I love asking the question of 'why'? 'Why' is a good question because it is often used to discover the motives for doing something. I'm not going to argue the relative benefits or disadvantages of the act, but it is worth while to see why the call has been made to repeal 18C.
Firstly the act itself:
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.
(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.
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Section 18C
The only real reason that I've been able to ascertain as to why an act which remained relatively dormant should ever come to light was because of a case heard in the Federal Court between an Aboriginal person Ms Pat Eatock and Herald-Sun journalist Andrew Bolt, who had published a series of articles which had questioned fair-skinned Aboriginal people's right to claim their Aboriginality.
On 28th September 2011, Justice Bromberg handed down a decision which prohibited the republication of the newspaper articles but there were damages awarded and no apology demanded.
The full text of the decision can be found here:
So then, what is going on here and why was there a call to repeal 18C? To look at that reason, merely requires peeling back the layers of this onion.
If we look at the most vociferous voice calling for the repeal of 18C, what do we find?
Freedom of speech in Australia is under attack.
Andrew Bolt was hauled before the courts because articles he wrote “offended” a group of people. Julia Gillard said that a critical media company she doesn’t like has “questions to answer” and set up a media inquiry to try to force them to give those answers. And Bob Brown wants governments to “licence” journalists.
It is this section of the legislation which silenced Andrew Bolt. And it could silence you.
But freedom of speech sometimes means people will be offended. The right not to be offended should never trump the right to express your views.
Federal parliament must repeal these laws before more Australians have their free speech trampled on.
And we need your voice to make it happen.
This is a curious thing. It's our old friends the IPA and immediately the layers of the onion begin to emerge.
The IPA was founded in 1943 by a group of businessmen which included Sir Keith Murdoch. Probably not coincidentally, the IPA and Sir Keith were part of the first conference in Canberra in 1944 which founded the Liberal Party of Australia.
The IPA is unashamedly a partisan lobby group who works very closely with the Liberal Party; so is it little wonder that when The Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd had one of its journalists hauled before the courts, it made noises until the IPA made noises, which in turn made the Liberal Party make noises. Mysteriously, at once the Liberal Party won government, at the first opportunity it had, it introduced legislation to repeal 18C.
The repeal of 18C is then, basically the outworkings of a political Matryoshka doll.
Is it really about "free speech" or is it politically motivated because Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun got stung for breaking the law?
Those of us looking from the outside look from Bolt; to Herald-Sun; to IPA; to Liberal Party and already it is impossible to say which is which.