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Tag Archives: freedom of speech

No! I don’t defend your right to say it

When your words make her put her wrist to the razor

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When you words make people spit and stare at her

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make a mother shed endless tears

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make them feel they don’t belong here

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words inflict pain and distress on beautiful faces

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words mean we need the safest of spaces

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make others stigmatise and shun

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words incite thoughts of killing and guns

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make a young man die alone by a tree

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make a father grieve ’til he’s empty

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make their day as dark as the night

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make suicide a national plight

I don’t defend your fight to say it!

When your words are divisive so hateful they kill

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make someone’s best friend overdose on pills

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make no one sit near him on the bus

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make it all about them and us

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words make another feel less than whole

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your words eat away slowly at a beautiful soul

I don’t defend your right to say it!

When your excuse for this harm is speech and freedom

To self-absolve from the hurt that you have caused

I say your words are sick and I condemn them

To honour the beautiful lives forever paused.

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

The real stitch-up

Tony Abbott has been sneeringly yelling at anyone who will listen, if there are any of those left, that the government has no confidence in Gillian Triggs because the timing of her report shows it is a “stitch up” designed to make him look bad, like he isn’t capable of doing that on his own.

I would like to point out that Ms Triggs told Senate estimates hearings in early 2013 of the HRC’s concern about children in detention and their ongoing investigation.  She was slapped down by George Brandis who wasn’t interested.

In February 2013, some seven months after Ms Triggs had assumed her role at the Human Rights Commission, and seven months before the election, Senator Brandis grilled her unmercilessly about why the HRC was not spending more of their budget on defending free speech.

When she pointed out that the HRC receive about 17,500 inquiries a year of which approximately three concern political opinion “so it is a very tiny part, in answer to your question, of the complaints function of the commission”, Brandis refused to accept her explanation.

Senator BRANDIS: That may very well be so, Professor Triggs, but why has it taken people other than the Human Rights Commission to elevate this debate? Why has it taken people like my friends at the Institute of Public Affairs, some of my colleagues in the coalition, columnists, editorial writers and writers of letters to the editors of the newspapers to get a debate up and going in Australia about limitations on freedom, when we have an agency, your agency, whose explicit statutory charter is to promote and advance those rights?

Prof. Triggs : I wonder if I could take another point here. I accept your question. I think it is a valuable one, as I have said. But let us look at another element of this—that is, a great deal of my time as president and that of many members of our human rights law and policy group has been responding to our profound concerns about the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. I understand that at the moment we have many thousands—and I do not know the exact number, but let us say 6,000 people—in mandatory detention in Australia, including children. Many have been there for years. Babies have been born within that environment. They have been charged with no offence, and they have not yet had their claims to refugee status assessed. That is an area that I think is of fundamental importance to human rights.

Senator BRANDIS: Well, it is.

Prof. Triggs : It concerns arbitrary detention without trial. If I may say so, I went to an interesting lecture by the foreign minister the other day to celebrate the Magna Carta, quoting the fundamental principles of the Magna Carta that no man—or presumably woman—can be charged or held without a trial of their peers. It seems extraordinary—

Senator BRANDIS: I do not think the barons at Runnymede had friends like Mr Eddie Obeid and Mr Ian Macdonald, unlike our foreign minister, who speaks with eloquence about the Magna Carta, at least.

Brandis mentions several times his “friends at the IPA”

“Whereas your commission is a dedicated and committed advocate of antidiscrimination principles, I do not see the commission being a dedicated and committed advocate of freedom principles. You have think tanks, like in the Institute of Public Affairs, which has something called a ‘freedom project’. I do not see a freedom project in the Human Rights Commission.”

Senator Brandis finishes with what was no doubt his aim all along.

Senator BRANDIS: My last question. Your commission does seem to have a superabundance of discrimination commissioners in various areas. Should the Human Rights Commission have a freedom commissioner whose particular brief is to promote the kind of balance of which you speak so that within the commission there is a person whose particular job is to promote freedom, just as, within the commission at the moment, there are, I think, five commissioners whose particular job is to promote antidiscrimination?  Would that not be a desirable balance—one freedom person versus five anti-discrimination people?

Come on down Timmy!

A couple of months later, in April 2013, Brandis attended the IPA 70th birthday bash.  He obviously enjoyed himself because he has been rewarding them ever since.

As soon as he assumed office, Brandis gifted to Tim Wilson a $400,000 a year job as a Human Rights Commissioner despite his “woefully inadequate” qualifications.  It seems apparent that Wilson was appointed to destroy from within and, if worst comes to worst and he can’t abolish the HRC as he wants, then Tim will probably be offered the top job after the “anonymous” leaks about Triggs wanting to get out.

After the predictable backlash to this obvious act of cronyism, George wrote an article in the Australian condemning those who criticized his choice.

