my comments may have been offensive. Had we been having the same conversation together over a glass of wine, they would have seen my smile, my tone of voice would have been jocular rather than sneering, it could have been accompanied by a nudge and a wink rather than the chest-poking that may have come across when reading the same words.

    I feel a bit the same about the signs. When my husband saw a sign that said “Angry sign” he laughed. The sign that said “F Abbott” is expressing similar feelings. I don’t particularly approve of the method of expression, but if it’s the use of the word f* that is offensive then we are going to spend a lot of time being offended. I seem to recall one of Tony’s staffers telling a protester to get a job as he walked along the street with our PM. Should our PM express himself by saying s happens?

    As Jennifer points out, a few offensive signs in a sea of thousands hardly equates to the concerted campaign of vilification carried out against Julia Gillard by politicians and people in the media. Encouraging listeners to ring in to spew vile personal abuse which was broadcast on radio, or writing stories in newspapers that misinform and stir up hatred, are entirely different scenarios.

    We must lend our support to the hard work being done by many different groups and individuals to stop the repeal of these laws. Apparently Andrew Bolt has the right to be a bigot but Marcia Langton has no right to call him one because he found it offensive. Work THAT out.

    http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/could-be-construed-as-racist-marcia-langton-backtracks-with-19page-clarification-of-apology-to-andrew-bolt-20140318-34zgm.html

  20. Ian

    When are Australians going to realise that The Australian is something best left alone? We need to ignore the bogited publication altogether.

  21. john921fraser

    <

    Abbott states in parliament "I am not going to reveal private conversations (sic) Arthur Sinodinos".

    Queensland's Attorney General Bleijie reveals private conversation with Court of Appeal President Justice Margaret McMurdo :

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/jarrod-bleijie-defends-leaking-confidential-chat-20140324-35eih.html

    The usual polish a turd style from the Office of the Prime Minister of the LNP.

    The LNP can say and do whatever they like because they have no morals and they follow Pell.

  22. FryaDuck

    @Kaye Lee,

    “Any sign advocating violence is NOT ok. If people do so in their comments on stories I write I delete them.”

    Then what you write is simply venting and not so different to kiddies on a gaming forum.

  23. Kaye Makovec

    Spot on Mars08. Always amazes me how the proponents of ‘free speech’ readily forget that it works both ways. If they want to be offensive then they must expect it back. I think most people believe in the adage “Do unto others as they do unto you”,

    Dan – seems to me people of every religion have never had a problem with expressing their views on ‘how evil the other lot are’. Just because a person is religious does not make them moral just as atheists are not amoral because they don’t believe. Ethics has nothing to do with any religion, as shown by the abuse bestowed on those the religious consider beneath them. A perfect example is the Christians applauding Abbott’s stance on locking up asylum seekers they believe are Muslims, while decrying the Muslims who want to do the same to Christians. They all preach one thing and practice another. Hypocrites come in all forms 🙂

  24. Kaye Makovec

    “Then what you write is simply venting and not so different to kiddies on a gaming forum.” As it is for all of us FryaDuck 🙂

  25. Dipso Facto

    The real question to ask is, did PvanO or any of his ilk comment on the extreme offensiveness of the small anti-Gillard demonstration AT THE TIME? The MSM, repeatedly and without comment, showed those infamous pictures of Abbott and Mirabella in front of offensive placards.

    The differences between the events make his kind of moralistic comparison trivial, vapid and hypocritical:
    The Jones event was a contrived media stunt and no doubt paid-for: by invitation only, if you like. The March march was of a more or less spontaneous or ‘grass-roots’ nature, which made the filtering out of various social elements impossible.
    The anti-Gillard signs were blatantly misogynistic and therefore an insult to all women.
    The Jones event had the very purpose of presenting shocking misogynistic messages; they were its raison d’etre.

  26. David Somerville

    I find in quite unbelievable that Brandis and his ilk cannot understand the damage that can and will be done by opening up the can of racist comments that will spew forth from any change to 18C.
    Brandis says it’s ok to be bigoted but Tony doesn’t want bigotry and racism. Consistency would be appreciated by the public from it’s ruling government but there again, that’s what happens when you have competing interests in what’s turning out to a dysfunctional political party.

  27. mars08

    If the Murdoch press wants to be outraged on Abbott’s behalf… be my guest. They have that right. But they should keep this in mind: Insults directed against young Tony -no matter how offensive- are not related to his colour or ethnic origin. The insults are entirely because he is a dishonest halfwit!

