“Here’s the thing about rights. They’re not supposed to be voted on… That’s why they call them RIGHTS!”
Recently a woman has been charged because she suggested on social media that we should “burn down all mosques”. She’s arguing that she can’t be charged under the religious vilification laws because she doesn’t accept that Islam is a religion.
Which is an interesting defence. “I’m not guilty of murder, your honour, because I don’t accept that anyone who supports Tony Abbott is human, so when I bludgeoned my brother to death over Christmas lunch, it was merely cruelty to animals, for which I”ll happily plead guilty!”
Apparently various people commented that this was another example of “pandering to Muslims”. I wonder if the same people would think that an Islamic speaker suggesting that we should burn synagogues or churches should be charged, or would that be pandering to Jews or Christians?
But it’s easy to see how confused simple folk can become when our politicians seem so at odds with each other – sometimes even within the same party. At the start of the month, Liberal MP, Andrew Nikolic informed us that the debate about civil rights was now redundant. Speaking in a parliamentary debate he went on to say, “This usually comes down to those who say they are merely defending human rights in objecting to counter-terrorism measures. But in doing so they are making life even more difficult for those charged with the responsibility of actually protecting these same rights for all Australians while at the same time keeping us safe.”
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Liberals gained a new taste for civil rights just a few days later. You see, some felt that when the head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, called some MPs to suggest that their inflammatory rhetoric on Islam wasn’t helping, it was an attack of free speech.
Apparenlty, the head of ASIO doesn’t have the same right to free speech even if it’s done via a private phone call. He’s not there to get into politics. He’s just there to do his job. And that certainly doesn’t involve pointing out to Liberal politicians that they’re actually making his job harder.
One could point out that it was only a suggestion, and there was no suggestion of punishment if they failed to comply, but that’s the thing with the Right: Any suggestion that perhaps they shouldn’t say what they’ve said is infringement on their right to free speech. It doesn’t matter it the reason is that it’s actually helping terrorists, or – as in the Andrew Bolt case – what they were saying was wildly inaccurate, any suggestion that they should perhaps think before speaking is a violation of their right to free speech.
It doesn’t help to point out to them that as Australia doesn’t have a Bill of Rights, they don’t actually have any right to free speech, because then the argument will shift from the idiocy of what they’re saying to their insistence that we don’t need a Bill of Rights because we all know what our rights are and this is Australia, so nobody’s going to take them away from us.
Taking them away from other people, however, is quite ok. Like “illegal immigrants” who have forfeited their rights by coming here in the first place. In their case, the penalty for “illegal immigration” is incarceration for a period of time longer than any penalty they’d actually receive for entering the country illegally until they face trial for “illegal immigration” which we can’t try them for because they’d use the defence that they’re seeking asylum which isn’t a crime and we’d have to respect their human rights.
And as for Gillian Triggs having the right to freedom of speech, well, she’s on that Human Rights thingy, so she shouldn’t be partisan at all. I mean, if she’s going to criticise us then she should criticise everyone. You can’t have someone criticising one side of poltics and not the other. Never mind that she was critical of Labor too. It was the timing of her report that meant she’d forfeited her right to speak. She should have released her report before it was finished while Labor was still in power.
Or take the ABC, it should be editorially independent and not just a mouthpiece for the government. However, that doesn’t mean it has the right to be more critical of the government than the rest of the mainstream media – who, by the way, have a right to be biased so don’t complain if they’re critical of Labor or The Greens. The ABC have no right to be biased and, should therefore, simply reflect what all the other biased media are saying.
Yep, it seems to the Right that “rights” are something they automatically have, and everyone else has to earn by right behaviour. And by “right behaviour”, we mean “correct” behaviour. And by “correct” that means agreeing with the Right.
Perhaps the confusion is because the words are the same. Let’s face it, Tony Abbott never seemed that good with language and he was considered their spokesperson.
P.S. While Christmas is meant to be a slow news time, has anyone else noticed how many announcements on things like approvals to Adani and cuts to Medicare procedures are being announced in the past few days? Ah, the Turnbull government it just never rests. No wonder it thinks that penalty rates are for wimps…