Letter: Free speech protected

Letter in The Age

9 March 2015


Chris Berg (Opinion, 1/3) misrepresented an article I wrote with Michael Kapel published in The Age in 1994. In context, the line that Berg quotes does not say that newspaper articles would never be subject to the Racial Discrimination Act, as he implies. Rather, we pointed out that the legislation contained broad exemptions intended to protect free speech and genuine public policy debate in the media with “fair reports”, “fair comment”, discussion of “matter[s] of public interest”, or expressions of “genuine belief” all exempt from the act. But anywhere someone is “gratuitously being offensive, insulting and not dealing with any social, political, or policy issue”, the act applies.

Section 18C has operated constructively almost exactly as we predicted for 21 years, with the only real controversial case being the Bolt one Berg cites. Whatever one thinks of that case, to focus on it almost alone and insist the whole act must therefore be scrapped without considering the totality of its effects makes little sense.

Colin Rubenstein, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council