UPDATES

Letter: Free speech has some boundaries

Mar 8, 2014 | Colin Rubenstein

An edited version of this letter appeared in letter in The Australian – 9 March 2014


http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/letters/free-speech-has-some-boundaries/story-fn558imw-1226848343817

Your editorial (6/3) correctly states that, “A free and robust exchange of ideas is essential to democracy” and laudably chastises University of Sydney academic Jake Lynch for attempting to stifle any such exchange via his discriminatory boycotts of Israeli academics. However, its call for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs council to also abandon our support for section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was a complete non-sequitur.

18C poses no threat to the exchange of ideas in democracy. It makes no ideas unlawful – it is concerned only with conduct done because of someone’s race which would cause them “serious and profound” emotional harm. It offers extremely robust defences in section 18D exempting all academic, artistic and scientific work, and any statement, publication or discussion done for any genuine purpose in the public interest.

Your editorial’s assertion that, “Causing offence should not be a crime” involves a complete misunderstanding of how this legislation actually works. 18C creates no criminal offences – its purpose is to give civil recourse to people when bigots diminish the quality of their lives through deliberate racial harassment and intimidation, primarily through conciliation.

If the Australian is genuinely concerned about laws which create a “crime” of causing offense, their ire would be better directed at the various state Summary Offences Acts, all of which criminalise “offensive language”.

18C’s impact should be seen as a whole over its 18 year history and the numerous cases in which it has been employed and not through the singular prism of the Bolt case. The provision has been used effectively against some of the most toxic individuals in this country, and has thus repeatedly contributed constructively to social cohesion and harmony in Australia.

While we remain open to a review of the law and perhaps modest changes designed to enhance its effectiveness, 18C has been a linchpin of Australia’s successful multicultural project, and to remove it entirely is likely to give succour to racists and return victims of racial victimisation to a situation where they have no legal recourse.

Colin Rubenstein, Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Melbourne, Vic

 

Tags:

RELATED ARTICLES


Palestinian Red Crescent workers from Al-Najjar Hospital in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on January 10, 2024 (Image: Shutterstock)

Hamas’ impossible casualty figures

Mar 28, 2024 | Update
455daec3 C2a8 8752 C215 B7bd062c6bbc

After the Israel-Hamas ceasefire for hostages deal

Nov 29, 2023 | Update
Screenshot of Hamas bodycam footage as terrorists approach an Israeli vehicle during the terror organisation's October 7, 2023 attack in southern Israel, released by the IDF and GPO (Screenshot)

Horror on Video / International Law and the Hamas War

Oct 31, 2023 | Update
Sderot, Israel. 7th Oct, 2023. Bodies of dead Israelis lie on the ground following the attacks of Hamas (Image: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/Alamy Live News)

Israel’s Sept. 11, only worse

Oct 11, 2023 | Update
Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu (r) gets his long-awaited face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden in New York (Photo: Avi Ohayon, Israeli Government Press Office)

Netanyahu meets Biden, other world leaders, in New York

Sep 27, 2023 | Update
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who gave an address on Aug. 28 threatening the US and laying out the Iranian-led axis's new "unity of the arenas" doctrine. (Photo: Shutterstock, mohammad kassir)

US-Iran prisoner swap deal set to go through

Sep 12, 2023 | Update

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

GOranTQXcAAlpVx

New evidence continues to exonerate Israel in Rafah’s Tel al-Sultan tragedy

IDF tanks in the Rafah crossing precinct (Image: X/ Twitter)

Behind the News – June 2024

The late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Image: Shutterstock)

Death of a Butcher

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan (Image: Shutterstock)

Editorial: A shift towards lawfare

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan (centre) announces his request for arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders on May 20 (Screenshot)

Unwarranted

GOranTQXcAAlpVx

New evidence continues to exonerate Israel in Rafah’s Tel al-Sultan tragedy

IDF tanks in the Rafah crossing precinct (Image: X/ Twitter)

Behind the News – June 2024

The late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (Image: Shutterstock)

Death of a Butcher

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan (Image: Shutterstock)

Editorial: A shift towards lawfare

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan (centre) announces his request for arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders on May 20 (Screenshot)

Unwarranted

SORT BY TOPICS