Mar 252014
 

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 reads as follows:Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

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

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

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

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

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

(b)  is done in a public place; or

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

(3)  In this section:

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

Section 18C contains absolutely nothing in regard to, or in even oblique reference to words or actions which might “hurt the feelings of others”. The RDA exists to ensure that our society moves forward toward a genuinely multi-cultural ethos where all races, creeds and skin colours are accepted as the same as all other races, creeds and skin colours. To pretend that Australian culture in the present day is not racist is to believe in the tooth-faery, Santa Clause AND the Easter Bunny. Australia is less than 50 years removed from the final nail in the coffin of the White Australia Policy, which the Whitlam Labor Government effectively killed off in 1973. It took successive Conservative governments 25 years prior to that time, starting in 1949, to wean Australians away from the desire to keep this country white, European and predominately Christian. The weaning continues today.

The RDA exists because of the fact that generations which were brought up under the White Australia Policy remain with us today. My own mother constantly expresses vilifying attitudes to immigrants who aren’t fair-skinned or Christian. I don’t hold with it, and say so. Still, those attitudes are ingrained and will not leave this society until those generations eventually die off. A sad thing to say, but facts are facts.

The Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis – the very same Senator George Brandis who yesterday told the Senate:

“In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find insulting or offensive or bigoted.”

has released the exposure draft of proposed changes to the RDA. The draft may be found here. Do have a read. The proposed changes would never have seen Bolt in court, which doubtless is the driving force behind these changes. The proposed amendments are a Swiss cheese of loop-holes which even the most artless anarchist could safely pilot a pantechnicon through at full speed. For example:

(a) Vilify means to incite hatred against a person or group of persons;

Define hatred. Define group. Then there’s:

(b) intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:

  1. to a person; or
  2. to the property of a person; or
  3. to the members of a group of persons.

The current section 18C does not define Intimidate as any form of physical harm. To make that definition, in my view, creates an entirely separate form of intimidation. The exact same form of intimidation which can be seen any time of day on Twitter, for example. Name-calling, discrimination based on race, creed, colour, religion INCLUDING political and ideological belief. So, Brandis would have the ethereal concept of freedom of speech encompass these tenets. Under these proposed amendments, one would be free to denigrate anyone, regardless of their skin colour, genetics, or racial origin, as long as one doesn’t throw a punch and cause physical harm. Can you imagine, dear reader, the open-slather this type of approach to editorial largesse some conservative media outlets in this country would enjoy? As it stands currently, I note The Australian is already lauding the proposals as removing the chill of political censorship, which in and of itself has nothing whatsoever to do with racial discrimination, on any level.

Then we come to sub-clause 3.

Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.

The highlighted emphasis is mine. Tell me, dear reader…..just what constitutes the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community? Can we even find an ordinary, reasonable member of the Australian community? Do we all not have our own personal ideals, beliefs, biases and preferences? Is there in existence a genuinely vanilla Australian? I think not.

And lastly, the crowing glory of these proposed changes, the catch-all, just in case anyone wants to drive that Pantechnicon through the structure of the legislation and into the High Court of Australia. The highlighting again, is mine.

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

These proposals MUST be rejected, and rejected categorically by all sectors of Australian society as not being in any way shape or form representative of an egalitarian Australian culture. We, as a societal collective, are not ready to be turned loose on the world as a genuinely fair-thinking, accepting of all comers society, simply because we’ve proven time and time again – the current conservative government proving beyond any doubt with it’s Stop The Boats bigotry – that we are NOT such. We are, in general terms, a society of racist bigots, religious bigots and ideological bigots, which is precisely why the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 exists in it’s present form. Such legislation protects us from ourselves. We need these protections if our culture is to learn the lessons required by the global community. I’d like to think that in my lifetime we might become the nation I was brought up to believe we are. Sadly, I can’t see it happening.