Excellent article on a subject I’ve been wanting to write about but couldn’t work myself up to.
Let me reiterate from my perspective that naturally you have a right to be a bigot, and that right has never been denied. That does not make it permissible to oppress, discriminate or slander anyone on the basis of that bigotry.
Free speech is one of the pillars of our society, but in any sensible and democratic society there must be limits.
I admit to some disquiet in the laws pertaining to this. There’s a very delicate between free speech and what is perceived as being vilification. I’m very much at the liberal end of the spectrum, but have concerns in general about being nannied, and told what to do and how to act by the government, and at the same time agree with Voltaire when he says “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
I suspect Brandis had something like this in mind when he made his very clumsy speech, but it doesn’t excuse him of being a fascist.
I’ve written on this subject before highlighting the fine line between speaking your mind freely and oppressing someone in so doing. After some consideration it’s my opinion that the issue is not so much in the laws themselves, but in how they are applied and on what principle. We cannot be so hyper-sensitive that the merest suggestion of dissent is shut down, especially if there may be some truth in it. There’s certainly some risk of that. The bigger risk, however, is that we allow discriminatory comment to go unchecked.
Once upon a time we knew the difference, and unconsciously self-policed. Unfortunately I’m coming to the belief these days that society needs clearly articulated guidelines. This is not a topic I’m going to follow up here, except to say that so much now has been politicised that the reflex sense of decency and justice yesteryear is no longer so.
Loosening some of these guidelines, as Brandis and his cronies in the LNP propose, is another political act. Doubtless there are some in the party who are hot gospellers for it, but the overarching purpose is to repeal and deny liberal Australia (those who don’t vote for the LNP and who believe in basic equality), and the Labor parties that were proponents of these laws. Its in line with their policies on refugees and others less fortunate. It’s these initiatives that are reshaping Australia into something I don’t recognise.
On the face of it it’s hard to understand in this day and age why anyone would seek to give a leg-up to those who advocate discrimination and hate, except as a political act.
Ultimately we need these curbs on free speech because unfettered free speech is dangerous to individuals and to democracy. Can we live in a society where the kind of racial hatred the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews is permissible? Already the tenor of conversation in this country has demonised those who are different. If we allow this to be loudly proclaimed then where does it lead us?
This government is a disgrace.