Freedom For All Those the Left Agree With

It’s always nice to get home after nearly a month on the road.

With sitting weeks, interstate commitments and the recent Vietnam delegation, it seems like I haven’t been home too much lately. The few days break with my family over Easter will be very welcome.

I’m still receiving hundreds of emails related to the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) and a recent event has again highlighted the absurdity of the modern ‘rights’ industry.

You may recall that 18C of the RDA effectively gives someone the ‘right’ not to be offended by someone else’s view in respect to race or ethnicity. Now offence can take many forms and in many cases causing offence can be unintentional.

That won’t necessarily stop you from being hauled before some PC tribunal by some grievance monger.

I recall that ‘ban the burqa’ mural artist Sergio was forced to hire a lawyer to defend himself against a racial vilification claim which was later dropped. No one has yet explained to me what ‘race’ was offended by the mural

Two Victorian pastors were charged under religious vilification laws for quoting from the Quran thus prompting laughter from their audience. They were convicted of causing offence but after a long legal battle this verdict was overturned.

Then of course we have the Andrew Bolt case where he was pursued through the courts because someone took offence to his opinion piece. In what many describe as a flawed judgement, Bolt too was found guilty. To this day I don’t know why his legal team didn’t appeal the court’s decision. Perhaps it was too costly or maybe the ordeal had already taken too big a personal toll.

Contrast the instances above with the recent result of an Adelaide-based preacher who recorded a video sermon calling for the killing of all Buddhists and Hindus. After the usual ‘he was taken out of context’ defence, the matter was referred to the police for investigation.

Now whilst I am a very strong advocate of free speech, there is a big difference between having an offensive opinion and publicly calling for groups of people to be killed on the basis of religious differences. Such incitement to violence has no place in our community and yet I haven’t heard any of the people who were so outraged at what Andrew Bolt has to say, publicly condemning the rantings of this supposed religious leader.

This is the dangerous space we seem to have entered. Offence seems to be a one way street which is determined by the characteristics of the complainant.

That’s one reason we need substantive reform to ensure we all have the same level of freedom to speak our mind and share our honestly held opinions – even if they are offensive. Now that doesn’t mean we should not continue to hold people to account for slander, defamation or incitement of violence.

However, it does mean that spurious (and sometimes anonymous) complaints claiming ‘offence’ at another’s opinion, artwork or sense of humour would never see the inside of any tribunal established to uphold the tyranny of political correctness.

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