Home > Economics - General > The IPA and 18C

The IPA and 18C

March 22nd, 2017

The obsessive desire of the current government to protect the right to offend and humiliate people on the basis of their race or religion has been driven, in large measure, by the Institute of Public Affairs. The IPA has a mixed* record on freedom of speech, and on the kind of offensive speech that is the subject of 18C.

Some IPA fellows, such as Chris Berg and Matthew Lesh take the Voltaire line, defending free speech even when they don’t like the content. And, as far as I can tell, neither Berg nor Lesh has ever said anything offensively bigoted.

Unfortunately, they appear to be in the minority at the IPA. More representative of the general atmosphere of the IPA are cases like this and this, where IPA fellows were caught saying in public the kind of thing they want to protect legally.

And while Berg is keen to protect the right to boycott, the IPA also published this piece, suggesting that critics of coal could be prosecuted under the Corporations Act. I had a long series of Twitter exchanges with Tim Wilson, then “Freedom Commissioner” and now a Liberal MP, in which I asked if he would disavow this suggestion. He evaded the question repeatedly then (IIRC) blocked me.

Overall, I’d say the IPA should clean up its own act before pretending to lead a crusade (or jihad) for free speech.

* I mean this literally, not as a euphemism for “bad”

Categories: Economics - General Tags:
  1. John
    March 22nd, 2017 at 22:05 | #1

    Serious question: Given a Monty Python style “Life of Ahmed”, which would no doubt defend much of the Islamic community, would you support prosecution of the film makers under 18c?

  2. Mike
    March 22nd, 2017 at 22:46 | #2

    @John
    Serious answer: see section 18D.

  3. HED PE
    March 22nd, 2017 at 22:46 | #3

    This whole 18c affair seems to be much ado about very little by the talking heads on both the dinosaur Right and the boutique Left (OK, I admit I just made that term up). I don’t see how removing the words ‘offend’, ‘insult’ and ‘humiliate’ and replacing them with ‘harass’, while leaving ‘intimidate’ in 18C will make any difference. Judges have already adopted a stiff test for the word offence so that it must be more than a “mere slight”.

    I’ve heard it said that “harass” implies more than one incident but Turnbull pointed out that this is not how the word is interpreted in the case law surrounding sexual harassment and the proposed amendment in any event makes it clear that one incident can constitute harassment.

    A positive change is changing the “reasonable person” test from a member of the community with which the complainant identifies to the broader Australian community. This a blow to identity politics and I say hallelujah to that although there are probably very few cases, if any, in which it will make a difference. I had a look through the HRC database on cases that went to conciliation and I couldn’t find any where this change is likely to matter.

    The proposed amendment will change the wording regarding the Commissioner throwing out trivial claims but the RDA Act already allowed trivial claims to be thrown out. Gillian Triggs has simply failed to do her job properly by not exercising her responsibility to knock trivial claims on the head.

    Of course, an individual can take legal action for defamation regardless of whether or not they lodge an RDA claim. They can even do it if their RDA claim fails! Moreover, there is a raft of state and federal law that arguably makes the RDA technically redundant (although I support its retention for socio-political reasons) such as the federal Criminal Code.

    Let’s move on to more serious issues, including the life and death issue that Bill Leak was hammered for raising in his superb yet much derided cartoon.

  4. HED PE
    March 22nd, 2017 at 23:18 | #4

    John says:

    The obsessive desire of the current government to protect the right to offend and humiliate people on the basis of their race or religion has been driven, in large measure, by the Institute of Public Affairs.

    I believe discriminatory and abusive behaviour against an individual or a group based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status and disability should be harshly punished by the law. But I can see no reason for providing special protection for religious ideology. Why should religious ideology be treated differently from secular ideology? Why should member of religious ideology X be able to foist a nasty leaflet into the hands of my children telling them that they will go to hell if they are gay or do not convert to the One True Faith but a member of a secular ideology is unable to retort with anything that hurts the feelsie wheelsies (technical term) of the zealot? Why shouldn’t I be able to laugh at Scientology, sneer at the Exclusive Brethren and deride the prosperity gospel of the Evangelical Right?