  28. Kerri

    Not only do the arguments of Wilson and Van Onselen ignore the reach of the shock jocks like Bolt, Hadley Jones et al but they also ignore the fact that the protestors were there at their own behest. The “journalists” and “broadcasters” are being paid to make their claims. In the same way that being paid to police the streets or being paid to repair sick and damaged people carries the responsibility of doing the job without favour or prejudice, the role of the public commentator, by written or spoken word, carries the responsibilty to behave in a civilised manner and report AFTER adequate research. George Brandis maintains people may be rude out of ignorance and should be free to do so. Let’s see how he would respond to being burnt in effigy and claims he his mother and dogs. When the shoe is on the other foot the current “free speech” favourists would do a rapid about face to their other face.

  29. Dan Rowden

    This whole debate is happening for one reason and one reason only: Bolt is upset that he got nabbed and the Government is going to repay him for his support. That removed, it’s a giant non-issue. Section 18D of the Act is arguably more important for most people than 18C. 18D means no one expect those with an overtly harmful agenda (e.g. Bolt) have any reason to be remotely uncomfortable.

    RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18D

    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.

    It may well even be possible to speculate that Bolt contrived this fight just so he could continue his personal agenda into the future with impunity (with a little help from Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie).

  30. randalstella

    No, Bookcase old chum. An Attorney-General has no right to be a bigot.

  31. Stephen Tardrew

    An intelligent person looks at abusive signs and realizes some people do not have rational contact with their visceral emotional drives and move on. There will be people of this particular type in any crowd. Simple probability. Get over it and focus on more important issues. If you don’t think the majority are turned off by these signs then you do no understand the general population. Are you going to lance extremism like a boil. It wont go away because it is particular statistical aspect of human nature. If you understand the psychological imperatives then there is no mystery to solve and you can then choose to communicate effectively with less disturbed individuals. Stop giving them a forum of attention.

  32. Dan Rowden

    We already have the freedom (we have to stop using the word “right” here; it’s non-applicable) to call Andrew Bolt anything we like. 18C has got almost nothing to do with that ability. What we don’t have the right to do is defame, slander or libel, and that’s as it should be for all of us.

  33. Greg O

    I agree with this:

    “The Abbott government plans to remove the words insult, offend and humiliate from a controversial section of the Racial Discrimination Act.

    But it plans to include a section that makes racial vilification unlawful, Attorney-General George Brandis told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

    Senator Brandis said a meeting of coalition MPs had agreed to repeal section 18C of the Act, which was used to prosecute conservative commentator Andrew Bolt over a column he wrote about “fair-skinned people” of diverse ancestry choosing Aboriginal racial identity for the purposes of political and career clout.

    A new section will be inserted into the Act which preserves the existing protection against intimidation.

    “I have always said that freedom of speech and the need to protect people from racial vilification are not inconsistent objectives,” Senator Brandis said.

    Laws which were designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech, he said.

    Section 18C makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

    Senator Brandis said offending, insulting or humiliating people amounted to “hurt feelings” and should not be unlawful.”

  34. lawrencewinder

    When did the Liarbrils decide that Kafka was a model for there philosophy?

  35. Dan Rowden

    Does Brandis know what “vilification” means? Humiliation and vilification are flees that are most often found on the same dog.

  36. Greg O

    “When did the Liarbrils decide that Kafka was a model for there philosophy?” (sic)

    John Stuart Mill actually.

  37. Pingback: Freedom to speak badly: one rule for protestors, another for Bolt? | lmrh5

  38. lmrh5

    Reblogged this on lmrh5.

  39. john921fraser

    <

    Who would want a charge of soliciting young boys at a public toilet on their CV ?

    Who would want a charge of racial discrimination on their CV ?

    Who would want a charge of defamation and an AVO (wife) on their CV ?

    Shock jocks need laws to pull them into line.

  40. Farnortherner

    This article has no validity. The Convoy of No Confidence was nothing to do with Alan Jones organising it. It was organised by the National Road Freighters of Australia. This publication is obviously only interested in left wing lies.

  41. john921fraser

    <

    @"Farnortherner"

    Is any part of my Comment, above, a lie ?

  42. Greg O

    “Who would want a charge of soliciting young boys at a public toilet on their CV ?

    Who would want a charge of racial discrimination on their CV ?

