Michael Danby on Australian politics:
In 1995, during Paul Keating’s prime ministership, section 18C was introduced into the Racial Discrimination Act. For 11 years under John Howard, this effective protection against hate speech remained untouched. Now, however, Senator Brandis has proposed major changes.
That change being…?
Now that the government has released the draft copy of its so-called Freedom of Speech Bill, we can fully appreciate the magnitude of the Attorney-General’s plans. Not only does the amendment drastically reduce the scope of 18C, it restricts the revised 18C to the words “vilifies” or “intimidate” only. Both these new restrictive words are now narrowly defined. Even more worrying though is the new bill’s exceptions clause, which no longer contains any requirement for reasonableness or even accuracy. Instead, any comment made under the guise of any kind of public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter – a broad exemption clause if ever there was one.
True free speech. No longer to be held to ransom by the League of Perpetual Offense-Taking.
Let’s hope this passes. And let’s hope it starts to catch on elsewhere.