Tag Archives: racial discrimination

Weekly salon 16/2

1. Political follies

To me the most staggering political event of the past week was PM Scott Morrison’s announcement that he had ordered the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention facility. What for? Does he expect that suddenly the navy will be unable to intercept and turn back boats? The facility is quite large:

Christmas Island Shire CEO Gordon Thomson told Patricia Karvelas the announcement was stunning and made no practical sense. The centre was already on 72-hour standby. Continue reading Weekly salon 16/2

Australian cartoon puts fuel on Serena fire

Here’s Mark Knight’s Herald Sun cartoon which initiated a social media and general media storm around the globe:

My wife drew my attention to it in an article ‘Racist’ Australian cartoon of Serena Williams prompts global controversy in The New Daily.

Strangely, the cartoon is no longer there, and to save you trouble, none of those links lead to it. Continue reading Australian cartoon puts fuel on Serena fire

Serena meltdown a missed opportunity

Much has been written since the women’s final of the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships saw world number one Serena Williams beaten by a young rising star Naomi Osaka after receiving a code violation warning, then a point penalty and finally a game penalty, which put Osaka in an excellent place to win the second set 6-4 and the match. Elite opinion, especially overseas, has come down heavily in Williams’ favour, blaming the umpire Carlos Ramos for his handling of the incident, which, it is said, was an example of sexism because he would never have treated a male player so harshly, and probably racism to boot.

I’ll tell you my opinion, on the evidence I’ve seen (I didn’t watch the match) and comment on the commentary. My conclusion is that tennis needs to put its house in order, and has missed a golden opportunity to enforce rules so that tennis fans can expect to see excellent tennis being played, rather than players venting. Continue reading Serena meltdown a missed opportunity

Saturday salon 25/3

1. Service interruption

I’ve been advised by the host of Climate Plus that they will be taking time out for maintenance for about two hours from 2pm PDT (whatever that means, they are based in the USA) on Saturday March 25. It’s about MySQL and they say connectivity could be affected during that time.

2. Who pays and who gets the loot?

Laura Tingle has an interesting graph about who pays the bills and who gets cash and kind from the government:

Continue reading Saturday salon 25/3

Saturday salon 17/12

1. Do we need a new conservative party?

One Nation would tell us we’ve already got one, but Essential Report has now conducted a poll about an Abbott-based party, asking the question:

    If a new conservative party was formed and included people like Tony Abbott, how likely would you be to vote for them?

Overall the answer is ‘not very likely’ with ‘Total unlikely’ at 58% and ‘Total likely’ at 23%. However the Lib/Nat preference is evenly split at 41% each way. Continue reading Saturday salon 17/12

Saturday salon 5/11

1. Utah found a brilliantly effective solution for homelessness

The homeless are usually given transitional housing, and then are required to get a job and get sober before they are given more permanent options. Utah has implemented a scheme first developed in New York where the homeless are given permanent housing and then offered help to transition back into mainstream society, in this case in the form of a social worker to provide assistance.

    homes are not free: new tenants have to pay $US50 or 30% of their income to rent each month (whichever amount is greater).

Mostly it works and is cheaper for the state, saving on things like shelters, ambulances, hospitals and jails. Continue reading Saturday salon 5/11

Saturday salon 15/10

1. Australian managers are second rate

Martin Parkinson, head of the PM’s department, told CEDA what we need to do to become truly innovative.

What caught my eye was what he said about Australian management in manufacturing:

Saturday salon 24/9

1. Survey on Muslims

Probably the biggest story of the week was the Essential survey asking people whether they would support or oppose a ban on Muslim immigration to Australia. Overall support/oppose was 49% to 40%, with Labor voters 40-48, the LNP 60-31, the Greens 34-59 and Other 58-35. Essential were so shocked they ran the poll again, with the same result.

Just about everyone is shocked, including the higher than expected support amongst Labor and Greens voters. Peter Lewis, the Essential man, says he was floored by the result. He thought Pauline Hanson represented a rump, but not so. Continue reading Saturday salon 24/9

New attack on 18C – what do anti-18C campaigners really want to say?

Louise Clegg, barrister and lecturer in constitutional law has written a piece which was printed in the AFR as Inevitable demise of 18C can’t come soon enough, and online as Why are politicians defending 18c when the High Court won’t?

She regards 18C as self-evidently unconstitutional, and cites a speech by retiring Chief Justice Robert French as indicating that the High Court would find it so.

She calls the QUT case “monstrous”, says the poor students have had their lives changed forever, and “these boys could be anybody’s sons.” Continue reading New attack on 18C – what do anti-18C campaigners really want to say?

18C: stupid white man and venting students

In an opinion piece Free-speech fundamentalists break free of good conscience in the SMH Mark Kenny quoted Senator David Leyonhjelm thus:

    “If you want to take offence, that’s your choice. You have the choice of choosing another feeling. Offence is always taken, not given. So if you don’t want to be offended, you, it’s up to you; don’t be offended.”

Apparently this opinion was expressed on the ABC Insiders program, and was fully supported by One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts. Kenny says:

    David Leyonhjelm is a boorish, supercilious know-all with the empathy of a besser block. And that new Hansonite conspiracy theorist from Queensland? He’s an absurdist fringe-dweller and fellow hate-speech apologist. It’s a case of wacky and wackier.

