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Tag Archives: Racial Discrimination Act

Abbott’s Warm Fuzzy Melting Pot

Breaking news! “In light of the complex and challenging security environment facing Australia” Abbott has made another captain’s call; the amendments to section 18c of the racial vilification act are now officially “off the table”.

Apparently while it was perfectly OK for shock jocks to indiscriminately hurl racial abuse a few months back, what we NEED now, as a nation, is to set aside what divides us so we can all come together in a big warm fuzzy hug of national unity.

That is, of course, except for when we come together in collective condemnation of anyone who has been to “a designated conflict zone”.

Under new legislation on the Coalition drawing board, any “Aussie” so stupid as to go to “a designated conflict zone” without having the forethought to film their entire visit, (as proof they are not a terrorist), could be jailed without proof, refused re-entry, expelled from the country, or simply have their their citizenship revoked, all without any proof whatsoever they did anything wrong.

While I can’t pretend I am not pleased that the racial vilification act has survived Abbott’s ill thought out onslaught, I must confess to being somewhat skeptical as to the motivations for his back down.

I am quite sure someone within the LNP has pointed out that, given his abysmal standing in the polls, it might be better to pick his battles. With his reforms to 18c almost universally condemned (and looking set to face defeat), and with the budget stench still clouding the air, maybe it might be prudent to throw us a bit of a feel good bone, particularly when a much more Machiavellian ambition – to establish a legal precedent for the removing the burden of proof – could be at play.

art-George_Brandis_Senate-620x349

Photo: George Brandis Sydney Morning Herald

But then again maybe I am over thinking this, maybe it is just because, as Guy Rundle wrote this week in the Saturday Paper, “if George Brandis gets rolled on 18C, he will have no honourable choice but to resign as attorney-general”, and Abbott doesn’t want to lose a high profile scalp right now.

 

———

 

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.

 

Tony Abbott stuffs it up . . . again

tony-abbott-baby_pe

Compilation by the AIM Network

Fairfax’s Friday offering is from Chief Political Correspondent, Mark Kenny and comes accompanied by this impressive headline:

Tony Abbott’s pre-budget fortnight of blunders and stuff-ups

My first impression was, what only a fortnight?  Where has Mark Kenny been during the rest of Tony Abbott’s term in parliament?  Quote:

Friday is a red-letter day for the Abbott government.

It marks 100 days since any successful people-smuggling venture has made it to Australia.

But wait a moment, isn’t the article meant to be about “blunders and stuff-ups”, but suddenly and in the leading sentence Kenny introduces his article with today being “a red letter day” for Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott’s people-smuggling “venture” a success?  Does Mark Kenny not count the previous stuff-ups?  Is the last fortnight where there apparently have been no boat arrivals, this serves as the only marker on what counts as success or otherwise?  A strange way in which to talk about international incidents, people’s lives put in danger; as “a venture”.

  • The countries’ existing co-operation has been extended, with Australia giving Sri Lanka two patrol boats, so that asylum seekers might be intercepted before they leave Sri Lankan waters.  (The inconvenient truth that navy sailors have been arrested and charged with running the biggest people-smuggling ring in the country is being, publicly at least, downplayed.)
  • Tony Abbott and the Papua New Guinea government plan to shut down a human rights inquiry into human rights abuses in the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.
  • Cost of Abbott government’s orange lifeboats to tow back asylum seeker trebles to $7.5 million.
  • The Senate has voted to strike out the government’s latest attempt to place refugees on temporary visas.

The government has not been shy about its Operation Sovereign Borders milestone nor for that matter the 30 or 40 daily increments leading up to it.

Not shy?  Perhaps a better description is still pumping 3-word slogans out to the public, while denying any accuracy of information, thereby making an informed decision almost impossible.

  • The absence of public information on exactly what resources are being deployed makes estimating the exact financial cost difficult . . .
  • Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he will no longer hold a weekly press conference to update journalists about the Government’s border protection operations.
  • The (Senate) inquiry will look into Mr Morrison’s claim of “public interest immunity” from requests to tell the public what the navy is doing with asylum seeker boats on the high seas.  Senators will also examine the Abbott government’s turn back policy, the recent violations of Indonesian sovereignty and the government’s perceived lack of transparency.

It comes ironically enough, at the fag-end of the most mistake-laden fortnight for the government since the travel entitlements debacle marred its first weeks in office.