“But some things never change, like the reaction of the claque of bilious pseudo-intellectuals who constitute what passes for a left-wing commentariat in this country. Mike Carlton, Catherine Deveney, Van Badham and their ilk were nothing if not boorishly predictable.  They and their followers unleashed a storm of hatred and bile against Wilson on social media, the like of which I have never seen.”

Or perhaps they just thought that sacking the Disability Commissioner to employ your unqualified inexperienced ideologically opposed little friend was a step too far?  And is that any way for the highest legal officer in the land to speak?

This was all the more hypocritical considering  Brandis, in opposition, had previously taken to the Australian to excoriate the appointment by Mark Dreyfus of Labor staffer-turned-intellectual Tim Soutphommasane as Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, a role for which he was eminently qualified, labelling him as “yet another partisan of the Left”.

Dr Soutphommasane graduated from the University of Sydney with a first-class honours degree. He was then a Commonwealth Scholar and Jowett Senior Scholar at Balliol College of the University of Oxford where he completed a Master of Philosophy with distinction and a Doctor of Philosophy in political theory.

From 2010 to 2012 he was a Lecturer in Australian Studies and a Research Fellow at the National Centre for Australian Studies of Monash University.

Soutphommasane is the author of three books: The Virtuous Citizen: Patriotism in a Multicultural Society (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Don’t Go Back To Where You Came From: Why Multiculturalism Works (New South Books, 2012) which in 2013 won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award in the ‘Community Relations Commission Award’ section, and Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-Building for Australian Progressives (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

By contrast, Wilson has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Diplomacy and Trade from Monash University.  He worked at the Institute of Public Affairs for seven years.  He was a vocal critic of the Human Rights Commission and during his time there the IPA called for the abolition of the commission.

After his “surprise”appointment, Wilson wrote that:

“Attorney-General George Brandis has asked me, as Australia’s next human rights commissioner, to focus on traditional liberal democratic and common law rights, particularly article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

All rights should be defended, but the human right most being neglected is free speech. Arguably freedom of speech is the most important human right. It is the human right necessary to protect and defend all other human rights.

Article 19 of the covenant states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Article 19 ought to be the human rights community’s starting point. But at the moment it seems more like a footnote.

Increasingly free speech has been pushed aside in favour of laws and regulations designed to stop people being offensive to each other, a steadily expanding corpus of anti-discrimination and defamation law, and the growing momentum towards restrictions on speech online.”

Whilst the Attorney General may appoint people to the HRC, I am not sure he has the power to direct them then what to say and do, and I am wondering how Tim feels about George’s recent announcement of devoting $17 million to monitor social media to take down terrorist propaganda

When the two Tims attended Senate estimates hearings in May 2014 to discuss proposed changes to Section 18C of the racial discrimination act, George Brandis objected to Tim Soutphommasane giving his opinion even though he is the Racial Discrimination Commissioner.  Ian Macdonald, coincidentally, was also chairing this meeting as he was with the recent meeting with Gillian Triggs and he upheld Senator Brandis’ objection saying his opinion had no place in the discussion. (see video here)

But later in the hearing, Tim Wilson was allowed to re-state, at length, his clear support for changing the Act.

After the hearing, Senator Singh said Dr Soutphommasane ”was gagged, in complete contradiction to Tim Wilson who was able to share his views on the RDA.  Senator Brandis initially stopped me from asking the question and accused me of being dishonest in asking for Dr Soutphommasane’s views.  This is a man who stands for freedom of speech yet won’t allow a witness at the table to speak.”

This absolute championing of freedom of speech seems very much at odds with Tony Abbott’s stand against Hizb ut-Tahrir, taken after Alan Jones urged him to “proscribe the movement”.

“We are changing the law that will make it easier to ban organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir. But before that even we should have a system in place which red cards these hate preachers and stops them coming to Australia.”

The response from our “Freedom Commissioner” was totally devoid of any legal facts, or gumption for that matter, as reported by Michelle Grattan in October:

“Wilson fears florid talk about “hate speech” can “justify censorship all over the place”. He is considering putting in a personal submission to the current parliamentary inquiry into the legislation, urging a tighter definition of the advocacy of terrorism. Wilson says it is unclear where the line would be between the advocacy of terrorism and for example attacking the coalition’s air strikes in the Middle East.”

Apparently, he either didn’t get around to his “personal submission” or it was ignored.

Abbott is right…this has been a stitch-up – one that began well before George Brandis was in a position to reward his “friends at the IPA” and, with the help of Senator Macdonald, take his revenge on that pesky woman.

Will Brandis Shirt-Front Morrison? Can Morrison please be the Demtel Man?

