The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act


Source: The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act

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When sections in a piece of legislation assume their own properties, the state of debate is bound to be strained. In Australia, the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), notably section 18C, has again become a central ball of political play.

Sections 18C and 18D were introduced as legislative responses to the 1991 National Inquiry into Racist Violence and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.  The assumptions of these reports attribute to words, particularly those used in a certain way, dangers that can cause emotional and psychological harm.

Australia then joined much of the world in legislating against speech of a certain variety.  In many European states, bad ideas expressed with the good faith of a denialist, specifically on the subject of the Holocaust, is bound to earn you a prison sentence or a steep fine.

In placing Australian society on the road of good intentions, section 18C renders unlawful something reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone (a person or groups) because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.  Given that individuals take offence regularly using race as a poor alibi should already demonstrate that the argument, and implementation, are bound to be flawed. ….

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