Therefore according to Mark Kenny, the debacle of this government’s asylum seeker policy which is costing the Australian public unknown millions of dollars for an impossible-to-ascertain result, is somehow “a success”.  No boat arrivals, but what’s the price Mr. Morrison and Mr. Abbott . . . care to enlighten us?

Back then Tony Abbott had been strangely absent, his minimalist approach erroneously designed to position him as the opposite of the news cycle-obsessed Rudd-Gillard outfits.

I find that extremely difficult to believe, and I would challenge Mark Kenny to compare how many times Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard fronted the cameras in lycra or budgie smugglers proudly holding aloft a dead fish.  Poor old Con the Fruiterer could barely leave the front door of his shop without media tart Tony Abbott trying to grab one of his melons.

What it actually conveyed was a government without a message and a prime minister without a firm hand on the wheel.

Perhaps it’s because Abbott doesn’t have a firm hand on the wheel . . .

  • Prime Minister Tony Abbott refers to her as ”the boss” and Peta Credlin is proving why, stamping her authority on the make up of the government.  Fairfax Media has learned Ms Credlin, who steered Mr Abbott’s path to The Lodge as his chief-of-staff, is deciding every government appointment from top ministerial aides right down to the electorate staff of new MPs.
  • Senator Ian Macdonald’s public accusation that Mr Abbott’s office, led by senior aide Peta Credlin, has instilled a culture of “obsessive centralised control” in the government has struck a chord among sections of the Coalition.
  • OK, hands up all those that voted for Peta Credlin?

Opinion polls reflected this vacuum and by the close of 2013, press gallery journalists were being backgrounded to the effect that things would change in 2014.

Another opinion is that the actions of this government since the election has lead the public to realise that they were fooled, tricked, deceived, conned and duped by the mainstream media in the lead up to the election via their complete and utter failure to report on, much less analyse the implications of the ideas which Tony Abbott took to the election.  If anyone in the msm cares to peruse the list by Sally McManus, her excellent research provides a summary (with links).  Ms McManus is currently up to #123 of broken promises, lies and deceptions.

Abbott’s performance since has been more positive and the government had looked to be settling in.

See above for broken promises, lies and deceptions.  Mark Kenny blames the Abbott government’s unpopularity on Tony Abbott’s “minimalistic approach” which is now “more positive” and “settling in”.  Kenny might care to take a small glance at what precisely the Abbott government has been doing, and among the many are:

Cuts welfare payments to orphans of soldiers – Cuts hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO –  Reopens 457 visa loophole to allow employers to hire an unlimited number of workers without scrutiny –Pays hundreds of indigenous workers in his Department up to $19 000 less than non-indigenous workers doing the same job and cuts the budget for the representative body the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples causing two-thirds of the staff to lose their jobs – Scraps food grants program for small farmers – Unemployment rate jumps to highest in more than 10 years – Cuts the wages of Australian troops deployed overseas by almost $20 000 per solider – Withdraws funding for an early intervention program to help vulnerable young people –Starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system . . .

But the sitting fortnight just concluded, the last before the May budget session, has been anything but impressive, starting out badly and getting steadily worse.

And deservedly so . . .

And with each day, the prime minister’s normally confident body language in parliament has chronicled that slide.

That would be a noticed and much commented upon pattern of behaviour, and has in the past been the precedent to “doing a runner”.  This pattern will obviously be difficult for Abbott to maintain now that he’s PM, therefore it is expected that he will “go to ground” following mistakes, errors, blunders and confusing plus contradictory statements made by himself.

Mark Kenny then goes on at some length about the Sinodinos issue.

First came the storm over the past business dealings of his assistant treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos.

. . . but it wasn’t Abbott’s doing. He continued to enthusiastically spruik the imminent return of Sinodinos to the ministry.

In any event, the voluntary suspension has failed to defuse the issue amid new testimony at ICAC that Sinodinos was expressly warned of governance problems including the possible insolvency of AWH, when he was chairman in 2010.

This has become a running sore for Abbott. Colleagues worry that Abbott’s support will make it harder to cut the minister loose if needed, but it might actually make it easier, allowing the Prime Minister to explain the dismissal as anything but a personal preference.