Originally published on Polyfeministix

We often ask eachdemtel brandis other “If you had a superpower what would it be?”  Scott Morrison’s superpower was revealed yesterday. He gets to throw people out of the country.  This person was not an Asylum Seeker with brown skin, but a wealthy, white, “female attraction expert” or (Misogynicus Piggius). After a very active social media campaign, Scott Morrison cancelled the visa of Julien Blanc. Scott Morrison kicked Julien  Blanc out of the country.

 

This ‘event’ has raised two questions for me. 

If Morrison has this superpower – can he please be the Demtel Man? 

Will George Brandis now Shirt-Front Morrison?

I think to put my mind into perspective for others I shall need to explain.  Julien Blanc did nothing criminal during his visit, but what he advocates is very harmful to women and if implemented by his male followers would see the physical and sexual harrassment of women in society, escalate.  In a nutshell what he advocates is offensive and wrong.

Morrison booted him out the country as Morrison did not agree with Julien Blanc’s freedom of speech nor his freedom of expression.

Although, many advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This is a very good contemporary example of how freedom of speech and freedom of expression can be harmful to certain groups of people in society.  

Freedom of speech was vigorously defended by the LNP who advocated very strongly to Repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Particularly because as Abbott demonstrates quite clearly here that There is a great Australian silence – this time about the western canon.” (ie white people)

Tony Abbotts IPA speech

 

Fortunately, for whatever reason Morrison decided to cancel Blanc’s visa it was done without Morrison raising the emphasis on freedom of speech that the LNP hold so dear to their heart.  In this instance, Morrison (hopefully) understood the harm that Blanc does to the image of and treatment of women wherever Blanc and his sad posse unfortunately land.  (Maybe LNP can now join the dots to freedom of speech and how it can cause harm to others.)

Will Brandis, who so vigorously defended Freedom of Speech on QandA recently and who infamously stated “People have the right to be bigots” do anything about this?  Will he actually Shirt-Front Morrison over his lack of cling-to-ridiculous-ideology-even-if-it-hurts-vulnerable-people-and-disrespects-our-first-people mantra?  How will Brandis now defend the pathetic and harmful stance that they should repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act after what Morrison has done this week?  

What will Brandis’ excuse be for Morrison, to defend him as part of the LNP? Does this mean that the LNP are now soft on Freedom of Speech? (If you are a Liberal voter and this worries you or you are anxious, pull out your wallet, open it up and breathe in….and out….and in….and out, now….relax. If you don’t have enough money in your wallet for this breathing & relaxation exercise to work, you should not be voting Liberal, you Dummkopf!)

The Demtel Man

Now onto why I want Scott Morrison to be the Demtel Man.  Morrison has the power to kick people out of the country.  This week he kicked out a vile person and ignored this person’s right to freedom of speech. Sanity and humanity finally prevailed.  If only Morrison could be the Demtel man and yell:

“But wait….there’s more!”

Please boot out (because freedom of speech & freedom of expression no longer matter and I find these ‘freedom of speech & freedom of expression’ listed below just as offensive as Julien Blanc’s harmful opinion of women!)

Cory Bernardi, Liberal Senator – For using his freedom of speech to express that it was ok to put women in a headlock and that marriage equality will lead to polygamy and bestiality
(But wait there’s more)

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia  – For using his freedom of speech to say offensive things about women, defense personnel, our Indigenous people and LGBTI to name a few (offensive statements are far too extensive to include here). (But wait there’s more)

Joe Hockey, Federal Treasurer  – For using his freedom of speech to express his distaste and immense dislike for middle income and disadvantaged Australians by forcing his unfair, sick budget onto us  (But wait there’s more)

Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister – For using her freedom of speech to imply that Julia Gillard was a criminal and gained personally from a Union slush fund 20 years ago (Apology NOW Ms. Bishop!) (But wait there’s more)

Bronwyn Bishop, Speaker of the House – For using her freedom of expression to act upon partisan smirks and nods at Christopher Pyne, For using her freedom of speech to restrict freedom of expression for Islamic women and for using her freedom of speech and freedom of expression to express her hatred of Labor, which is acted out under section 94a umpteen times in the last year. (I also thinks she picks on the Member for Gellibrand more than anyone else – or is that just me?) (But wait there’s more)

Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education – For using his freedom of speech to express his of hatred against anyone who desires a higher education (I often imagine Sturt to be this scary place like hell, where the constituents have been sent to earth to torture us. Sturt people – please stop!) (But wait there’s more)

Kevin Andrews – For using his freedom of speech to express his willingness to harm jobless Australians by forcing them to have no income for six months. For expressing his view that all people on unemployment are on drugs, suggesting they be drug tested. For expressing his view that de-facto couples are not as happy as married couples, and his over-riding mantra that the unemployed are ‘bludgers who need to be motivated. (But wait there’s more)

Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance – For using his freedom of speech to express that being a girly-man is a bad thing, an insult. Gender is not binary Cormann! For using his freedom of expression by infamously smoking a cigar celebrating turfing the poor into the gutter with the LNP’s unfair, sick budget. (But wait there’s more)

George Brandis, Attorney General – For using his freedom of speech to express that people have a right to be Bigots. (But wait there’s more)

Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications – For using his freedom of speech to express it is ok for rural and regional people to not have decent, reliable, fast internet (Do you think he may be Amish or he has a fascination with the 1930’s?) (But wait there’s more)

Barnarby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture – For thinking it was ok to change his freedom of speech to include things he actually did not say, when he changed Hansard  (Maybe Kevin Andrews could enlighten Barnaby that Hansard is for better or for worse, ’til death do us part!) (But wait there’s more).

Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs – For using his freedom of speech to express that money is more important than indigenous women being able to access safe, respectful, supportive National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service. (But wait there’s more)

Greg Hunt – Minister for the Environment – For using his freedom of speech to express that he absolutely detests the environment, in everything he does and says (But wait there’s more)

Peter Dutton – Minister for Health, For using his freedom of speech to express that it is OK for the disadvantaged, poor, sick and needy to go without medical treatment because they can’t afford it and that is is OK that cancer may not be detected in many, due to the exorbitant costs through his proposed changes to medicare. (But wait there’s more)

Campbell Newman – Premier of Queensland, For using his freedom of speech to tell lie after lie after lie and using his freedom of expression to pose as a concerned Premier in advertisements instead of a politician spending public money on advertising in an early campaign. (But wait there’s more)

Liberal Voters – For using their freedom of expression to vote for the most incompetent, harmful, hurtful Government, we have had in the history of Australia. (But wait there’s more)

and last but not least – You, Mr. Morrison  – Boot yourself out of the Country, for your ongoing freedom of expression and freedom of speech implying that human beings seeking asylum are less than human beings and should be treated as such.

 

Abbott uses society’s vulnerable as means to an ideological end

Can anybody make any sense out of what this government doing? asks Jennifer Wilson.

It seems to me that it’s a core conservative tradition to use  the most vulnerable people in society as a means to an ideological end. There are endless current examples of this: threats to pensions, restricted access to Newstart for unemployed youth, destruction of universal healthcare, proposed reduction of the minimum wage and a cap on that wage for the next ten years, all part of the Commission of Audit’s recommendations to the Abbott government prior to its first budget in a couple of weeks.

None of these measures will affect anyone as disastrously as they will affect the poor, and while middle class journalists  on a good wage, some of whom are Abbott’s most vocal supporters,  scream like stuck pigs about the flagged “debt levy” on incomes over $80,000, nobody much is pointing out the ideologically-based, systematic crippling of the lives of those who struggle hardest to keep poverty from their doors.

Conservatives seem to hold the ideological position that poverty is a moral failing, for which the individual is solely accountable, and if that individual has been incapable of taking care of her or himself and his or her family, they’ve no one to blame but themselves. If they do sink into a morass of underprivileged misery then they ought to be able to find ways to redeem themselves. If they don’t manage this feat, they obviously only deserve what little they get, and the conservative will do his or her best to take even that away.

This unexamined belief that the less financially fortunate are immoral and a drain on the prudent is, it seems, impossible to eradicate from the consciousness of the privileged and entitled, who lack any ability to comprehend context, and the myriad forces at work in society that affect the course of a life. This, coupled with the conservatives’ traditional love of a good clichéd stereotype, works to reinforce their sense of entitlement, and their contempt for anyone less blessed than are they.

The conservative disregard, some may even allege contempt,  for those other than (lesser than) themselves, allows them to use rational agents as a means to an end, contradicting the Kantian position that to use others as a means, and not an end in themselves, is to flout the fundamental principle of morality.  Perhaps this is nowhere as starkly obvious as in the current and previous governments’ treatment of asylum seekers. Both major political parties have, for many years now, used boat arrivals as a means to achieve political success, and not as rational agents deserving of consideration as ends in themselves. In this sense, the ALP finds itself on the same side as conservative politicians, something that should chill the heart of any ALP supporter.

There is no point in decrying the lack of humanity and compassion in conservative ideology. Both qualities are regarded as belonging to the bleeding hearts of the left, hindrances to freedom, obstacles to profit. So we find ourselves in the bizarre position of having a Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, who recently claimed that McDonalds has “human rights to own property” and that “spending” is an expression of free speech.

It’s a dangerous situation when a Commissioner for Human Rights equates the ability to spend with the right to freedom of any kind, including speech.