    Who would want a charge of defamation and an AVO (wife) on their CV ?”

    None of those things are covered by 18c.

    All of those things are already covered by other laws.

  43. Dan Rowden

    Farnortherner,

    The Convoy of No Confidence was nothing to do with Alan Jones organising it. It was organised by the National Road Freighters of Australia.

    Despite Jones’ strong support and involvement, this is a valid criticism of the article. However:

    This article has no validity.

    That isn’t. Rather, it’s a composition fallacy. One factual error in any article is certainly unfortunate, but you can’t extrapolate from that to the non-validity of the entire article.

  44. Dan Rowden

    Greg O,

    Racial discrimination is not covered by 18C? What do you think 18C is?

  45. Kaye Lee

    I am looking forward to watching Tim Wilson on Q&A next Monday. Burnt chop anyone?

  46. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    Oh dear !

    Missed the point entirely.

    Is that you George (bigoted) ?

  47. Greg O

    @john921fraser

    I would point out that Jones was not charged with soliciting “little boys”, that is in fact a lie.

    Re the Bolt case, the plaintiff’s lawyers made the following statement after he was found guilty of breaching section 18c:

    “In concluding the eight day proceedings, counsel for the plaintiffs conceded Bolt’s writings did not incite “racial vilification or racial hatred”, rather they “constituted highly personal, highly derogatory and highly offensive attacks” on the nine individuals.”

    Re missing the point, I gather you were referring to 3 Conservative journalists who have been charged with those things (apart from the “little boys” bit). True, but for two of them they were charged under laws other than 18c, and for Bolt, he was found guilty of offending a group of people, not of racial vilification. Brandis is making an attempt to define where the line is between actual harm versus merely offending, and I think he is doing a much better job of defining where that line is than 18c currently does. We can disagree on where actual harm begins, I am merely stating my opinion.

  48. Imagining

    As Rob says above, I am offended by the Abbott regime and everything it stands for.
    The signs at MiM should not have upset anyone: go to any high school in the country and you will hear similar language every day of the week.

  49. randalstella

    lawrencewinder,
    You mean, of course, what happens IN Kafka: how the victim of power is made to think furtively and as if guilty. It might have been in mind in the drafting of the law; to give some power to the typified victim of typical attacks.

    Greg O
    Invoking J.S.Mill has been the signature of discriminatory, punitive regimes set on protecting power and privilege.
    This is presumably to muddy the obvious motives of this most illiberal regime. Sort of typical “Liberal” Party tactics.
    The change of law is done for the sake of a loopy, reactionary, illiberal egotist; not for equity at large. Otherwise Abbott and Brandis would show they have equity at heart on a range of issues. Rather, they show they have equity in their sights.

    If this becomes law, some judges are going to read “intimidation” much more widely than is the current need. Are they going to be respected for that judgment; or will the “Liberal” Party attack dogs be released?
    Will the dogs invoke J.S.Mill? And why would Mill not apply equally to the judge?

    A rule of thumb: if ‘liberalisations’ are likely to be mainly a comfort to repressive oafs in police forces, and like mentalities with power, I’m against them.

  50. mars08

    Stephen Tardrew:

    You know sometimes I think it just helps to have sense of humor and stop getting all worked up over nothing. Words is words so what…

    Words are weapons.

    Stephen, your comment comes close to blaming the victim.

    So, Australia… land of the fair go. Amazing innit?

    Bigots don’t necessarily have to be vocal 24/7. They have the option of suppressing that personal characteristic. If they keep their mouth shut, they can walk through a public place and be CERTAIN that they won’t we vilified for their bigotry. Even when they announce their bigotry, they usually go unchallenged.

    Yet Brandis thinks it’s okay to insult and humiliate others based on the colour of their skin, shape of their eyes, or ethnicity of their parents. Does the victim of these insults have the option of suppressing the characteristic the bigot finds so offensive????

  51. Greg O

    Does anyone else find it ironic that people argue the case for restricting insulting and offensive speech by using insulting and offensive speech?

    “The change of law is done for the sake of a loopy, reactionary, illiberal egotist;”

  52. Greg O

    The exposure draft from the AG’s website here http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2014/First%20Quarter/25March2014-RacialDiscriminationAct.aspx

    “Exposure Draft
    Freedom of speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014
    The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is amended as follows:
    Section 18C is repealed.
    Sections 18B, 18D and 18E are also repealed.
    The following section is inserted:

    “ It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
    the act is reasonably likely:
    to vilify another person or a group of persons; or
    to intimidate another person or a group of persons,
    and
    the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.
    For the purposes of this section:
    vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons;
    intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:
    to a person; or
    to the property of a person; or
    to the members of a group of persons.
    Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.
    This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”

  53. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    "3 Conservative journalists" …. Jones, Hadley and Bolt ?

