Locking someone up for saying things we don’t like is a pretty blunt response. And it’s certainly not an appropriate use of state power.
But Dr Helen Szoke, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, disagrees. Yesterday she said we should consider making racial vilification a criminal offense:
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Dr Szoke said the issue deserved serious consideration.
”I think it’s time we actually looked at that,” she said.
Giving police the power to investigate cases of racial vilification is a completely inappropriate use of police resources. It would mean a significant increase in their workload and further strain on an already stretched court system.
But further to the point it achieves nothing constructive. A far better outcome would be for those who disagree with a particular expression to actually voice their opposition, rather than frantically calling for a police response.
Dr Szoke also had another incredible response relating to free speech when asked about Coalition plans to repeal s 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act:
Asked about the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s promise to amend anti-discrimination law to narrow the definition of racial vilification, Dr Szoke said it was important to retain protections against race hate.
Mr Abbott has argued the laws in their current form infringe free speech.
But Dr Szoke said most human rights were not absolute.
”This is particularly so in relation to freedom of speech,” she said.
Why? And why does the Race Discrimination Commissioner get to decide which human rights are most important? Surely the opposite is true – freedom of speech needs to be untrammelled so that we can articulate and defend freedom in general.
As Mark Steyn has said “Give me the right to free speech, and I will use it to claim all my other rights.”