It makes no sense to take any measures that prevent or discourage people from taking care of their health, such as co-payments for doctor visits for example. This will increase the pressure on accident and emergency departments, already stretched beyond their means, and result in people becoming chronically ill, at much greater expense to the taxpayer.

It makes no sense to continue to spend billions of dollars incarcerating a few thousand asylum seekers, for example, when there are many less expensive options  such as allowing refugees to live in, work, and contribute to the community.

It makes no sense to waste billions on a paid parental leave system when the money could be much better invested in increased child care for parents who want to work, but find it difficult to access adequate care for their offspring. Good child care is also an investment in our future: children can benefit enormously from early education and socialisation, a child care centre doesn’t simply “mind” them, it educates them.

However, none of the above is of any consequence to a political party driven by ideology. Humans are, to such a party, a means to an ideological end, not an end in themselves. Obviously, it is much easier to treat the less financially blessed as a means to an end, and if you already believe poverty and disadvantage to be  indicators of lack of morality and worth, why would you care anyway?

You may not agree with Kant’s categorical imperative, but there is something very dark about the Abbott government’s willingness to impose harsh circumstances on those already doing without in this wealthy country. It is easy, Mr Abbott, to make life more difficult for those without the power to protest. It is more of a challenge to work towards an equitable society based not on ideology, but common sense, and respect for everyone’s humanity.

Note: It’s with my tongue firmly in my cheek that I use this conservative image of Jesus.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

Image courtesy of politifake.org

Image courtesy of politifake.org

The Wheat and the Chessboard

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

As this government goes from bad to worse it appears that they have no vision. Sadly they do, suggests regular guest writer Sean Stinson. Their plan is simple: slash and burn. 

They certainly are out of control if that is their aim.

Sean urges that the momentum from the March in March needs to be not only maintained, but taken to a higher level.

So it looks like there is going to be a March in May. I’d have to say I’m a little apprehensive – or maybe just lacking in confidence. The March in March was an unprecedented display of people power, with over 100 000 of us taking to the streets across the country, and although largely ignored by mainstream media, it’s something our grassroots movement can be rightly proud of. Can we do it bigger and better in May?

The only shadow of doubt I have is that March was perhaps some kind of social anomaly, a novelty which may not bear repetition. Nonetheless I remain hopeful. I have hope because I know it takes a special commitment to participate in a public protest. I am no role model. Until March I hadn’t been to a protest since Iraq II. Back then it was to send a message to the government that we wanted no part in Bush’s unjust war. Twelve years on and we are protesting a whole range of issues. We want compassion and open borders. We want gender equality. We want protection for our oceans, forests and aquifers. We want jobs, education and healthcare. We want our government to direct its focus away from continued reliance on fossil fuels and to get behind a clean energy industry that has the potential create massive employment with minimal ecological impact. (Seriously, who hasn’t thought about this?). Some have criticised the March in March for having a lack of focus. I could not disagree more. Our message is loud and clear: The Abbott Government is not acting for the common good of the free and sovereign people of Australia.

Some have argued that this government never really had a plan beyond winning the election and punishing Labor. I think otherwise. We’ve seen six months of economic slash and burn. Their actions to date have been to talk down the economy to justify savage cuts in public spending, while talking up the ‘issues’ (carbon tax, mining tax, boats) to fuel public opinion. Driven by the blind ideology of market supremacy, they plan to sell off all our public assets, carve up our natural resources and sell them to the highest (foreign) bidder, while attacking wages and conditions at home to effectively create a new class of working poor. It is Thatcherism plain and simple, and we all know how that worked out.

Don’t be fooled. Operation Sovereign Borders is a fireworks display. Royal commissions and Knights and Dames are political noise. MYEFO was the official launch for another political lie. Apparently we now have a $667bn gross debt. (“Product image for illustration purposes only. Actual product may vary”). The actual figure is $123bn, which in a $1.5tr economy amounts to about approximately 8.2% of GDP – I wish my personal debt was as low. Abbott says he wants to raise defence spending to a whopping 2% of GDP, while Hockey tells us we can’t afford Medicare. Where is the sense in this?

You should be concerned. This government is out of control. Legalising hate-speech (repealing section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act), repealing the Future of Financial Advice laws, and dissolving the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission were not policies anyone voted for at the last election. Nor was signing off on preferential trade agreements giving foreign corporations the right to challenge our laws and sue our government for lost profits. We are starting to see responses from all sectors of the community and there is a foul mood in the air. This government has really managed to piss off a lot of people in just six months in office. It’s not news that the ‘haves’ in our society suddenly outnumber the ‘have nots’; it’s been that way for centuries. The news is that Abbott and his mates have gone too far in too short a time and people are waking up to them. The government stinks, and the peasants are revolting [sic].