  5. March 22nd, 2017 at 23:42 | #5

    The issue that Bill Leak raised in his disgraceful cartoon, sanctioned by the newspaper editors acute to defamation action. This goes to the ever implicit question of power and expression. I suppose to be aware of consequences, seen and unforeseen, can be a tough test, which supposes we might have some measure of cultural understanding and of experience with respect for those around us. One measure of our civilization, if we can make that claim, is our capacity to embrace difference. In a democracy, the purpose of speech is to participate in advancing truth, through discourse, dialogue and dialectic, not to cause harm to others.

    Access to the courts and a just settlement is prescribed. If you were poor and disadvantaged that would be a serious matter. The fact that Turnbull has lent himself to this purpose is of deep concern because it political institutions founded in another time are foundering in a new media environment, and rule by the wealthy few and disregard to the”other” is the dominant modus operandi, framed by the cruel politics of budget repair. Scapegoating is hardly “innovation” or whatever Malcolm was mouthing at the time of the election.

  6. Julie Thomas
    March 23rd, 2017 at 07:04 | #6

    “Why should religious ideology be treated differently from secular ideology?”

    So true, the obsessive concern with the right to be a bigot is a secular ideology that is religious in the way it’s adherents are blind to the venality and lack of decency of their chosen prophets and is a religion that is no less irrational and dysfunctional than those religions that “foist a nasty leaflet into the hands of my children telling them that they will go to hell if they are gay or do not …….etc etc”.

    But wait…Seriously? This happens in Australia? There are people who foist nasty leaflets into the hands of your children? lol I think you are making this up HEaD PEa (technical term) as an excuse to justify your nasty impulse to harass people with a religion.

    It is more of a problem that the IPA foist their nasty glibertarian ‘leaflets’ with their nasty selfish and greedy and self-indulgent self-serving beliefs system into our government and onto our society.

    The IPA and the libertarian impulse to ask why should’t I be able to do whatever I want rather than ask why should I do be able to do whatever I want is certainly a religion that deserves ridicule and sneering and derision.

  7. Collin Street
    March 23rd, 2017 at 07:10 | #7

    The IPA and the libertarian impulse to ask why should’t I be able to do whatever I want rather than ask why should I do be able to do whatever I want is certainly a religion that deserves ridicule and sneering and derision.

    I think that those with disabilities are best treated with kindness and respect rather than with harsh criticism for an inability to reach an unreachable and needlessly-high “standard”.

  8. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    March 23rd, 2017 at 07:29 | #8

    Tim Wilson unable to sustain an argument. Who would have thunked it?

  9. Julie Thomas
    March 23rd, 2017 at 08:17 | #9

    @Collin Street

    It seems to me that the disability that leads to the belief that I should be ablet to do whatever I want and this obsessive insistence on the right to be a bigot is the result of a failure to ‘grow up’ or a lack of proper socialisation of the individual.

    I’m not sure that kindness and respect are concepts that IPA-type individualists are capable of understanding. The very idea of kindness and respect surely is against their ‘religion’ and these un-socialised fully grown children can only take advantage of the standards that underpin a good society and/or civilisation to benefit themselves at the expense of other less able people.

  10. Greg McKenzie
    March 23rd, 2017 at 09:07 | #10

    The government cannot hide their racist roots behind semantics. If it looks racist and smells racist then it is racist.

  11. Ken Fabian
    March 23rd, 2017 at 09:53 | #11

    Without the sustained history of racist “dog whistling” it might be possible to think these Deep Conservatives are sincere. Of course the racist appeals of that dog whistling is deniable – it’s always going to be deniable; they won’t change that because of a law change.

  12. david
    March 23rd, 2017 at 09:54 | #12

    I agree Greg. What do these self-proclaimed “libertarians” want ? They say free speech does this include the right to go down the street and refer to a aboriginal teenager as an “abo slut” for fun [due apologies to all aborigines as Leak did not do] . I appeared in the criminal courts for 40 years usually defending often accused on sexual offences including serious child abuse and say as I remember 100% of the people were non-aboriginal. I cannot remember any Leak cartoon satirising any “white fellas” for their heinous offending. No cartoon re Pauline Hanson’s assisting the worst murdress / paedophile in Australia’s history in Valmae Beck. What we really need is full disclosure of donors to the IPA. I recommend anyone read Eatock v Bolt FCA [2011]and argue how Bolt is not one of the worst human beings in Aus.

