No to racism, yes to free speech. Abbott stands firm

Wish it was true:

No to racism, yes to free speech. Abbott stands firm

Andrew Bolt

The Prime Minister is as firm in his defence of free speech as he is adamant in his opposition to racism – and he is also a man of his word:

TONY Abbott has resisted Coalition rebels and defied criticism from ethnic communities over looming changes to racial discrimination laws by insisting the reforms will “reconcile” support for freedom of speech and the rejection of racism…

Mr Abbott tackled the Coalition concerns in a partyroom meeting that heard calls to maintain the section 18C provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act, which make it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person on the basis of their race… The robust discussions followed a report in The Australian yesterday suggesting Attorney-General George Brandis was considering a proposal to remove the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” from 18C but keep “intimidate”, and amend the “good faith” provision in section 18D, a key part of the law that led to the finding against Bolt…

Senator Brandis said late yesterday that the government was committed to “rebalancing” the human rights debate in Australia to better protect freedom of speech

I’m told this was cheered in the party room:

Queensland backbencher George Christensen and Sydney MP Alex Hawke spoke in support of his stand yesterday. “Freedom of speech is a God-given right – if we don’t allow the things we don’t want to hear, we don’t really believe in free speech at all,” sources claimed Mr Christensen said.

No to racism, yes to the free speech that allows us to oppose it.

UPDATE

The Australian
 makes the case for more freedom to discuss what needs discussing on the politics of “race”:

In modern Australia, we should be able to talk about racial issues without being branded racist…

Unfortunately, the timbre of debate over racial issues in Australia was skewed by “guilt politics’’ arising from the 1997 Bringing Them Home report that erroneously referred to the treatment of the Stolen Generations as “genocidal’’ and “a crime against humanity’’. Such hyperbole engendered irrational guilt and anger among many people, regardless of the varied circumstances under which Aboriginal children were removed from their families and local communities from 1910 to 1970. At the time the report was released, about 90,000 Aborigines in outback and northern Australia out of a total indigenous population of 350,000 were struggling with woefully low life expectancies and Third World living conditions. The urban-based Aboriginal lobby, however, egged on by the green-Left, focused almost exclusively on the grievances of the Stolen Generations and their 10,000 descendants, including those in comfortable circumstances in cities. These numbered only a tiny fraction of those suffering acute health, housing and other problems in remote areas.

The spat between Professor Langton and Bolt is grounded in complex issues. His original comments about light-skinned Aborigines seeking advantage reflect the views of many Aborigines themselves. For the benefit of our most disadvantaged citizens, Australia needs a mature, sophisticated debate on the best policies to “close the gap’’. The chances of such debate were stymied, however, when Bolt was found guilty in 2011 of racial vilification under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The complainants about his commentary, including Ms Behrendt, the Federal Court found, were likely to have been “offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated’’. Australia needs to shake off such shackles on free speech and move beyond “guilt politics’’ and the habit of labelling those who express opposing views on indigenous issues with the “racist’’ tag. We should be able to deal in fact on this issue, rather than feelings based on identity politics.

UPDATE

Richard Ackland, the former Media Watch host and Fairfax columnist, is a fool, recklessly ill-informed or simply deceitful. The whole premise of his article is false. No, I never threatened defamation action against the ABC, and in fact repeatedly stated I prided myself on not suing. No, Langton’s apologies were not, when first issued on radio, simply for my hurt feelings but for falsely accusing me of racism and falsely accusing me of believing in a “master race”.  No, I didn’t ask the ABC to apologise for offending, humiliating or otherwise hurting my feelings, but for broadcasting false claims which host Tony Jones falsely termed “facts” – false claims about me heaping “foul abuse” and “racist abuse” on a woman, arguing she had no right to call herself Aboriginal and driving her from “public life”.  Ackland also omits a critical point: that when challenged on radio, Langton repeatedly refused to defend those “facts” because, as I’d proved, they were false.

Is Ackland seriously suggesting I had no right to ask the ABC to apologise for spreading deeply offensive, damaging and false claims about me?

And here is the point. I’ve written all this already. Ackland only had to read my request to the ABC for an apology to establish the basic facts. Instead, he chose to wilfully misstate the case.

UPDATE

We should not have laws to stop us discussing whether we should really insist on trivial distinctions of “race”, or should formally divide the country on the basis of the “race” of one or more of our great-grandparents.

The only restrictions on our free speech should be on racist abuse and actions of the kind to make people fear for their safety. I mean racism like this, recently filmed in Perth:

(Thanks to many readers.)