The issue of free speech will not disappear from the Australian political scene, that is because the left are continuing to attack it. Last week we reported on Section 474.17 of the Federal Criminal Code making it illegal to offend someone online which rarely gets any attention. But it was 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act which came back into the news this week. This was after Bill Leak cartoonist at the conservative Australian newspaper had a formal complaint launched against him this week at the Australian Human Rights Commission. It was in response to a cartoon that he published which displayed an Aboriginal police officer returning a delinquent Aboriginal youth to his father who was drinking and didn’t even know his name.
The cartoon was published in the aftermath of the Don Dale youth detention centre scandal in response to the claim that Aboriginal youths were only receiving rough treatment from prison guards because they were racist. Bill Leak was trying to bring attention to the fact that there is extreme dysfunction in Aboriginal communities and families in the Northern Territory which was a large factor in why their youth had such a high incarceration rate. The cartoon it is fair to say was very confronting because it told an unpleasant through about the state of Aboriginal affairs. The left of course believes that there is nothing wrong in Aboriginal communities and always believe its culture to be superior to white culture. So it was no surprise they were triggered and offended by it and labelled it racist.
When the cartoon was published and the outrage began Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane famous for seeing racism and bigotry everywhere (who thinks it’s racist if you can’t pronounce his long name) encouraged anyone who was offended to lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Commission is the judge of whether the complaints go to court so it is clear that by encouraging complaints Soutphommasane has a conflict of interest and it can be argued that he is also trying to create work for himself to justify his $300,000 plus salary per year. If he found that there was not much racial discrimination there wouldn’t be much need for his position.
This 18C complaint and its attack on free speech can be added to list of absurd cases this law has brought. It resulted in two of commentator’s Andrew Bolt’s articles being banned, there is still the Queensland University of Technology students being sued for complaining of being kicked out of an Aboriginal only computer lab. Leftists still have the nerve to claim that free speech is not being shut down and that 18C only exists to preserve community harmony and protect vulnerable groups.
The complaint has also increased the pressure on our political leaders to reform 18C. Advocates of reform reaffirmed their commitment, these include Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie, Tim Wilson (who was previously the Freedom Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission) as well as Liberal Senator David Fawcett confronting Tim Soutphommasane in Senate estimates over not only his conflict of interest but how he can still argue he is a friend of freedom of speech.
Liberal Senator Dean Smith this week called for a parliamentary inquiry into freedom of speech in aftermath of recent cases, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has still got the support of the entire Coalition backbench in the Senate for his bill to reform 18C. The Turnbull government continues to state that it has no plans to reform 18C, but this is likely because it would not have the numbers in the Senate for reform with Labor, the Greens, Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie all opposed. Tony Abbott should not be given any credit for now being in favour of reform as he clearly doing so as part of a campaign to return to the leadership, he didn’t have the nerve to pursue reform when he was Prime Minister despite having pledged to do so at the 2013 election.
The outcome of the 18C complaint against Bill Leak is uncertain at this stage. However the fact that these complaint can be made and cause damage to Leak’s reputation and cost his employer hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bill shows that the damage is already being done. Even if his defence that the cartoon was published in good faith or was a fair report of a matter of public interest the fact that he even needs to defend drawing a cartoon in a free society is very troubling. Leak is lucky that he is employed by News Corp who have stated they are willing to take the case all the way to High Court if needed and will defend him unreservedly. Leak was even able to publish a follow up cartoon this week mocking Soutphommasane calling him Tim Jong-un which Soutphommasane would probably call racist as well.
Sadly it seems that it is only going to take more innocent people simply stating their opinion to be sued under 18C before the majority of our politicians say enough is enough and finally reform the law. It is also doesn’t help that most of the media does not care to defend free speech and his happy to be a cheerleader for the progressive left.
Somebody being offended or triggered by the speech of another and running to the government to silence that person is not what a free society is about. Freedom of speech is exactly for speech which is offensive so we can have open and free debate on issues of importance in society. If you didn’t like Leak’s cartoon argue why he is wrong, don’t buy the Australian newspaper or even better yet confront some unpleasant truths about Australia. For those who still believe in free speech we need to continue to argue why free speech is important and expose absurd attempts such as the most recent to silence people using the force of government.