Revolutions throughout history have been violent and bloody. Fortunately we don’t need a revolution, because we already live in a democracy. What we do need is to send a strong and clear message to the government and let them know just who is in charge. Governments have a mandate to govern for the good of the people, not to outsource responsibility to free markets, and certainly not to take away our liberties. We are already seeing our rights eroded at state level. Victoria and Queensland have both passed new laws threatening freedom of assembly and freedom of association. There is a wave of rightwing thuggery spreading like cancer though our whole political system, and we need to put an end to it now. We can’t afford to wait till the next election. At the rate we’re going in three years time there may be nothing left to save. To borrow a few words from a fellow flag waving leftie, we need another Protest in April, a May Moratorium, a campaign of Justice in June and July, Action in August, a Solidarity Walk in September, Opposition in October, Say No in November, and a Double Dissolution in December.

I am reminded of the mathematical problem of the wheat and the chessboard, and wonder if this simple formula could not also be applied to taking back our country? Imagine if everyone who marched in March brought someone else along in May, be it a friend, family member, work colleague or a stranger. Do you see where I’m going with this? We’ll take to the streets in regular protests calling for equality, sustainability and accountability. And if we are serious, by December we will be over a million strong, and then we will call for a dismissal. Maybe even a long overdue Bill of Rights.

 

Feel free to speak about whatever I want you to

Part A

In an address to the IPA titled “Freedom Wars”, Tony Abbott declared that it is his intention to repeal s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, claiming that this section of the Act impacts upon Freedom of Speech. This ideal of freedom of speech is that which we should all aspire to, however, as a friend once stated: You mean the freedom to be an asshole. We will explore this later.

The text of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) can be found via Austlii.

Section C18 of the Act, that being which Tony Abbott so vehemently opposes concerns offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. That’s correct, it’s offensive behaviour, with the specifics being:

For an act to be unlawful it must fulfill the following criteria:

  • that the action causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or that it is done in a public place.
  • that the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.
  • that 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.

So let us consider that which is not considered unlawful under s18C of the Act.

It is not a group of friends in a public bar talking amongst themselves, even if the subject matter would offend and humilitate a person standing directly next to them. For example, racist jokes.

It is not public discussions for the purpose of information, education or analysis.

There is also the matter of intention plus “the reasonable person test” that is, would a reasonable person given an identical set of circumstances feel humiliated or intimidated. With regard to intent; for example a remark said in public about a person’s religion might offend that person, however if there was lack of intent on the first person’s part to cause offence, then it is not racial vilification.

Therefore, what we are dealing with is people who want the right to make statements in the public forum, and with the intention of causing offence and humiliation. Enter Andrew Bolt.

Is it nothing more than a sheer coincidence that Abbott announced his intention of changing the racial vilification section of the Racial Discrimination Act just prior to Bolt writing this one. How dare they try to censor this flyer.

Andrew Bolt:

Sadly, the ACT Government seems only too keen on the idea:

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said laws prohibiting religious vilification should be considered by a review of the act that is being conducted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council.

How dare these people presume to strip others of the right to speak? How dare they?

And . . . again, where Bolt once again attempts to defend freedom:

I make no comment on their opinion but on the principle.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott rightly calls the laws under which two of my articles on this matter were declared unlawful an offence against free speech, and says he will strip them back. But the Left is furious, and introduces absurd excuses for their excesses:

As reported in news.com, Mr Abbott’s speech came after he wrote in The Australian that section 18C of the act was a “threat” to freedom of speech.

“Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive,” he wrote.

All well and good, but this is where it gets strange . . .

Part B

The parties that are advocating relaxation to the freedom of speech laws, nay, hysterically demanding it, are the ones who are in reality practicing the most rabid suppression of it. They want the freedom to be an asshole whilst limiting free speech on those who hold opposing views (to them). You’ll be able to racially vilify or abuse anyone whatsoever, but you will be silenced if any form of dissent, no matter how trivial, is directed towards them.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi provides us with a number of examples where he takes freedom of speech to mean exactly ‘freedom to be an asshole’. From his Facebook page:

His post “300 more illegal arrivals in the past three days. Labor’s border failures are costing us over $10 billion” attracted a large number of comments, mostly in support of what he said. Here are some of the responses:

I wonder how these lefties will feel when one of there family gets raped like the girl at Sydney uni by a so called legal asylum seeker. Then we have aids tripling in NT ,not to mention known terrorists being released into the community. I class left wing progressive socialists as much a threat to Australia as Islam.

Just what we need more Sudanese and samarlians they’ve settled well hear,NOT! There would have to be a very high likely hood they are connected to terrorist group alshabab,they would be the only ones with the money to get here.

Just think of all the radical muslim’s that are coming as well!

And his post “Here are some facts surrounding the convicted Egyptian jihadist living in the Adelaide Hills…and still this Government won’t admit their failure to protect our borders and our nation. For more of today’s bulletin go to CoryBernardi.com” also attracted comments of support.