    Keep the laughs coming.

    Next time though try to add a kernel of truth.

  54. Greg O

    @john921fraser

    So you are leaving the “little boys” accusation out there?

    If those guys are not Conservative journalists, could you give me an example of someone who is please?

  55. john921fraser

    <

    RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18C

    Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
    (1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

    (a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

    (b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

    Note: Subsection (1) makes certain acts unlawful. Section 46P of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 allows people to make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful acts. However, an unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence. Section 26 says that this Act does not make it an offence to do an act that is unlawful because of this Part, unless Part IV expressly says that the act is an offence.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:

    (a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or

    (b) is done in a public place; or

    (c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.

    (3) In this section:

    "public place" includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.

    Bolt guilty.

    Both the Federal Attorney General and Queensland Attorney General, whom incidentally happen to be both Queenslanders, are guilty of disgraceful conduct, and both should resign.

  56. Greg O

    Dan, I am with you on that bit. It appears to make the whole thing redundant, and would be a universal defence. I would wager it won’t be in the final version. May be a token effort to be able to say “Hey look we compromised.” Politicians of all persuasions think like that.

  57. Dan Rowden

    Greg O,

    Yes, indeed, that part makes the whole thing redundant. In fact, it makes the whole thing grotesquely irrational. If it remains, it will prove beyond doubt the incompetence and lack of rational incapacity of the AG.

  58. john921fraser

    <

    Greg O

    Show me the Links to Hadley'es Jones and Bolts degrees in Journalism.

    I'll make it even easier for you …. show me the Link to where they even studied Journalism.

    Or how about you just call them "extreme right wing opinion/ shock jocks".

    Don't disparage Journalists who have spent a lifetime (and sometimes their lives) reporting the truth to the world.

    Sheeeeesh …. Bolt , Jones and Hadley "journalists" … ya gotta be joking !

  59. Dan Rowden

    John F,

    Among other things, Bolt did a cadetship at The Age. If that doesn’t qualify him as a journalist, most writers for newspapers over the age of 40 aren’t journalists.

  60. Dan Rowden

    This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.

    What the ? What context is left for it to apply to? Jesus friggin’ wept.

  61. randalstella

    Greg O,
    No, it is not ironic. If that is all you have to say in answer then you are entirely misrepresenting the legislation, and evading the point of the discussion.

  62. john921fraser

    <

    @Dan Rowden

    Thanks for the information about Bolt ….. my opinion is that he is not a Journalists fart.

    "Jones is arrested in a lavatory block in London’s west end. He is initially charged with two counts of outraging public decency by behaving in an indecent manner under the Westminster by-laws. Jones pleads not guilty and is granted unconditional bail. The charges are eventually dropped and costs are awarded to Jones."

    Rent boys were all the rage in the West End at that time.

    Hadley's AVO … http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/ray-hadley-off-air-for-a-week-after-application-for-avo-20140222-338zg.html

    Unfit to be on/in any media in Australia.

  63. olddavey

    Khtagh.

    I posted this in a comment on GA under an article about Das Bolter:

    Andrew Bolt: Ik laat een scheet in jouw algemeen richting

    And bugger me, I got moderated.

  64. john921fraser

    <

    Section 18D follows on from Section 18C

    RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18D

    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.

    Only soapy Brandis could make a case that it is inequitable.

  65. Rebecca-sue Smith

    I have posted in my Facebook page photos of lots of the posters I saw at the march. make your own decision

  66. Dan Rowden

    John Fraser,

    @Dan Rowden

    Thanks for the information about Bolt ….. my opinion is that he is not a Journalists fart.

    I totally agree with that judgement, but it can’t be avoided that despite Bolt not really doing “journalism” per se, ever since he became “someone’, he can rightfully call himself and be regarded as a journalist. Little bit like Des as the CM (Des Houghton at the Courier Mail for non Qldlers)

    Jones and Hadley, not sooooo much …

  67. Greg O

    @john921fraser

    You still haven’t given a example of someone you consider to be a Conservative journalist, and you are still hanging on to the “little boys” accusation.

