The case for knighthoods

When Prime Minister Abbott called a press conference last week, there was little hint to what would be announced, was it new information in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370, speculation amongst the Canberra Press Gallery was rife.

The Prime Minister approached the podium and soon all was apparent, Knights and Dames within the Order of Australia had returned, the first appointments being outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce AC, CVO and incoming Governor General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC. Instantly if one believed those from the opposition benches, the press and some commentators, 21st century Australia had somehow been transported to a feudal era where recipients of these so called Imperial Honours would patrol their outback estates upon a trusty steed, with his Lady and the local peasantry all forced to pay homage, or as other would have it the Prime Minister was awaiting to bestow it upon mining magnates or former politicians, there were even suggestions from some that he secretly coveted the honour himself. Sadly even those who were prepared to at least discuss the matter in more civil tones were often speaking from a position of ignorance, spreading misinformation to an already ill-informed public.

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The Left and 18C – Missing the Point

Attorney General George Brandis’ plans to repeal s18C of the racial discrimination Act, otherwise known as ‘the Bolt laws’ has been met with louder-than-usual bleating from the left-wing commentariat. President of the ACTU Ged Kearney has labeled the proposed changes as an “extreme move by a government out of touch with our multicultural landscape.” Guardian journalist Alana Lentim has gone a step further, accusing the government of sending minorities a message that “the right to vilify them is more important than their right to be protected from racist insults.” Such attempts to characterize the government’s position as ‘anti minority’ are frankly laughable. The true case against the so called ‘Bolt laws’ does not rest on protecting those who seek to be racially offensive. The point is that s18C is a flimsy mechanism for regulating public discourse.

On its face, s18C appears reasonable enough, stating that an act which is done because of a person or peoples race, colour or ethnic origin will be unlawful if it is reasonably likely offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate. Upon closer inspection however, such language is painfully vague. When will an Act be deemed ‘offensive’? Clearly the term has a lower threshold than hate speech or harassment, but at what point would rudeness or even humour cross the line? If we are frank, the question of what types of instances the law does or does not cover is open ended. This takes us to the crux of the problem with s18C. What is “reasonably likely to offend” is a question to which reasonable minds can reach completely different answers.

We should recognize that the meaning of the term ‘offend’ necessarily draws on the subjective values and views of the individual. Sure, under the section the act would need to ‘reasonably’ offend, excluding eccentric reactions. Even so, the idea of a reasonable person is a fiction. There is no objective standard for what is racially offensive. Consider the following scenario.

Say a group decides to hold a public protest against the ongoing ‘Palestinian apartheid’.  During the protest there are chants about ‘Zionist scum,’ and some of the speakers call for the abolition of Israel. For interest’s sake, say the protest occurred in close proximity to a business with Jewish owners. I have no clue if this is the type of scenario that would breach the Bolt Laws. However, this uncertainty is exactly why s18C is so troublesome. The question of what is reasonably likely to cause offence or intimidation in practice will rarely have an easy answer. This highlights how as a piece of legislation s18C is a farce. Why should the legality of protests, blogs, opinion columns or even conduct in the workplace be determined by reference to what a judge deems in hindsight is “reasonably likely to offend”?  Surely there are less ambiguous, more targeted alternatives to s18C. Going back to our scenario, wouldn’t approaching the incident from a public nuisance perspective or looking to whether the acts were likely to incite racial violence perform the role of maintaining a civil society without delving into the fiction of what is reasonably offensive?

Lastly, I’d like to address the Bill Shorten’s accusation that repealing s18C will give the “green light” to racial vilification.  This kind of cynicism makes the mistake of assuming that legislating against causing offense is the last line of defence protecting minorities from the ignorant, racist (presumably white) majority. Personally, I regret that Mr Shorten is so pessimistic about Australian culture that he thinks passing a law is the only way to maintain public morality. What he fails to consider is that in a free society, actions and opinions cannot escape the court of public opinion. When ABC reporter Jeremy Fernandez was subject to a racist diatribe earlier last year on Sydney public transport the public and media alike stood together in condemning the act. The same goes for the assault of an indigenous man on a Gold Coast bus last month. Indeed, John Howard continued to exact a political toll for his calls to slow Asian immigration decades after they were made. I don’t disagree with the Bolt laws because I want racism to be protected. I just believe that in a free and open society like Australia ideas should be left to rise and fall on their own merits. And if the evidence is anything to go by, bigoted views hold little currency.