Just think of all the radical muslim’s that are coming as well!

We will never know how many other terrorists, murderers or people of disrepute have come into our country because of this Gov, and it’s loss of control of our boarders. We will never know who could be walking amongst us, or what threats could be awaiting our country. This Gov, has put our country in a very vulnerable situation because it has not done it’s job of protecting our boarders !!!!!!!!!!

We should start denying entry to muslims. Make it happen Cory! Fight the good Christian fight!

One terrorist detected….thousands go undetected. Big salaries being paid for incompetence. Stop muslim migration in Australia whether it be legal or illegal. Don’t let history repeat itself.

As much as I disagree with Bernardi’s opinion, or those who support it, I have no problem with their right to express it (however some of it borders on an incitement to racial hatred and should not have been published). Now here’s where it gets funny; where the freedom to be an asshole takes precedent over freedom of speech. I left a simple comment on his page:

Could you please point out why they are illegal arrivals?

That comment was removed and I was subsequently blocked from commenting on his page again. Yes, they love freedom of speech, don’t they? They can vilify anybody who is non-white or non-Christian but but you can’t question their ‘right’ to do so.

There are a number of other examples across social media that confirm the hypocrisy of these right-wing fundamentalists. Let’s also look at Andrew Laming (a politician fond of composing racist tweets), courtesy of Michael White:

Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming went on a trolling warpath earlier this month in regards to his perception that the National Broadband Network (NBN) was being rolled out in the Brisbane area on a politico-geographic agenda.

“The cold, hard reality in Brisbane is that households in Labor seats are eight times more likely to get the NBN than those in Coalition seats.”

“Worse, the odds are around 50 per cent better if your Labor MP is a minister. This is a save-the-political-furniture strategy. They are not targeting marginal seats here. They are just trying to survive.”

Of course, there are many reasons why his position was completely wrong, as I highlighted in my article last week on how the Coalition – (deliberately or otherwise) – manage to get their facts on the NBN completely wrong.

Constantly.

At the time of his rant – (spread throughout the media over several days) – myself, @CameronWatt and @Gwyntaglaw engaged in a terse dialogue on Twitter with Laming, pointing out clear, well documented facts in regards to the NBN and its rollout schedule, that were contrary to Laming’s own beliefs on the matter.

He ably demonstrated his inability to grasp even the basic concepts of how the NBN works, how it connects together, and how technical matters – (in most cases) – dictate which parts of the network are rolled out first.

He clearly didn’t like being shown up as being wrong about it.

In fact, he hated it.

How much did he hate it? Well, he blocked me on Twitter, a fact I discovered when putting together the aforementioned article last week.

They really do get precious about freedom of speech when it’s not engaged under their rules. They raise their preciousness to the point of being ridiculous. Here is one that definitely ranks as ridiculous:

Andrew Nikolic, a Liberal Party candidate in Tasmania has threatened to contact the employers of Facebook users who “liked” a satirical article posted about him online.

Mr Nikolic informed the New Examiner last week that if the offending article was not taken down he would write to the employers of all the individuals who had “liked” the story.

“I hope the employers and influencers of your satirical group will be amused by the formal letters of complaint I will now send them on this issue,” wrote Mr Nikolic in a Facebook comment that has since been deleted.

Joe Hockey is another who denies free speech to those who have any semblence of opinions that differ from his own.

Yesterday I discovered that Joe Hockey had called me a troll and blocked me on twitter.  My dastardly crime that had caused Joe Hockey to call me a Labor Troll was the reposting of one of his own tweets.

I will say that again, my trollish crime was re-posting one of Joe Hockey’s own tweets.

Oh dear Joe Hockey, Oh deary dear. Is this what our politicians have come to? Reduced to name calling and public hissy fits because a member of the public questions their own words.

It was your own words I was responding to Joe, not Labors words, not a PR piece or a smear campaign designed to discredit you, but your own words, Joe Hockey.

Now go back and read Part A again. Do you see two parallel worlds?

If time permits, also do a Google search and you’ll find dozens of instances where Coalition politicians have blocked people for exercising their freedom of speech; for reasons none other than having a different opinion. It really is a case of freedom to be an asshole. You can vilify, say, Aborigines or Muslims in their brave new world, but you can’t ask them to justify it.

Their reaction to the few examples I’ve revealed in Part B certainly do make their intentions in Part A  nothing but Freedom of speech LNP style: Feel free to speak about whatever I want you to.

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Self-censorship the best way to go

Image from salon.com

Image from salon.com

Yesterday I decided to remove my story Media bias threatens democracy. The reason is quite simple: most of the comments below the story were also a threat to democracy.

