In his Australia Day message to the Samuel Griffith Society, former High Court Justice Ian Callinan delivers strong criticism of Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s proposal to overhaul anti-discrimination laws. It is significant that a former High Court justice would so openly criticise a proposal by Australia’s highest law officer. It reflects the very deep concern in the legal community about the proposals. Most interestingly, Callinan says the law would not survive a challenge in the courts:
It seems as if each year the Constitution and the cohesion of our Australian community are put at some new and entirely unnecessary risk. The dangers of the current one, of the introduction of a new law to criminalize speech which might cause offence to anyone, should not be underestimated. Even the imaginative powers of George Orwell would not have conceived of an administration that would dare to try to forbid every member of society from passing adverse comment upon any other member of it. The proposed law is such a silly one that it will turn everyone into offenders. A law of this kind fails the elementary test of rational, consistent, and worse, undiscriminating application. In consequence, the cases selected for prosecution will be exactly that, “selected”, that is to say, carefully chosen, under the influence or pressure of the most vociferous pressure groups. Every Australian with an ideal of democracy – and I hope that means most Australians – should do everything they lawfully can to oppose the introduction of this outrageous law. I remain optimistic however that if good political sense does not prevail, and the law is enacted, it will not survive the scrutiny of the courts.