    Neither of these self-promoting misanthropes would have the first idea about entrenched discrimination. Yet both are experts.

Continue reading 18C: stupid white man and venting students

Racial discrimination and liberal values

In the past week I’ve tried to get my head around the debate on Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act following the spectacular signing up by Cory Bernandi of the Coalition senate backbench to diluting the Act. He says it’s not about challenging Malcolm Turnbull, it’s about reconnecting the Liberals with their base. So it’s about the Liberals’ small “l” liberal values, and hence worth a close look.

Length alert: It’s about 3000 words, but I’ve gone down a lot of rabbit holes.

Liberal Senator Dean Smith said the Coalition party room view had moved on reform of the RDA. He will:

    co-sponsor a bill with his fellow Liberal Cory Bernardi and Senate crossbenchers David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day to remove the terms “insult” and “offend” from section 18C of the act.

Continue reading Racial discrimination and liberal values

Brandis protects hate speech

Brandis_b9d63c08-e202-49b8-87c5-f481a3fef28e-200During the last week in March, before this blog came to life, Attorney General George Brandis introduced to parliament an exposure draft of changes to the S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Brandis goes beyond everyone’s “right to be a bigot”. He seeks effectively to protect the right of individuals, especially those working in the media, to use hate speech.

Much of the discussion and commentary has been in terms of free speech. I agree with Mark that this is to mistake fundamentally the aim of legislation against hate speech.

Its purpose is to provide redress against harm, harm felt by specific individuals and groups.

It’s not about freedom of speech. It protects speech which is justified on several grounds – including literary and artistic merit (so the argument about Salman Rushdie is entirely specious). It’s about not doing harm through the expression of hateful speech.

If we consider the effects of actually existing racism (or any other form of hate), it doesn’t take too much reflection to see that hurt leads to harm pretty quickly – it’s demonstrable in the impacts of hate speech on identity and thus wellbeing, and there’s a path from wounded identity to self harm, even suicide. (My bold)

Comments on the draft are now being considered by the Government. There’s a whisper that they reconsidering, but the question is still open. You can send Abbott/Brandis a message by signing this petition against hate speech.

In the following section I’ve laid out the nuts and bolts of the proposed changes.

Proposed changes to S18c

Simon Rice explains that the current test for racial vilification is “conduct causing offence, insult, humiliation or intimidation”. Offence, insult and humiliation have been dropped in the proposed changes. Verboten now is an act which is reasonable likely

(i) to vilify another person or a group of persons; or (ii) to intimidate another person or a group of persons.

Intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:

(i) to a person; or (ii) to the property of a person; or (iii) to the members of a group of persons.

Vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons.

For an act to be unlawful it must must be “otherwise than in private” and must be done

“because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.”

So the focus is now to be on vilification and intimidation (causing fear of physical harm). It’s OK to cause offence, insult and humiliate.

Vilification and intimidation are permissible if they involve:

words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”


“is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.”

The actual feelings of the target person or group are irrelevant.

Acts are to be judged independently of their actual effects, rather on what their effects would be if perpetrated on some mythical average member of the dominant group in society.


To me, humiliating someone means putting them down, diminishing their esteem in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. To do that on the basis of race, colour or national or ethnic origin is to cause personal and social harm, is racist and frankly appalling. It’s a form of bullying, is tantamount to violence and should be illegal.

Some might argue that to tell the truth can involve offence and insults. Nevertheless I would argue that to offend or insult someone in relation to race, colour or national or ethnic origin means that you regard them as defective or inferior on those grounds. Again harm is done and I have no difficulty in making such acts illegal.

Truth telling appears to have no relevance to Brandis’s notion of free speech. A person can be humiliated, in public, by someone telling a pack of lies, and that’s OK.

Hate speech, racial intimidation and vilification in the public sphere is acceptable in Brandis’s world. To quote Michelle Grattan

In other words, anything goes in the name of free speech, accurate or not.

Vic Alhadeff reminds us that we will never have completely free speech:

“The late Justice Lionel Murphy said: ‘Freedom of speech is what is left over after due weight has been accorded to the laws relating to defamation, blasphemy, copyright, sedition, obscenity, use of insulting words, official secrecy, contempt of court and parliament, incitement and censorship’.”

That’s eleven categories imposing limits on what we are permitted to say in public.

All in all Brandis has cooked a rather nasty brew, emanating I’m afraid from a rather nasty cook. Brandis should remember that the robustness of parliament has resulted in suicide attempts. He seems to want to live in “a world of unrestrained biffo all round”, to borrow a phrase from Grattan.

Penny Wong:

“I think George saying this is about the rights of the bigots really laid bare the philosophy behind these changes.

“For them, it seems to be an abstract philosophical or legal argument. For them it’s a game, it’s a debate about words and abstract principles.

“For people who have experienced racism, it is a deeply personal debate, and it’s actually a debate about real people and real hurt.

“It’s a debate about real people in Australia, what happens on our buses and our trains, in the pubs on the football fields and on our streets. It’s about the message that our parliament sends and what I find missing, apart from the very offensive things in the debate, is empathy and compassion.”

Brandis has struck a blow for bigots, especially one bigoted journalist – Andrew Bolt.


That was Ben Eltham at New Matilda.

Dennis Altman at The Conversation

Cristy Clark at The Conversation