The far right's 18c fiasco: why they don't mention 18d in the Anti Discrimination Act?


Why do we have guns laws? Why do we have any laws that restrict what we do? Such as laws applying to defamation, advertising or national security. The answer to these questions seem pretty obvious, don't they? Sadly, they don't to a select few on the far right of politics. This bunch think they are unfairly restricted by the anti discrimination act that protects the community against hate speech and racial vilification. They believe their freedom of speech is excessively infringed on by this law, in particular 'section 18c' which you may have heard about in news updates recently. In the most basic terms, they're wrong. Let's look at what 18c says:

(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.

There are two words causing the far right problems; "offend"..."insult". Two words are somehow preventing supposed advocates of free speech issues. In my humble opinion they aren't advocates of free speech at all because free speech is not being stifled by this law. Just as gun laws are not stifling gun owners from using guns lawfully neither is the anti discrimination act stifling citizens from using words. What the act does do is protect our community from violent incitement which could lead to violence against minorities. So how do I know that this is a red herring from those on the right? Because they fail to mention that 18d ensures the law does not prevent free speech at all. Now let's look at what 18d 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.

The problem with the far right is that they want to act out their prejudices without restriction. This law doesn't prevent you from doing that. All one needs to do is go on any social media outlet or be invited to any number of shows or gatherings to witness people doing just that. Are any of these performers, writers, publishers, or general members of the public being taken to court. The vast majority of people are free to express whatever distasteful thing they want to. For a look at the cases actually heard at court or arbitrated visit this useful timeline here.

Take a look on the timeline in June 1997 at Rugema v Gadsten Pty Ltd for justice being served. Or look at Hobart Hebrew Congregation v Scully (2000) for further evidence of the necessity of this law. And for the crux of this fiasco further along the timeline go to Eatock v Bolt (2011) to understand why the far right are so peeved about this law. It helps protect those who lack reach, voice and power in our community.

For the year 2012-13, 89% of complaints under the act were resolved at conciliation, 6% were dismissed as trivial and less than 5% went on to court. For more information about the law go here.

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