  68. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    I readily admit there are plenty of "conservative" Journalists …. unfortunately though Murdoch doesn't like them and that means they only get small columns.

    As previously stated …. although you were probably too young or were not in London at the time …. rent boys were all the flavour in the West End and that particular toilet block was a well known haunt that's why the police were there.

    The charges against Jones were not proceeded with any inferences taken from that is entirely up to the individual.

    No charges have ever been laid against Abbott for diddling his expense account for almost $10,000 ….. apparently the person who dobbed in Peter Slipper for diddling his expense account for $900 decided to let Abbott of …. any inferences taken from that is entirely up to the individual.

  69. Stephen Tardrew

    mars8:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you however after many years as a counselor and program manager of some pretty damaged individuals I had to know when to walk away and just let things be as they are. Some people you cannot change and a small group of those individuals can cause you substantial harm. All I am suggesting is it helps to see the light side and just let the maddies go while remaining vigilant if they actually begin to cause real harm.

    Arguing with them gains nothing and the latest research into counseling methods demonstrate how damn hard it is to actually change a persons thoughts and behaviors. It takes long term day by day vigilance and support to really affect change in most individuals.

    I know we live in hope of swinging peoples opinions but when you realize how small a percentages swing voters are you come to realize that most people are pretty well fixed in their attitudes and opinions. The question is how do we influence the minority when the majority are beyond our grasp?

  70. Greg O

    Here is the full article by PVO originally discussed:

    “THE unedifying banners littered throughout the March in March last weekend distracted from the message most of the crowd who took to the streets presumably hoped to send. That is, they were ordinary voters representative of wider public discontent with the policies of the new government.

    But was that really the case?

    While there will be inevitable debate over how mainstream much of the up to 100,000 who attended the marches across the country actually were, those who stole the headlines with their ­offensive banners undoubtedly were anything but mainstream.

    These protesters served up the sort of bile that sometimes passes for commentary on social media — also overshadowing the many free-flowing exchanges on mediums such as Twitter and Facebook that can occur.

    While sections of the commentariat praised the ­protests as some sort of trans­formative ­moment when social media protests migrated into the mainstream, many of the messages were subversive as well as offensive, anything but representative of the approach mainstream members of the public adopt.

    Signs describing Tony Abbott as an “evil fascist”, replete with a cartoon image of the PM with a Hitleresque moustache, do nothing to advance the public debate. Nor do many of the other signs that made their way into the crowds — “ignorant pig” and “racist sexist elitist homophobic fascist” are just two examples of a multitude of signs directed at ­Abbott that were designed to cause offence. A small number of attendees at the rallies wore “F. k Tony ­Abbott” T-shirts, replicating the clothing with body paint and hastily drawn posters.

    “The protests were a perfect example of free speech in action,” says new Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson. But he points out “people had their right (to free speech), but they didn’t exercise responsibility, expres­sing ­absurd, insulting and unreasonable commentary. The­re­­fore, no one takes them ­seri­ously.”

    Other signs went further than simply causing offence, such as one that included the phrase “Kill Abbott”, inciting violence, no less, as did the comments from the secretary of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, Gary Kennedy, who told protesters from the podium that Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce “should be shot somewhere in the back of the head”.

    While the long-serving union secretary withdrew his comments in the days that followed the march, the applause in the crowd widened the ambit of poor judgment on what is and is not appropriate to the listeners, not just one of the keynote speakers.

    “It is unrealistic to expect that passions won’t be a factor within political debate,” Labor member for Chifley Ed Husic argues.

    “But we have to reinforce in our minds that there are boundaries people shouldn’t over step, ­because it risks deepening the partisan political divides that are increasingly plaguing public ­debate.”

    Banners denouncing the value of democracy because it has resulted in the election of the Abbott government — which were also on display last weekend — suggest discontent with an electoral system that neatly balances majoritarianism in the house of government (the House of Representatives) with the sorts of checks and balances political scientists appreciate in the Senate (elected via a form of proportional representation).

    This sort of attack on our political culture and systems is anything but mainstream, all the more coming so soon after a clear-cut election result.

    Conservative commentators have inevitably decried the failure of sections of the media to condemn the March in March the same way protests associated with the Convoy of No Confidence outside Parliament House were quickly condemned. On that occasion, banners such as “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” were used to ­vilify then prime minister Julia Gillard. They were described as sexist and outrageous, which they surely were.

