Following Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s partial back down over her anti-discrimination proposal, Chris Kenny has today made some excellent observations. First, those fighting laws that stifle free speech are winning the war on these dangerous provisions. Secondly, politicians who supported the court’s ruling against Andrew Bolt in 2011 have put themselves in an untenable position:
The government has dug itself in on these laws for too long – obviously unwilling to admit that the “offends or insults” test is too onerous because that would mean admitting by extension that Bolt was convicted under laws that were too restrictive. Back in 2011, government MPs and ministers lined up to condemn Bolt and endorse his conviction. So, blinded by their antipathy towards the popular conservative commentator, they have been sticking stubbornly to their proposed new laws despite widespread opposition and a range of eminent experts arguing that they will stifle free speech.
Sadly, however, Ms Roxon says the government’s changes will only drop the “offends or insults” test from the other areas of anti-discrimination laws, such as age, gender and disability, and keep it in place for racial vilification. This is wrong-headed. The test for discriminatory language should be the same, in law, across all areas of discrimination. That is supposed to be the very purpose of this consolidation of the law.
We can presume that the only reason the government doesn’t want to extend this sensible change to all areas of discrimination, is because it does not want to admit that Bolt was convicted under unreasonable laws – that Bolt was right.