  13. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 11:10 | #13

    @John

    Serious question: Given a Monty Python style “Life of Ahmed”, which would no doubt defend much of the Islamic community, would you support prosecution of the film makers under 18c?

    John, the Racial Discrimination Act doesn’t deal with religion. It only deals with “race, colour, national or ethnic origin”. That includes Jewishness, but only because Jewishness has the unusual characteristic of being a type of ethnic identity in addition to being a religion. Muslims qua Muslims are not protected by the RDA, except to the extent that they have racial or ethnic characteristics that might be the subject of discrimination or offensive behaviour. So your hypothetical film wouldn’t be covered by it, unless the film had a distinct racialist tone.

    Also, nobody gets ‘prosecuted’ for a breach of section 18C of the RDA, as a breach of section 18C is not a criminal offence. A complainant under s18C is a civil action.

  14. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 11:33 | #14

    @HED PE

    But I can see no reason for providing special protection for religious ideology. Why should religious ideology be treated differently from secular ideology?

    Religious ideology isn’t treated differently from secular ideology, at least in terms of state anti-discrimination laws. But do you honestly believe there should be no restrictions on, say, refusing to employ people because they are Catholic, or Muslim, or Unitarian Universalist or, for that matter, atheists, or believers in astrology, or members of the Liberal Party or The Greens? I think the preservation of genuine freedom of thought and belief requires reasonable restrictions on that kind of discrimination.

  15. Lance
    March 23rd, 2017 at 11:43 | #15

    @John
    it did not take long -Bolt felt enpowered and deemed it
    just -on his show on Tuesday night to highlight the headline
    “IT”S HIP TO BE BLACK ”
    As i said it didn’t take him long –esspecially after a court order ordered him not to re-run the offending trash

  16. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 11:50 | #16

    @david

    I recommend anyone read Eatock v Bolt FCA [2011]and argue how Bolt is not one of the worst human beings in Aus.

    One approach to this challenge would be to argue that Bolt is not one of the worst human beings in Australia because he is not in fact a human being at all, but a species of mollusc.

  17. HED PE
    March 23rd, 2017 at 11:55 | #17

    Good stuff Tim, although some on the alt-truth Left, including academics, now view criticism of religion as racism. Kevin Dunn, Dean of the School of Social Science and Psychology, Western Sydney University, goes as far as saying this is now the received wisdom among social scientists:

    It is widely accepted that discriminating and vilifying people on the basis of their religion is a form racism. This is now the broadly accepted definition by social scientists. However, we have detected a substantial political campaign, championed by extreme right groups, to redefine racism so that it would not cover the vilification and discrimination against people on the basis of their religion. This makes sense as there is still a public opprobrium attached to being identified as racist. People advancing hateful campaigns against religious minorities would prefer not to be identified as racists.

    https://theconversation.com/australians-believe-18c-protections-should-stay-73049

    This opens up the possibility of Tom the Scientologist lodging an RDA claim and using the work of our academic genuises to prove that a critique of their belief systems, practices, prophets and sacred texts constitutes racism and is therefore covered by the Act.

  18. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 12:12 | #18

    @HED PE
    Yes, certainly some sociologists have tended to regard racial and religious prejudice as sufficiently similar to use the term ‘racism’ to refer to both of them. There is also some evidence of increasing everyday use of the term ‘racism’ to cover religious prejudice as well.

    However, notwithstanding the way the term ‘racism’ is used in those contexts, I’m skeptical that it would make any difference to how the RDA is applied. State-based equal opportunity laws generally do provide protection against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, but they generally don’t extent to restrictions on acts that ‘insult’ or ‘offend’ on the basis of religion, only to discrimination in employment, commerce, trade union membership and so forth.

  19. HED PE
    March 23rd, 2017 at 12:22 | #19

    @Tim Macknay

    But do you honestly believe there should be no restrictions on, say, refusing to employ people because they are Catholic, or Muslim, or Unitarian Universalist or, for that matter, atheists, or believers in astrology, or members of the Liberal Party or The Greens?