    But is there a double standard? Was indignation towards signs attacking our first female PM greater than the reaction to even more offensive signs now being directed at Abbott? Wilson says “the conduct of protesters at both events went beyond what Australians think is fair”.

    One important difference between the reaction to the mat­erial directed at Gillard and that now being directed at Abbott is that Labor politicians were clever enough not to attend the rallies with the bad-taste material last weekend.

    Perhaps they learnt from ­Abbott’s mistake in early 2011 when he spoke at the main Convoy of No Confidence rally in front of Parliament House and one of the offensive signs was hoisted behind him while he and other opposition ministers were on the podium.

    Abbott has claimed he didn’t know that the sign was there, and we can only take him at his word. At the very least, it represented poor advancing work from the then opposition leader’s office.

    A number of Labor MPs voiced support for the March in March rallies, but none appears to have attended the events. Certainly not Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt, however, did attend one of the rallies (careful not to appear alongside one of the ­offensive banners, mind), where he described the protests as the compassionate and humane side of the Australian population, notwithstanding the inappropriate signage.

    Another potential difference between the protests against the Gillard government and those now being directed at the Abbott government is that talkback radio played a lead hand in the Gillard rallies, using their programs to whip up interest for the events.

    But left-wing commentators used the online media as well as social media to do the same for the March in March. The messages are similar, and both remain inappropriate. Only the medium has changed.

    While feminists have pointed out the language used in banners against Gillard included overt sexist rhetoric, designed not only to cause offence more generally, but also specifically to deliver a sexist message, such double ­messaging was also on display in many of the signs ­directed at ­Abbott.

    Not on ­gender grounds, but as an ideological statement along side personal attacks.

    Calling a conservative politician a “fascist” and portraying his image to replicate Hitler’s is delib­erately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a “bitch” or a “witch” ­carries clear sexist intent.

    Both are offensive, but both are also designed (by intent or otherwise) to undermine credibility in a deeper and longer lasting way. Quite obviously, neither form of protest is acceptable and both do more to undermine assoc­iated messages of discontent than to advance a particular cause.

    “If protesters want to get substantive messages across they should do a better job of holding their own to account for their conduct,” Wilson points out.

    It isn’t just Gillard and Abbott who have been subjected to cruel and offensive protests. John Howard was portrayed in both physically and historically demeaning ways, although these sorts of attacks took longer to manifest than the insults hurled at both Gillard and Abbott after each became prime minister.

    Early protests in Canberra against the Howard government industrial relations changes even turned into a riot not long after the 1996 election, with protesters storming the Parliament House foyer. On that occasion, opposition leader Kim Beazley made the same mistake that Abbott did, addressing the rally.

    “We hadn’t even released the bill yet,” then workplace relations minister Peter Reith points out. He argues that the more over-the-top protests against Howard became over the years, the more considered and reasonable the government appeared by way of comparison.

    Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane sees a link between outrage at the sorts of vilification that have occurred in the protests mentioned above and the need for protections against racial ­vilification.

    He points out there are many restrictions on offensive speech that exist in parliament, via defamation law as well as in criminal summary offences laws, causing him to wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to retaining similar provisions within the ­Racial Discrimination Act.

    “Racial abuse isn’t about mere offence. It is about speech that diminishes the equal standing of others and our cohesion as a ­society.”

    There is little doubt that when protests get out of hand or become dominated by extremists, the mainstream message is lost. Even the involvement of sexist, subversive or ideologically abu­sive elements can distract from events that might otherwise be designed with a legitimate democratic purpose.

    Protest is as important a part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well ­established political culture.”

  71. mars08

    Stephen Tardrew:

    …I had to know when to walk away and just let things be as they are. Some people you cannot change and a small group of those individuals can cause you substantial harm. All I am suggesting is it helps to see the light side and just let the maddies go while remaining vigilant if they actually begin to cause real harm.

    My fear is that there are already too many “maddies” slithering around the swamp. If they go unchallenged they WILL infect others!!! This is especially true when the powers-that-be are inclined to remove protections for the most vulnerable.

  72. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    "Perhaps they learnt from ­Abbott’s mistake in early 2011 when he spoke at the main Convoy of No Confidence rally in front of Parliament House and one of the offensive signs was hoisted behind him while he and other opposition ministers were on the podium.."