My Submission to the Human Rights Policy Branch Re: Amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975

I encourage all freedom patriots to send in their own submission. Feel free to cherry pick anything I have written below. Make sure you get your submission in by COB Wednesday 30 April 2014.


To whom it may concern,

Article 19 from the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

I support the proposed amendments stated in the draft exposure bill – Freedom of Speech (Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014

Should the Freedom of Speech (Repeal of S.18C) Bill 2014 fail pass into law, then Australian’s will not have the right to freedom of opinion and expression as expressed by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and instead will be on par with totalitarian regimes like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Burma and Yemen who severely censor freedom of opinion and expression.

If freedom of opinion means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President, was right when he said that “The liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties.”

So give me the right to free speech and I’ll use it to secure and protect all of my other human rights.


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How to save the Great Barrier reef

fishEarth Hour—Saving The Great Barrier Reef in ONE HOUR!

B J O’Reiley writes a mirthful look at the benefits of Earth Hour,  a chummy soiree scheduled for this weekend.

In recalling Bryce Courtney’s tale of “The Power of One” it is easy to imagine the effectiveness of the power of the collective. So, how much saving will you be contributing on Saturday night?


I can already feel the tremendous sense of excitement and that deeply pleasurable yet morally uplifting feeling that something truly worthwhile will be achieved when I contemplate Earth Hour and what can be done then.

Yes, at 8.30pm on Saturday 29 March, together we will save the Great Barrier Reef by doing nothing more than switching off the lights for an hour.

The thrill of it all is such that I couldn’t wait—I hope this isn’t breaking the rules—and last night I switched off the lights at 12.07pm and here it is already 2.26pm as I write and I have withstood with a steadfast determination any temptation to switch the lights back on. It’s the hitherto latent greenie in me coming out. Continue reading

Do We Need Permission to Innovate?

Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, just released a new book looking at how government’s hands-off approach to the Internet allowed the online economy to boom, and warning that when public policy is instead shaped by the “precautionary principle,” innovation and our overall standard of living declines.

What policy vision will govern the future of technological innovation? Will innovators be forced to constantly seek the blessing of public officials before they develop and deploy new devices and services, or will they be generally left free to experiment with new technologies and business models?

In Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom, Adam Thierer argues that if the former disposition (“the precautionary principle”) trumps the latter (“permissionless innovation”), the result will be fewer services, lower quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living.

When public policy is shaped by “precautionary principle” reasoning, it poses a serious threat to technological progress, economic entrepreneurialism, and long-run prosperity. By contrast, “permissionless innovation” has been the secret sauce that fueled the success of the Internet and much of the modern tech economy in recent years, and it is set to power the next great industrial revolution—if we let it.

This book is available free in PDF form here, and may be of interest to our readers.


Is anti-terrorist surveillance discriminatory?

discrimination-214x300There is much debate in other countries about escalating Islamic militancy. In the UK, neighbourhoods are seeing the opening of offices dispensing Sharia law to its followers—a parallel legal system. The matter of full-face covering is not only contentious but offensive to many in the West who claim discrimination as all who enter bank and other institutions must not wear full-face coverings—Moslems are exempt!

The US is wrestling with this issue and like Australia will need to make legislative decisions and soon. Such decisions will have many Western nations examining their cultural traditions and the extent to which they are willing compromise to placate a minority within.


by Bret Harte
At the full tide of multi-culturalism Australia enacted scores of laws about discrimination.
And, oh how the media cheered.
No more refusing drinks to Aboriginals or barring them from clubs was what was on everybody’s mind. It was about time. Continue reading