    Tim, what are the laws on that now? Generally speaking, I would not support discrimination in employment etc on grounds of ideology. I don’t think an atheist employer should be able to sack an employee just because he/she finds out the employee has converted to Catholicism or Islam or whatever. Unless of course, the employer was the Atheist Society and the employee’s job was all about promoting atheism!

    But I think the bigger issue is religious institutions using legal exemptions to discriminate: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/discrimination-in-religious-schools-faces-crackdown-20160831-gr5mot.html

    At the margins, things become difficult. For instance, should a bed’n’breakfast be able to discriminate against who they let into their establishment given that it also happens to be their home? I have no easy answer to questions like that.

  20. may
    March 23rd, 2017 at 12:55 | #20

    picking on, not employing,excluding, isolating, etc, some one because of their particular religion/ideology is not on.

    is picking on,not employing,excluding,isolating,etc, some one because they are not of a particular religion/ideology OK?

    does any religion/ ideology that demands respect have the right to treat those not of that religion/ideology with contempt?

    i’m thinking of words like apostate, heretic, unbeliever, that at one time (and in some places, even now) are a sentence of death.

  21. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 13:11 | #21

    @HED PE
    The exact details vary from state to state, but generally, the state-based equal opportunity laws prohibit various kinds of discrimination in employment, commerce and so forth, with mostly reasonable exceptions. For example, political organisations and voluntary bodies (like your Atheist Society example) are generally able to discriminate in terms of membership and employment, whereas commercial or government organisations cannot, and accommodation services that involve accommodation in the home (like your bed and breakfast example) can discriminate, whereas other accommodation services like hotels, etc cannot.

    One drawback with current equal opportunity legislation is that exemptions for religious educational institutions are too broad, allowing for a degree of discrimination which IMHO goes beyond what is necessary to support the religious ethos of a particular institution. I agree with the type of reforms described in the article you linked to.

  22. David Allen
    March 23rd, 2017 at 14:41 | #22

    I’m left wondering why people can’t just be decent to each other.

  23. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 15:05 | #23

    We all wonder that, David.

  24. GrueBleen
    March 23rd, 2017 at 15:24 | #24

    @may

    picking on, not employing,excluding, isolating, etc, some one because of their particular religion/ideology is not on.

    Hmmm. Then maybe there should be prosecutions for when the Victorian Public Service (or at least significant oarts of it) was dominated by Catholics and non-Catholics found that they hit a ‘glass celing’ for promotion very early.

    Or perhaps for when the Freemasons similarly dominated much of Victoria’s police force ?

    Do keep in mind that obvious, up front discrimination is only a small part of the issue.

  25. GrueBleen
    March 23rd, 2017 at 15:27 | #25

    @Tim Macknay

    We all wonder that, David.

    Oh come on, Tim. You know full well that people can always be decent to each other (or at least non-aggressive) and that the whole issue is just which of these two-armed two-legged creatures we actually call “people”.

  26. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 15:53 | #26

    @GrueBleen
    I’m not quite sure of your point with respect to sectarian discrimination in the Victorian public service and police. Obviously that kind of discrimination is contrary to contemporary Victorian equal opportunity law. I assume the particular discrimination you’re speaking of took place many decades ago, well before the era of anti-discrimination laws.

  27. HED PE
    March 23rd, 2017 at 15:55 | #27

    @David Allen

    I’m left wondering why people can’t just be decent to each other.

    Try asking Julie Thomas.

  28. Julie Thomas
    March 23rd, 2017 at 16:29 | #28

    @HED PE

    Social scientists are reaching some insights into this problem but in simple terms it is down to poor socialisation of children.

    In particular we can blame the child raising practices that result in the spoiled little rich boy/men who have been around for centuries. More recently it has been possible for middle class parents to raise spoiled little boys who think they have all the answers and are able to get through their lives asking why can’t I do what I want and why can’t I win all the time?

    Fact is that it does take a village – a village with a decent society – to raise a child and there are few villages left in our world.

    Just in case you are interested, I’m pretty sure it is possible to socialise oneself or get some therapy that would provide you with the insights and skills so that you could become the sort of person who does understand how to get along with neighbours who are Christians even hypocritical ones and even right wing bigots who intend to vote for Pauline Hanson.

