Racial discrimination legislation – an anomaly

Australia, nominally an open society, has a strange legislative provision which says that one must not offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate anyone.  Against that, free speech is demanded by one and all.

Regrettably, there is no requirement that what is said or written is socially responsible.  I am not sure that anyone in favour of free speech has referred to the need for responsibility.  Thus, much rude rubbish clutters the thought waves of the nation. There is, however, a real limit – defamation legislation; many powerful people have exploited this route, with profit. Presumably they could afford to take legal action. 

Then there are those who claim to be hurt by statements displaying prejudice and by acts of discrimination. Having experienced both, my view is that silly words can be, should be, ignored. They can also be countered. But, why bother with the mindless and their outpourings?

Experienced discrimination can be challenged only in a court. Who can afford that? What does the record say about the prospects of success? The registrar of a local court pointed out to me unofficially that, were I to take legal action (as recommended by a lawyer) against a neighbour who had cut down 2 trees clearly within my property and expropriated the sliver of associated land, any court award may fall short of my expenses (which could be driven up by a wealthy defendant).

S. 18C of the racial discrimination legislation offers protection against hurtful words and acts but only if an official agency acts on my behalf; and if I go through a protracted process which is likely to keep the embers of hurt glowing, probably causing me psychological harm.

The core issue is: How is ‘race’ defined in court cases? Why is an imprecise concept of ’race’ relevant?

Then, who are the people who claim to need S.18C? We immigrants, not being wimps, simply move on with our lives. The Aborigines? What hope could they have after more than 2 centuries of being ‘not like us’? The Anglo-Celt Aussies: what ‘race’ could they be calling on?

Strangely, anyone who criticises any of Israel’s policies can be accused of being anti-Semitic by a local lobby, although the critic may not be anti-Israel at all. Israelis are not the only people speaking a Semitic language; and both Israel and Australia seem to have ‘deputy sheriff’ roles in the West’s domain. Surely, Israel is powerful enough to account for its policies without needing Australia’s S.18C legislation!

 

 

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