It baffles me how our we as a nation lack even the slightest compassion for human rights… at least our Governing body which represents the people of Australia. Be it for asylum seekers and refugees, or now — repealing of Sections 18C and 18D, it seems that our nation is becoming increasingly monoculturalistic, perhaps it can be described as being a slow slip-back to the days of the White Australia Policy.
What's 18C and 18D?
Section 18C and 18D which the Abbott Government is proposing to repeal "in accordance with Liberal Party policy" are part of the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975, brought in by the Whitlam Labor Government. In essence, 18C makes it unlawful (but not necessarily a criminal offence) to do an act which is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people because of the race, colour or national/ethnic origin… or in other words, racial vilification. 18D grants exceptions for artistic works, for genuine purposes like scientific or academic and for the publication of accurate information in the public interest.
The irony of this is however, our Government sees both sections as "red tape"… claiming it impedes on our freedom of speech rights. Yet when we speak out against people who have vilified others in the past (and have also been found to be in breach of 18C), it's also offensive? As Richard Ackland implores, what a hypocrisy indeed.
I struggle to see how it can be lawful for a majority group of full-grown adults to invent fictitious slurs on a minority group such as a racial subgroup. We know the repeal will only advantage these fictitious inflammatory remarks because 18D gives exception to anyone who presents fair and accurate comments, so why is it alright for a person of substantial power to invent fictitious inflammatory remarks or viewpoints on other races? At school, we get taught that this is called bullying and students subsequently get punished for their actions or words. Yet, our Government thinks this is actually a good thing? As if our right-wing journalists do not get enough power anyway.
Without getting too political, as racial discrimination is not a political subject, how do I get any form of protection if I get verbally abused against (which, just for interest, I have on several occasions)? At least now, I have some sort of rights of protection in the form of 18C and 18D. Once those are repealed, I (as an able-bodied Australian-Chinese teenager with no "voice" as such) won't have any legal standing if I get verbally bullied. How is that right for me as a part of minority group? The majority group of Caucasians have free-standing rights over others in this multi-cultural society? Seems rather counter-intuitive to me.
Marcia Langton, Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, wrote an interesting opinion piece the recently launched The Saturday Paper which is definitely worth a read. It discusses how the repeal of 18C advantages journalists like Andrew Bolt, which I whole-heartedly agree with:
Brandis’s view is that there is a distinction between racial vilification and opinions that might cause offence to members of a particular racial group – “they’re not the same things”. Racial vilification, he said, is the “utterance of abusive or threatening words”. Yet, this is exactly what judge Mordecai Bromberg found in the case of Eatock v Bolt: “Beyond the hurt and insult involved, I have also found that the conduct was reasonably likely to have an intimidatory effect on some fair-skinned Aboriginal people and in particular young Aboriginal persons or others with vulnerability in relation to their identity.” I also said that I felt the articles Bolt wrote about several Aboriginal people were far from the subject of politics and were simply abusive. I discussed a particular case of an accomplished young woman, and said it was racial abuse. Bolt had argued that she had no right to claim she was Aboriginal; in other words, that we are expected to deny our parents and our grandparents to satisfy someone else’s views on race.
Another well put perspective by ''Cat'' on a recently published article on the Herald Sun on Indigenous Liberal MP Ken Wyatt threatening to cross the floor is:
We all know we live in a free society but that doesn't equate to living without rules! My car can do much more than the standard speed limit but I know that there are restrictions for all of us that can drive to keep us and others safe from harm!
I'm sure you'll find that most people who are part of ethnic minority groups will be against the repeal. It really isn't about left-wing or right-wing politics… it's about common sense and it's also about giving too much power to a power-centric majority groups (such as our Government) who will continue to marginalise the already marginalised.
The Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) was Australia's response to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which Australia is a signatory of. So I guess, just like Australia is a signatory of the Refugee Convention… our Government doesn't really care what it's signed up to.