    I do it most every day here in my little village in regional Qld.

  29. Empower
    March 23rd, 2017 at 16:55 | #29

    This is a law that will end up in the bottom drawer for the vast majority of us. Society mostly operates more on noblesse oblige – those with some responsibility, status, authority, wealth conferred on them by the rest of society have an obligation to be aware of the consequences of their influence.

  30. Lt. Fred
    March 23rd, 2017 at 17:21 | #30

    Has anyone ever heard anyone from the IPA utter the word “defamation”? 18C is just defamation law for Jews – literally, that is its legislative history, it was first recommended in a lawsuit by a Jewish gentleman who attempted to sue an anti-semite for calling him a Christ-killer and the rest. The Jewish dude argued that was essentially defamation – it caused harm by reducing his standing in the community and was false. But the judge was unable to agree because he’d not been explicitly identified, which is one of the elements of defamation law.

    If the IPA doesn’t like defamation law for black people, they should be asked what they think of defamation law for white people.

    Andrew Bolt, of course, is a total hypocrite. He once sued Marcia Langton for accurately describing him as a racist, which is a matter of legal fact but she didn’t want the trouble. A real shame actually, she’d have taken him to the bank. Andrew believes in free speech only for himself, of course.

  31. GrueBleen
    March 23rd, 2017 at 18:51 | #31

    @Tim Macknay

    …that kind of discrimination is contrary to contemporary Victorian equal opportunity law

    I’ll bet lots of things are contrary to contemporary law of various kinds. And that means none of those things happen, right ? Or does it just mean that unless a law is policed and enforced with the majority of transgressors being punished that, in fact not much, if any, attention is paid to the law.

    I assume the particular discrimination you’re speaking of took place many decades ago, well before the era of anti-discrimination laws.

    How many is “many decades ago” exactly ? But if you are referring to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act of 2010, then yes it was quite a few decades ago – back in 1the 1960s and 1970s to be precise. And thus, one might say, discrimination was entirely legal – especially in the Public Service and the Police Force – back then.

    My own personal experience was the Federal Public Service which too widely recruited to be particularly discriminatory on the basis if Christian denominations. Otherwise, it could be very discriminatory, of course. Not very many non-Anglos got through the recruitment process, and even fewer got through the promotion process.

    Of course, we didn’t have a lot of non_Euros in Australia back in those long ago days.

  32. GrueBleen
    March 23rd, 2017 at 18:52 | #32

    @GrueBleen
    Bummer. Missed out the / again. Sorry.

  33. Paul Norton
    March 23rd, 2017 at 18:56 | #33

    The IPA’s form on this front goes back to 1951 (at least) when it campaigned for a Yes” vote in Menzies’ referendum to proscribe the Communist Party, a proposal which, if carried, would have seriously curtailed the freedoms of speech and association of a much wider range of people and organisations than the CPA and its members.

  34. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2017 at 19:25 | #34

    @GrueBleen
    Yes, discrimination was pretty much entirely legal back in the 1960s and 1970s.

  35. Royce Arriso
    March 23rd, 2017 at 19:39 | #35

    Anybody else observed this face-palm response in online debates with Libertarians ?
    Make the merest hint of criticism of Libertarian belief and, faster than slag off a shiny shovel comes; “no, what you’re describing is not what Libertarians believe…” “but that is definitely not part of Libertarian belief…” ”
    The starting point is always even implied criticism. Like trying to nail a blob of mercury. Time and again I find myself thinking; arrested development.

  36. Collin Street
    March 23rd, 2017 at 20:39 | #36

    This opens up the possibility of Tom the Scientologist lodging an RDA claim

    There are and can be no barriers to lodging claims. We assess claims, but it has to be done after the claim has been lodged; we can’t do it the other way around, because we lack the ability to read the future.

    This means that any claim, no matter how facially frivolous or misconceived, has to spend at least a tiny period of time under formal assessment and processing before it can be dismissed. There is literally no other way to do this.

  37. John
    March 23rd, 2017 at 21:49 | #37

    For those arguing mockery of religion is not covered:

    Prof Q himself has referred to right wing attempts to seperate religion from race as a “pathetic point”.

