Free speech restoration may be Bromberg’s legacy

The Australian‘s legal affairs editor, Chris Merritt, has written about the Federal Court decision that lead to the Abbott government’s proposal to amend the Racial Discrimination Act:

Barring a sudden reversal by the Abbott government, Federal Court judge Mordecai Bromberg is about to enter an exclusive club: he will soon become one of the few judges whose rulings have led to the destruction of a body of law.

Before his 2011 ruling against News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt, hundreds of claims of racial vilification had been quietly processed over 20 years using a procedure that favoured those who claimed they had been vilified. It was mostly done behind closed doors at the Australian Human Rights Commission, with only about 5 per cent of respondents braving a hearing before a court.

After Justice Bromberg’s ruling against Bolt, the notoriety of the case and the clarity of the judgment meant a much wider audience became aware of the nature of the law governing racial vilification.

That culminated in this week’s release by Attorney-General George Brandis of a draft plan that would introduce a system that would oblige the courts and the Human Rights Commission to adopt a procedure that gives priority to community standards.

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