Clever politics eh from the PM. . . wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

On top of these problems came Attorney-General George Brandis’ ham-fisted sales job for his changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. His legally correct yet politically insane observation, that people have a right to be bigots, was an horrendous own-goal.

Under the proposed legislation, “intimidate” is defined as meaning to “cause fear of physical harm” and “vilify” is to “incite hatred”.”This is an extremely narrowly defined protection, an extremely narrowly defined prohibition of racist speech,” Mr Dreyfus said.

He has also pointed to a clause in the Government amendments that appears to allow vilification or intimidation if it is “in the course of participating in the public discussion”.

“One could drive a truck through that provision,” Mr Dreyfus said.

I agree with Mark Kenny, yes Brandis’ draft legislation was “legally correct” but with the proviso that it was deemed unworkable (A third minister present at the meeting said the original bill had been ”terrible”); a very poor and amateurish effort from Australia’s Attorney-General.

Simon Rice, professor of law at Australian National University, said that Mr Tobin’s comments (concerning holocaust denial and ordered to be taken from Tobin’s website in 2008) would not be banned in Australia if his situation were to be tested by the government’s new exposure draft.

Then came the Prime Minister’s stunning return to old empire via the restoration of knights and dames in the Australian awards system.

While Abbott’s decision might easily be categorised alongside that which are known in the venacular as Abbott Brain-f*rts, and as per other ill-considered offerings from Tony Abbott have given journalists and the Australian public much cause for mirth . . . and puns, it does also represent as Bill Shorten expressed it, an example of Abbott’s “cruel and twisted priorities…awarding knighthoods but cutting the wages of cleaners”.

One Liberal observed that not even John Howard had wanted to turn the clock that far back and right on cue, Howard himself confirmed it, telling Fairfax Media, that even conservatives would view the move as ‘‘somewhat anachronistic”.

Howard used to rail against Labor’s tendency to govern for section interests.

Well that’s a surprise given Howard’s introduction of WorkChoices, and who can forget that which came to be known as “Howard’s Hand-outs”.  Yes John Howard used to rail against Labor’s “tendency”, but wasn’t that slightly hypocritical?  From 2004:

  • The money is a clear attempt to placate what are currently some of the more vocal sectional interests in the community.  On Sunday, we also saw the Government pledge another bag of money to Catholic schools.
  • Just months before the election, the Government’s populism had eaten up the expected budget surplus, leaving the Beazley opposition in a corner with either no money to spend or having to cut government programs to find money for their own agenda.
  • Howard’s extraordinarily blatant targeted hand-outs to particular groups to shore up votes is a further indication of how far he is prepared to go in appealing to self-interest rather than national interest.

Mark Kenny however, is spot on with his conclusion:

But this week, it was the Abbott government which turned its back on mainstream opinion to pander to a couple of mouthy conservative commentators wanting to legalise hate speech, a cloister of protected banks wanting to reintroduce skimming, and a tiny cluster of 19th century monarchists.

Little wonder the Prime Minister has been ashen-faced in parliament this week.

 

Shining a light on dark places

image

 

The attempt to sell the repeal of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has led to a new page in the “phrases to repeat” Coalition script. Everyone from Tony Abbott and George Brandis to Tim Wilson is saying that it is the responsibility of the community to “shine a light on dark places”.

I realise they are referring to bigotry and racism but I think it is a laudable sentiment which should be embraced and extended.

I would like a light shone on Manus Island and Nauru and “on-water operations”. I would like to see a cost benefit analysis of our offshore detention policy. I would like to see a total bill for Operation Sovereign Borders and the incarceration of innocent people.

Add up how much we are spending on orange life rafts and unmanned drones and having a naval fleet patrolling. Add up how much we are spending on flights for politicians, aid workers, guards, journalists, asylum seekers etc to fly backwards and forwards to Indonesia, PNG, Nauru, Christmas Island, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and everywhere else we are trying to make complicit in this inhumanity. Add up how much it is costing us to keep 30,000 people locked up in limbo.

Next, this government is carrying out a concerted campaign to discredit unions using the Craig Thomson case to justify spending hundreds of millions on a Royal Commission and the re-establishment of the ABCC. I find this hard to understand as Mr Thomson is going to gaol – doesn’t this show that we already have a system of oversight by which corrupt officials can be prosecuted? Aren’t the police and ICAC better suited to deal with bribery, corruption and intimidation?