    The left who delighted in mocking Catholics (do it more!), screech racism when one criticises a religion where the foundational text endorses sex slavery. Anyone running this line while claiming to be of the left is a disgrace.

  38. Julie Thomas
    March 24th, 2017 at 07:32 | #38

    I hadn’t realised how far back the IPA goes and how active they have been in propagandising and spreading their capitalist religion right from the start and apparently did it so well in Queensland.

    From an article in Queensland Country Life Thu 5 Aug 1954 Page 21 IT FIGHTS COMMUNISM

    “The trend of voting in Queensland in referenda and electoral campaigns has proved that the Institute has used its resources to good advantage in educating those who need to be influenced along the lines of greater common sense and broader vision.

    “By newspaper advertisements, by a several years’ radio session “Highlighting the Headlines”, by essay competitions amongst employees, by films, by brochures, printed matter distributed in factories and workshops and as widely as possible over this very large State, by every means in its power, the Institute has sought to promote better industrial relations, increase productivity, instigate and support legislation designed to further national harmony and progress, and to arouse the people to an appreciation of the fact that if Australians do not make the best
    use of their wonderful country, some other race will take possession.”

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/97441719?searchTerm=institute%20of%20public%20affairs&searchLimits=

  39. Paul Norton
    March 24th, 2017 at 09:01 | #39
  40. Tim Macknay
    March 24th, 2017 at 11:35 | #40

    For those arguing mockery of religion is not covered

    Are you talking about the Bible or the Quran?
    If you’re referring to me, I wasn’t ‘arguing’ anything – I was just stating the legal position, which is not particularly ambiguous. The RDA doesn’t cover religion (except for Jewishness as an ethnicity), so a film mocking Islam wouldn’t be covered by it. It isn’t really a debatable point.

  41. Julie Thomas
    March 24th, 2017 at 13:24 | #41

    So apparently Labor is thinking of extending the reach of 18C to include people claiming to be targeted because of their sexual orientation, disabilities or age.

    Not being able to call homosexuality out as an offence against God or Allah is something that all the homophobic religions can get together over surely?

  42. ChrisH
    March 24th, 2017 at 16:29 | #42

    @GrueBleen
    This can’t go on uncorrected.

    There is no known instance of widespread or active discrimination in favour of Catholics in public service in Australia. The purported instances are all well explained as instances where particular institutions, by not actively discriminating against Catholics, built up a disproportion of capable Catholics in their ranks (and even in their senior ranks). The Australian Tax Office, at Commonwealth level, was an example.

    There have certainly been periods when Catholics couldn’t get a job, or couldn’t get promotion, in particular institutions. And there have certainly been periods, and institutions, in which Masons got preference – indeed, there still are, though this is fading.

    But having some institutions get the best from a group they didn’t suppress is not discrimination in favour of that group. Not now, not ever. (I add that I am not a Catholic and had a long career in an organisation which was heavy with Catholics because it did not exclude them when other institutions did!)

  43. Ikonoclast
    March 24th, 2017 at 16:50 | #43

    @ChrisH

    That is wishful thinking ChrisH and not supported by the facts. Roman Catholic nepotism did exist in the Dept. Of Social Security. I know this as an inside fact. It did begin to break down in the 1980s. The Roman Catholic upper management people of that era were decent and intelligent people and they did progressively discontinue the in-house favoritism for RCs at state and federal management levels. I can attest to this as an agnostic, lapsed Protestant and I saw many more of my general “class” in this sense brought in about that time.

    For something to be revoked and rolled back it had to have existed and been built up in the first place. You are kidding yourself and writing revisionist history in claiming there was not an era of pro-Catholic discrimination (like promoting like) in the Federal Public Service especially for promotions to state and federal management levels in the early 1980s and earlier, logicall and obviously.

  44. Ikonoclast
    March 24th, 2017 at 17:09 | #44

    Oops, to balance the picture I should add that earlier sectarian bias by Protestants , Freemasons etc. against RCs earlier and up until at least 1960, did predispose and push RCs into their own work “ghettos” and enclaves. The ATO and DSS appear to have been two of these places.

