Section 18C

For a long time most reasonable Australians have been incensed that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (racial hatred) has been allowed to trash free speech. In today’s The Australian John Black, ex ALP minister, says besides killing section 18C we need to kill the Human Rights Commission as well.
Alas, the greatest threat to free speech remains: the commission itself. It houses a cabal of human rights fantasists who aim to override the law in the name of a self-defined greater good. But don’t blame them; blame the governments too weak to rub them out. The commission undermines the authority of governments and courts that would give short shrift to much of what the commissioners regard as their meal ticket.
The Commission undermines two pillars of western democracy, the Executive and the Judiciary and yet Turnbull talks of an inquiry. In 2014 Abbott mooted an amendment and then dropped it in the face of the ALP/Greens intransigence in the Senate. The matter has been debated in the public arena ad nauseum since the mid 90s and the only people wanting it to stay are the permanently offended, their supporters, the legal profession who gain financial advantage from the poor darlings and the Human Rights Commission itself. None of whom should count in the debate The rest of the country, the majority, are sick to death of the whole matter. We don’t need an inquiry, we need it thrown out. Now! Today!  


  • The HRC has a much wider brief than cases brought under 18C.
    In my spare time I work as a pro bono advocate for parents of children with disabilities.
    On a couple of occasions recently, cases I have participated in have resulted in fair outcomes for families in the face of unreasonable treatment by school authorities.
    These cases rarely get to court because they are resolved through mediation. The depth of ignorance of the legislation by some private schools of high repute as it relates to Educational Standards for Students with Disabilities is breathtaking.
    The HRC has a very important role in this area.
    As for 18C, it is time it was reviewed, but not because it irritates those who wield power against minorities, whether they be people with disabilities, indigenous Australians or female, but because it has been around for a long time.
    Most of the good work done by the HRC goes on quietly in the background.

  • Hopefully Kev, with Gillian Triggs contract not been renewed next year, the HRC will be given a good clean out, and the permanently offended will have to clean up their act.

  • This discussion of free speech puts me in mind of a seventeen year old lad with cerebral palsy that I taught back in the seventies. He was smart with a great brain, but had no speech. Despite his inability to communicate conventionally, he had learned to write text using a head pointer on the keys of an electric typewriter, which was state of the art in those days.

    One of my more resourceful teaching colleagues developed a method of making communication boards out of plywood overlaid with perplex, trimmed with braiding used in the internal trim of motor vehicles of the day.

    He set up a board for this lad, using a qwerty keyboard layout.

    That layout was chosen because he was already familiar with it from his successful use of the electric typewriter. To “speak”, he would touch each letter in turn with the pointer of his headpiece, and his communication partner would read what he was spelling. He became very fluent with it.

    He became so fluent, in fact, that you had to concentrate hard to keep up with him. One of the techniques that helped speed the process, was for the person being spoken to verbalising what he thought was being spelled out as they went along – a kind of precursor to predictive text.

    This lad had fairly active life, and he was out and about a lot in his powered wheelchair. This brought him into contact with a full range of people.

    As he began to become more and more facile with his board, he asked me to get my colleague to make an addition to it. He wanted the words “F**k off!” pasted on the reverse side of the board.

    When I recovered from my initial surprise at the unconventional approach to alternative communication, the simple brilliance of his idea became apparent. Because that form of communication was frowned upon in polite circles (school for example), the text needed to be hidden. Placing it on the reverse side of the board accomplished that.

    My colleague suggested that a text box with the words “Turn my board over” be added to the topside of the board to avoid a lengthy spelling session, and this was added.

    I only ever saw him use this feature once when I was with him (on a school excursion to the museum). A bunch of students from a private school which will remain nameless was also visiting the museum. A couple of them were surreptitiously making fun of some of the unusual arm and head movements that were part and parcel of athetosis, the subset of cerebral palsy that was part of this lad’s condition.

    Normally, I would have intervened when I saw this happening, but held back this time. He asked for the board to be flipped, and used the special request. It very quickly had the desired effect, and humiliated, they left him alone after that.

    He had successfully exercised his power of free speech.

    I’ve learned after forty five years working with one particular dis-empowered group that when they’re given the wherewithal to push back, it is often resented.

    That is pretty much what we’re seeing now. I wouldn’t be calling for the repeal of 18C just yet.

  • ‘Perplexed’ by the poor analogy.

  • 18c would actually see this chap in trouble, 18c says that you haven’t the right to tell anyone to fuck off for any reason. He is using his affliction and his manner to intimidate the other students. If they had called security and made him show the offensive language written there by a so called responsible adult, there would have been grounds for at least a word of warning.
    Having said that though, I believe this story to be concocted much like every other story from this fool.

    • “18c says that you haven’t the right to tell anyone to fuck off for any reason”

      No it doesn’t.

      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”

      Clause (b) is the kicker, but for a breach of the act to be committed, both (a) and (b) must be present. People tell each other to fuck off routinely, and nobody makes a complaint under 18C because it’s not done “because of the race colour or ethnic origin” of the person being told to fuck off. In this case the private school kids were simply being pests, because they thought they could get away with it.
      Your post indicates a comprehensive (but not uncommon) misunderstanding of the legislation. It’s designed to discourage race, ethnic origin or colour being used as a weapon to humiliate. It has nothing to do with individuals telling each other off.
      You’ve also entirely missed the point of my comment.

      “He is using his affliction and his manner to intimidate the other students.”

      No he wasn’t. He was minding his own business when these two approached him and began mocking him. How was he supposed to respond? His “affliction” as you call it, prevents him from verbalizing his request, so he has to use another method. Doesn’t he have that right?

      As for “intimidate” – it is extremely unlikely that a non-verbal person with a disability in a wheelchair would have the capacity to intimidate a couple of able-bodied kids of the same age. They were however, embarrassed.

      “the offensive language written there by a so called responsible adult”

      The words were there at his request. Other 17 year olds could verbalize them. He couldn’t, but he wasn’t “coached” if that’s your inference. He is probably smarter that both of us and knew exactly what he wanted. Your paternalistic view of people with disabilities sticks out like dog’s balls.

      I posted this anecdote (one of many instances in my 40 plus career in the disability sector when I’ve seen people achieve social independence through sheer guts and determination) to illustrate the power of language, and what happens when a member of a dis-empowered minority is given a little help to level the playing field.

  • And your pigeon-holing of people is a pathetic attempt at making you think you know what you’re talking about.
    18c prevents freedom of speech, you idiot.

  • Who has been “pigeon-holed”?
    And Roly, I learned something a long time ago.
    That “something” is that abuse always removes legitimacy from any argument.

  • What’s been lost in all this is a school practicing segregation and students lost opportunity to share a common interest.

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