The $24,000 that Mr Thomson misappropriated pales into insignificance compared to the amount of money that politicians have been forced to repay for fraudulent expense claims that are brushed off as “mistakes” if someone questions them. I would like a light shone on parliamentarians’ entitlements and for the Finance department to exercise better governance.

I would like to shine a light on who is actually running our government. Every time Tony Abbott meets with world leaders Peta Credlin is sitting at the table. I know she runs his office but surely there are some diplomats, economists. cultural, trade or defence experts that deserve a spot in front of her.

I want to know why Cardinal Pell and Maurice Newman feel empowered to advise the government on climate change. I want to know why Mark Textor feels empowered to wade into foreign affairs on Twitter. I want to know who are the puppet masters. (see Andrew Robb video).

Speaking of puppet masters, I want to shine a light on political donations, and on paid political advertising which is banned in the UK.

Coincidentally, in a recent freedom of speech ruling in the European Court, the UK government successfully argued that the ban on paid political advertising was necessary to achieve the “legitimate aim of avoiding the distortion of debate on matters of public interest by unequal access to influential media by financially powerful bodies.”

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of nine to eight, that the long-standing ban on paid political advertising on television and radio in the United Kingdom does not contravene the right to freedom of expression in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Wealthy corporations, organisations and individuals have unusual access to, and influence over, the parties and politicians to whom they donate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are donated and then spent on advertising. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of money, it makes our political parties beholden. They are focused on chasing sponsorship so they must appease those with the means to bankroll them. People back winners so they must concentrate on being popular rather than governing.

The media must have a good relationship with a politician to gain access and to be fed the leaks. The politician must have a good relationship with the media because they choose what the next headline will say and which stories will be reported. This symbiotic arrangement has degenerated so far that politicians and journalists are amongst the least respected professions in the country.  The following arrangement doesn’t add to the public’s trust.

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media companies to limit criticism of any decision to opt for bigger planes

According to senior government sources the new plan would involve aircraft such as the Airbus A-330 or Boeing 777 that can fly hundreds of passengers over long distances with fewer stops. The Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 each cost about $250 million and both can carry in excess of 200 passengers in VIP configuration.”

And why should the media not report on this? Because the current planes “are too small to carry a full complement of press gallery journalists and crews” so let me spend my hundreds of millions in peace and you get a free ride to come film me. The taxpayers are footing the bill for Tony’s tame journos to be flown around the world presumably for free.

I would like to shine a light on corporate lobbyists and the deals they make with politicians. After leaving Parliament, an inordinate number of ex-pollies secure plum jobs with corporations they dealt with in their portfolio.

After bugging the East Timorese cabinet rooms under the guise of building them as a foreign aid project when he was Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer became an adviser to Woodside Petroleum, the company that was negotiating to exploit the oilfields. Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister. Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

I would like to shine a light on the truth about debt and deficit. Between PEFO and MYEFO, under the Coalition government, the projected deficit for the year blew out by $17 billion. $10.2 billion of that was due to spending decisions made by the Coalition, notably an $8.8 billion gift to the RBA, an extra $1.2 billion for offshore processing, and tax breaks for those with super balances over $2 million.

Quoting from the Coalition “phrases to repeat” sheet, you will hear every one of them say Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. Well to quote Joe Hockey’s own MYEFO document which he produced in mid-December:

“Net debt is forecast to be $191.5 billion in 2013-14 and reach $280 billion in 2016-17.”

The figure of $667 billion comes from Hockey’s MYEFO estimation of the possible gross debt in ten years’ time. Surely between now and 2024 he will be able to come up with a solution or will we still be hearing about Labor’s debt?

Where we need a glaring spotlight is on the free trade agreements that we are rushing headlong into. With Peter Dutton insisting that our health system is unsustainable why on earth would you enter into agreements that will unquestionably send our PBS into a death spiral? Allowing the evergreening of patents and other measures to benefit the pharmaceutical companies (who just so happen to be generous sponsors of the pollie pedal) will potentially spell the end of generic medicines with a huge increase in the price we pay for our drugs.

I could go on but all this light shining is burning me out. We need all of you to be torch bearers for our country. Do as Tim Wilson urges us to do – shine a light on the dark places where this government is trying to lead us.

Bigotry, mockery and humiliation

Image from 3aw.com.au

Image from 3aw.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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