From the address to the National Press Club by Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, 18th February 2015. I’ve indicated by my much beloved ellipses where I have chosen to leave words out.
Recent tragic events in Paris and Copenhagen are a reminder that “free speech” is not a slogan; it is a principle to be defended even if expressions cross the line of social acceptability …
I know the objective of this law is not to take subjects off the table. That’s part of the problem. The intention of the law doesn’t match its wording.
I understand why some communities feel the maintenance of this law is essential to their sense of security in our society, but for many of us so is the freedom of speech to defend ourselves.
Race, culture and religion regularly overlap …
No group should be able to use law as a shield from criticism. That’s why 18C is neither fair, nor just, and should be repealed.
Australians continuously raise their concerns with me about the current wording of 18C. Most want reform.
It is utterly inconsistent with human rights that some legal privileges are afforded to some, and not others.
Many ask why their identity group doesn’t enjoy the same legal privilege.
It’s that question that demonstrates the absurdity of the law. Subjective tests such as “offend”, “insult” or “humiliate” are not justifiable restrictions on free speech: whatever the subject.
If the same standard were applied to all identity groups we’d be a straightjacket society unable to discuss controversial topics.
From listening to communities, the law doesn’t reflect the mischief advocates even want to address:
- Anti-Semitic slogans targeting school children on buses.
- Anti-Islamic abuse toward women wearing Niqabs.
- Threats of violence against Asian-Australians on public transport.
- Homophobic and transphobic bullying.
- Deliberately degrading Aboriginal Australians.
No one disputes the human consequences of invasive and abusive public harassment …
If the law is re-orientated toward addressing public harassment it would enjoy far more public confidence across the community than it does today …
But we must seek reform because free speech goes to the heart of everyone’s individual autonomy and dignity.
You can read the whole speech <HERE>. You may be surprised.