Federal MP Anne Aly was one of the more articulate people to argue against the watering down of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), having experienced racial slurs most of her life. She considered that attempting to change the law was a ‘tacit nod to racism’1. She is an expert on countering radicalisation and made it clear that radicalisation does not happen in a vacuum, and stated that ‘Where you have a society that enables people to say and do things, to act in ways that targets certain groups, that alienates certain groups’, that has an effect1.
The Liberals wanted to change the wording of 18C from ‘insult, offend and humiliate’ to ‘harass’1. The government seemingly wanted to protect their mouthpieces such as Andrew Bolt, who had been nailed for breaching the RDA, when he stated that light skinned people who identified themselves as Aboriginal did so for personal gain. Bolt’s stories were headlined “It’s so hip to be black” and “White fellas in the black”. Of course, after the decision went against him, Bolt maintained that it was “a terrible day for free speech in this country” and then leader of the opposition Tony Abbott warned against restricting “the sacred principle of free speech”2. It is a shame that they only support free speech when its restrictions and responsibilities impinge on one of their own.
When Zaky Mallah, on the ABC’s Q&A program asked about supposed changes to citizenship laws and when minister Steven Ciobo took offence and suggested that he would be happy to see Mallah ‘out of the country’, to which Mallah replied that he’d be happy to see Ciobo ‘out of the country’3,4, all hell broke loose. Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked the ABC ‘Whose side are you on?”. Then Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, spoke to the Managing Director of the ABC and ordered a review of the program. Of course, Andrew Bolt joined in asking how such a person could be given a ‘platform’. Mallah, had been convicted of making threats to Commonwealth officers and had served a prison term for that, but was now a free man. But in the eyes of Ciobo, Mallah got off because the laws were not retrospective (i.e. a ‘technicality’)3, ergo he was forever guilty. Ciobo made it appear that Mallah’s biggest crime in the eyes of the government was being a Muslim.
Now we have the right wing press arguing that Anne Aly has stated that attacks aimed at Muslims could be considered racist, “because [attacks on Muslims] have the same motivations as racism and the same impacts as racism”. She also made it clear that Jews and Sikhs are covered under 18C because they have established themselves as well as being of a particular religion, they are also of a particular ethnicity, and could be ‘considered one kind of race’5. Of course the right wing chucked a massive wobbly over this and the Australian, Daily Mail and the Spectator raised the spectre of Saudi Arabia and stated that the Labor Party had plans to extend 18C to cover blasphemy. This was out and out bullshit. They want to make it just as offensive to make anti-islamic comments as it is to make anti-semitic or anti-sikh comments. This is not referring to blasphemy, just treatment of particular religious groups as if they were races. Most people realise that blasphemy laws are something out of the dim dark past and that they will become even less relevant as we enter the post-religion era. The right wing will say and do anything to stack the deck their way and appeal to the knuckledraggers. They absolutely hate free speech, unless it is them being fee to offend anyone.
I have found that if you Google the keywords to a contentious political story and the first page of results comes up entirely with Murdoch rags and budgie-cage liners like the Daily Mail, then at best, the story is a beat up, or at worst, an out-and-out lie. Bear that in mind.