    The whole problem with all sects and religions is of course that all sects and religions are wrong. Plain wrong. Wrong in the sense that they give false explanations of history, natural phenomena, human and animal natural history and so on. None of the religions deserve any credence nor any respect in any of these arenas and they offer precious little of value in the moral and ethical arenas either. Most of them were only humanised and made reasonable by their loss of theocratic and dictatorial power delivered by the scientific, humanist and democratic revolutions. We should not be fooled by the current pretences of reasonableness of religionism in general. The religions are only as reasonable as they have been forced to be by new forces like scientific humanism and democratic socialism.

    We should never forget how violent and vicious the monotheistic religions were, still are (in some cases) and will be again if not kept under clearly imposed secular limits.

  45. Tim Macknay
    March 24th, 2017 at 17:31 | #45

    @Ikonoclast
    I mostly agree, but I also think it is worth remembering that in the modern era, secularism has had its own death toll and is not beyond reproach. I think it should also be remembered that modern secular humanism and democratic socialism are underpinned by what is, fundamentally, a Christian-derived moral system, albeit shorn of its supernaturalist aspects. One should not get too self-righteous about secularism.

  46. Tim Macknay
    March 24th, 2017 at 17:32 | #46

    @Tim Macknay
    I would also add that the monotheistic religions don’t have a monopoly on violence or viciousness. The other-kinds-of-theistic ones are just as bad. 😉

  47. John Quiggin
    March 24th, 2017 at 17:32 | #47

    @John

    To be clear, criticism of the religious beliefs of any group is legitimate, as far as I’m concerned, and as far as the law is concerned. But that doesn’t mean that attacks on Catholics or Muslims as people is legitimate.

    And, in practice (historically for Catholics and currently for Muslims) these attacks have carried real force only when they’ve been essentially racist, using a religious label to attack the ethnic group (Irish & Italians in the first case, Middle Eastern in the second) commonly associated with that religion.

  48. HED PE
    March 24th, 2017 at 18:05 | #48

    @Tim Macknay

    The RDA doesn’t cover religion (except for Jewishness as an ethnicity), so a film mocking Islam wouldn’t be covered by it. It isn’t really a debatable point.

    I think you are being a little naive here, Tim. A film written by a white man titled “The Life of Ahmed”, if loosely based on Mo’s life of crime, could possibly be construed as racist by an activist judge using the authority of what is now the standard social sciences definition, at least according to Kevin Dunn, Dean of the School of Social Science and Psychology, Western Sydney University .

    Such a film could also be construed as racist for the same reason Bill Leak’s cartoon about delinquent Aboriginal fathers was construed as racist in some quarters, that being (a) the artist was from the privileged white class and (b) the figures in the cartoon were from the oppressed People of Colour class and (c) criticism of any aspect of the Other from a position of privilege is prima facie a case of racism or whatever other “ism” takes your fancy.

    Of course, 18D provides an out for anything done for a genuine artistic purpose, which I assume would mean a satirical film that wasn’t bare faced propaganda of the The Eternal Jew variety would be off the hook. But then again, activist judges.

    Incidentally, the more I learn about Bill Leak the more I like him even though most of cartoons offended my own value system and aggravated my gastric reflux *:

    The man (Bill Leak) was under 24-hour police protection. When I met with him he’d be accompanied by a bodyguard twice as wide and half as tall again as I am. He was forced to sell his house at a gross undervalue and move in the middle of the night because he was under credible threat from Islamic extremists affiliated with Islamic State. Some of those extremists also had a perverted sexual ‘interest’ in his wife.

    He moved to a house in a ‘secured location’ with CCTV in every room. He had to use police-supplied telecommunications equipment so his location was never revealed.

    * From Helen Dale’s facebook page.

  49. Tim Macknay
    March 24th, 2017 at 18:29 | #49

    @HED PE

    I think you are being a little naive here, Tim.

    Feel free to think that if you like. 🙂 However I find your suggestions as to how a satirical film about Islam might be construed as ‘racist’ for the purposes of section 18C of the RDA pretty unconvincing, and I strongly suspect that a judge (‘activist’ or otherwise) would find them unconvincing as well.

    BTW, I don’t consider that the term ‘activist judge’ has any substantial meaning, except as a slur against judges who make decisions the user of the term disapproves of.