    The photos have been out there since the day it was first taken, here have a look for yourself :

    https://www.google.com/search?tbs=simg:CAESWhpYCxCwjKcIGjwKOggBEhTRAtUC0wLeAtgC0gLUAt0C1wLfAhog1oCYpGhHWGW2mjSh46D0W-f3umqopKdlqI9K_1Xdyek0MCxCOrv4IGgoKCAgBEgT1R50zDA&q=carbon+tax+rally&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=IQ4yU9e8IvCSiAfrxIG4CQ&ved=0CDIQsw4&biw=1920&bih=955&dpr=1

    Do you see 2 signs directly behind Abbott ?

    I thought you were dead kean on accuracy.

  73. Stephen Tardrew

    Mars8:

    We will just have to live with, and later change, irresponsible LNP policy. It’s just the way democracy works. By yelling loudly to the crazies we actually reinforce their anger and capacity for misbehavior. Psychology is not black and white it is full of grey areas that we have to balance if we swish for effective outcomes. Challenging the far right or left actually reinforces anger and hate. We need to ask do we really want to go there.

    I know it is an individual choice however we must be careful what we wish for and aware of the implications of certain actions. My point is that disturbed individuals will not change and attacking them simply reinforces their anger and hate. It’s always a lot more complex than simple sound bites.

  74. Greg O

    @john921fraser

    You quote from Peter Van Onselen’s writing and attribute it to me? Strange. However, I suggest he is accurate. In your linked photos, there are two signs that are considered offensive, the Bob Brown’s Bitch one and Ditch the Witch. Both signs are seen in the crowd and then behind Abbott. PVO says they were hoisted behind Abbott, implying they weren’t there when he took the stage. On your own google search if you click the videos link you will see this one giving the case for the signs being hoisted behind Abbott as PVO suggests. http://youtu.be/b1SNUZMDkLU

    And there are two signs. Two. There are a couple more than two at the March in March. You can see them here http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/barbarians_march_in_march/

  75. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    "and one of the offensive signs was hoisted behind him " …. geddit … 1 (one).

    Where have I attributed the article, that you posted, to you .

    If you can't read then its a waste of time debating you.

    Moron's stick together and you are stuck hard and fast to Abbott.

  76. Greg O

    My apologies, it appeared when you said I was dead keen on accuracy that you were referencing something I had written. But I don’t get how PVO’s article reflects on my level of accuracy? However, I can read, and I can also spell properly. 🙂

  77. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    I apologise.

    Thanks for explaining that you are unable to comprehend.

    Once again, I apologise, I certainly never intentionally set out to denigrate someone with a disability.

    Might I just add that I think you are doing marvellous with your limited comprehension.

  78. Greg O

    That would be marvelously.

  79. john921fraser

    <

    @Greg O

    I … am … very … proud … of … you.

  80. Kaye Lee

    Why do we…..all talk with….gaps after…a few words now. It’s driving me…..bonkers. Listening to Tony….to Tony…to Tony…is enough to….make me want to…..enter politics…just so….I can say a…sentence….a sentence…a sentence….without a pause…or repetition….repetition…repetition madam speaker.

  81. Ian

    I watched from a short distance the right wing rally in Canberra with the infamous signs. It was a very small rally so there weren’t a lot of signs. I did not see a sign that was not sexist or personally abusive. And unlike MiM two prominent opposition members (Abbott and Bishop) happily stood in front of two of the signs (although these were put up behind them just before they started speaking – but they did not react or object). I have been told these sort of offensive signs were encouraged by the organiser – but I have no idea if that is the case.

    I attended the Sydney March in March. It was many times the size of the tiny rally in Canberra despite the relatively heavy rain before its due starting time. I wandered around reading the banners because they were amusing and their scope was so wide. There was a low percentage of what would be considered signs that constituted personal attacks. In this case the organisers had requested no abusive signs and to focus on the issues rather than the prime minister. No opposition members addressed (or attended?) the rally.

    The differences between the two rallies are huge – and the ‘left is just as bad as the right’ narrative that our far right wing commentators have predicatably produced just doesn’t hold up to any reasonable scrutiny.

  82. billy moir

    good one greg, nit picking to deflect criticism is a legitimate past time in the rabbott’s Australia. He embodies the amorality of belief-based politics. He typifies the nastiness of a desperate need to win. He exemplifies the fear of challenge to him or his religion. He specializes in avoiding contrary evidence. Little billy is hoping that he can do no real harm and that the electorate will forget labor’s flirt with women, recognise the character flaws of the rabbott

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