Sunday, March 30, 2014

Attorney-General encourages bigots

George Brandis seems to be trying to outdo the appalling Philip Ruddock in the role of Attorney-General.

The highest law officer in the land told the Senate: "People do have a right to be bigots you know. In a free country people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive or insulting or bigotted."  

His boss, PM Abbott, backed him when questioned in parliament too.

It was in the context of their plan to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and replace it with a watered-down version.


Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
             (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group. 

By the way, the next Section of the Act says:


                   Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:
                     (a)  in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or
                     (b)  in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or
                     (c)  in making or publishing:
                              (i)  a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or
                             (ii)  a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment. 

So it doesn't seem much like an attack on free speech to me.

Unsurprisingly there's been a huge backlash, and not just from the left. Coalition MPs have said they will vote against the bill, Premier O'Farrel here in NSW has rejected it, Fairfax newspapers reported the Cabinet had insisted they back off, which they're doing to a degree.

Still, at least the true beliefs of the PM and his ministers are in the spotlight.

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