  50. J-D
    March 25th, 2017 at 11:59 | #50

    In order to have any laws at all in operation, it is necessary to have human beings performing the role of judges; and it is always possible that human beings will do things badly. Therefore, the fact that a judge might conceivably use a law to make a bad decision is insufficient reason not to have that law.

  51. Patrick Brosnan
    March 26th, 2017 at 00:04 | #51

    @HED PE
    Helen Dale has somewhat checked record with regard to the truth, read her wiki entry. She has fairly solid far right credentials. Worked for Sen. Leyonhelm. Her account of Leak’s maneuvering may be a bit hysterical, and one is left to wonder what phantom was pursuing him? Mind you, if I had Andrew Bolt as a coworker I’d be paranoid as well.

  52. Julie Thomas
    March 26th, 2017 at 07:45 | #52

    But really the term ‘activist judge’ does have a meaning to a certain type of right wing person; it is one of those coded words or terms, a dog whistle that speaks volumes to those who are in the club and triggers their special sort of hypocrisy. Because it is entirely okay to have a judge who actively supports conservative values.

  53. Wirram
    March 26th, 2017 at 15:34 | #53

    Perhaps we could have some Canadian input on similarities and controversy surrounding Canada’s recent M 103 legislation? From what I understand, it might be somewhat heavy-handed, as it seems to have a few bona fide lefties off-side. No doubt it is also the bete noire of equivalent IPA style ..er…think-tanks?
    There’s a good comment on Ali Rizvi’s Twitter page here…scroll down to March 23 entry

    https://twitter.com/aliamjadrizvi

    And further on 18C

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-26/the-hateful-eighteen-c./8387480

  54. Tim Macknay
    March 26th, 2017 at 17:03 | #54

    @Julie Thomas
    Yes, essentially it’s a right wing term.

  55. deftones
    March 26th, 2017 at 17:10 | #55

    d

  56. J-D
    March 26th, 2017 at 17:36 | #56

    Incidentally, the more I learn about Bill Leak the more I like him even though most of cartoons offended my own value system and aggravated my gastric reflux

    I’ve just looked at some of his cartoons and didn’t feel offended or experience gastric reflux, but I kept thinking ‘I don’t get it; how is this supposed to be funny?’ I guess his sense of humour was drastically different from mine.

  57. Collin Street
    March 26th, 2017 at 18:23 | #57

    However I find your suggestions as to how a satirical film about Islam might be construed as ‘racist’ for the purposes of section 18C of the RDA pretty unconvincing,

    Fundamentally the problem you’re running into is that HED is conflating the issues of whether a film is a satirical take on islam and whether a film is racist. I mean, they’re obviously separate questions, we can make films that are both or neither or one-but-not-the-other…

    … but that means “no, because it’s a satirical take on islam” isn’t a valid answer to the question, “is it racist”.

  58. Patrick Brosnan
    March 26th, 2017 at 23:20 | #58

    @J-D
    Different in the sense that you have a sense of humour and Leak didn’t.

  59. Collin Street
    March 27th, 2017 at 05:51 | #59

    @Patrick Brosnan: Humour requires empathy/theory-of-mind: jokes pivot on building misleading expectations, and to do that you have to have some idea of how brains-not-your-own craft the expectations they have.

    But empathy/theory-of-mind is in short supply on the hardline right, so they by-and-large can’t build proper jokes. All they have is unusual/inappropriate/surprising references/linkages and a vague sort of smug “look at those people! aren’t they not-like-us and ‘funny'”.

    [something shared with certain traditions of extreme nerd humour, btw.]

  60. Paul Norton
    March 27th, 2017 at 07:25 | #60

    Collin Street @59, that is why P J O’Rourke can be genuinely funny while his Antipodean imitators can’t be. O’Rourke understands liberals and the Left sufficiently well to be able to tease out amusing lacunae in our thinking and actions. He also understands his own side well enough to be able to point out their amusing lacunae from time to time. Australian right-wingers, by contrast, don’t understand the Left because their heads are full of phantoms of their own devising such as TEH LEFT, TEH FEMINISTS, TEH GREENIES, etc. Therefore the only humour we ever see from the Right is the unintentionally self-parodic kind when they sink hilariously into bathos, as QuadRANT and Jennifer Oriel have done in response to Bill Leak’s untimely death.

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