Before you howl “censorship”, let’s look at what democracy consists of: 1) Freedom of speech. 2) The rule of law. 3) The presumption of innocence. There is more, of course.

I used censorship yesterday – no doubt about it. I will not apologise for it and I’d like to tell you why.

For two days after posting my story (ironically titled Media bias threatens democracy) I stewed over the irrelevant, legally dangerous and ultimately idiotic comments that were posted below. And not for the first time.

This happened in the same week that Migs, the site operator, posted a disclaimer warning that some form of censorship was now a possibility. Offences included:

3. Comments containing language or concepts that could be deemed offensive.
4. Comments that attack a person individually.
5. Comments posted with the clear intention of diverting or disrupting the topic.

In spite of the disclaimer, the bad habits that some posters have brought to this site continued. One dispute that rages on this fairly new site has a history going back two years, I believe.

At first I decided to remove (“Trash” is the WordPress term) those comments that were personal, inflammatory and off the topic anyway. I don’t believe that writers, journalists, citizen journos, the Fifth Estate, bloggers, whatever, go to the trouble of writing something they hope will be informative and interesting just so others can dump their crap on the end of it. I know I don’t.

Comments ought to be on topic, relevant, informative, helpful or correct misinformation if that’s necessary. I think that’s what readers expect. It’s not what we’re getting. I’m finding that the first three or four comments are relevant, then commenters begin wandering, get right off track, start arguing, become abusive and then downright insulting.

What we are seeing on this site is the sort of garbage that ultimately destroyed the freedom to comment on news stories appearing on Yahoo!7 and in other places.  Debates on internet freedom are often headlined Freedom of Speech! Our Democratic Rights Threatened and the like. When you think it through, what passes for internet freedom in some cases is little more than Fascism in disguise.

Some things that relate to 2) The Rule of Law are missing from Migs’ Disclaimer. He does not refer to “defamation”, “libel” or “sub judice”, but I will. The rule of sub judice (pronounced sub jood-i-kay and meaning the matter is undergoing trial, or is before the court) was seriously breached in a large number of the comments that appeared below my story. The comments were related to what I’ll call The Thomson Affair, and I don’t even know how that line of discussion got started.

The Thomson Affair is sub judice – it is before the court. The affair should not be discussed in public because such discussion could prejudice Mr Thomson’s legal rights, which include the right to the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. If you want to preserve your right to freedom of speech, please respect Mr Thomson’s right to a fair trial, at least.

Claiming that the matter has been discussed elsewhere, or claiming you were unaware of sub judice (ignorance of the law) WILL NOT get you off the hook.

Comments on the Thomson Affair had nothing to do with the story I wrote as an introduction to remarks that were made in Parliament by the former Speaker, Mr Peter Slipper.

Mr Slipper’s remarks (http://bit.ly/XVAJq5) concerned the threat to democracy (and possibly your freedom of speech) posed by the lack of diversity and the concentration of ownership of news media in Australia. I can’t recall many comments that addressed Mr Slipper’s concerns.

Mr Slipper has been the victim of news media bias and there hasn’t been much public discussion about what happened to him and how it was allowed to happen – precisely because of news media bias and lack of diversity. That was the whole point of my writing and posting the story and it turned out to be a waste of time.

I don’t know to what degree the average Australian citizen is aware of the extent of news media bias in this country at present. I don’t know to what extent they care about such things because the news media, including the ABC, is not telling us. All we are hearing is that the federal Labor government is terrible and the Opposition Leader, Mr Abbott, is wonderful and will fix everything.

So I censored you yesterday. Boo hoo. I hope it served as a wake-up call – that was the purpose (that, and protecting Mr Thomson’s legal rights). A bit of shock and awe to get some of you thinking. It might not change anything because if some of you were thinking you would not be doing what you’re doing.

With the newspaper industry on its knees, the NBN under threat, the ABC taken over by Conservative interests and in danger of being sold off, with Tony Abbott and his Catholic DLP/Tea Party agenda possibly gaining office in September, there is a very real threat to your freedom.

At the same time you now have at your fingertips the greatest tool for democratic freedom and protest since the invention of the pitchfork. Please treat your new Social Media with the respect it deserves. Otherwise, you might find it has been taken away from you.

To reinforce what I am saying I will apply the principle that the CIA refers to as “extreme prejudice”. Any comments appearing below will be “trashed”, regardless. You will then be able to experience censorship and the loss of freedom for real. I hope you gain enlightenment from the experience.

In future, I will continue to censor whatever appears below anything I write. That shouldn’t be a problem for you – just keep it relevant and polite.

PS: If you are interested in learning more about the legalities of publishing you will find it here, in The News Manual, a textbook for journalists:

http://www.thenewsmanual.net/Resources/medialaw_in_australia_03.html

 

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