Thursday, January 31, 2013

Anti-Discrimination Bill

In December I expressed concern about the proposal in the proposed Anti-Discrimination Bill to make it unlawful to offend or insult others. I agreed with ABC Chairman and former New South Wales Chief Justice Jim Spigelman, who said that freedom to offend is integral to free speech and that there is no right not to be offended.

I welcome today’s reports that the Attorney-General is now giving a revised Anti-Discrimination Bill to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for its consideration. I particularly welcome the fact that section 19(2)(b), which lists “conduct that offends, insults or intimidates”, is to be deleted.

The draft Bill was of course released for public comment, and the fact that the Senate Committee has received 525 submissions shows there has been plenty of public interest in this Bill. The Attorney-General should be congratulated for listening to public concerns.

Like other Australians I will continue to be interested in this issue. In Victoria, for example, for someone to be in breach of the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, they must incite hatred against, serious contempt for, revulsion, or severe ridicule. This is much less threatening to freedom of speech than “conduct which offends”, and is worthy of consideration.


  1. The anti-discrimination act should also cover the use of temporary working migrants from disadvantaging Australians seeking employment. A Monash report reveals the number of migrants arriving in Australia since the beginning of 2011 who found jobs about equals the number of new jobs created in Australia for everyone over the same period. The 475 visa is to give jobs to these workers only when there are no locals to be employed with the skills. This rort is being abused, and there is tough competition for entry-level low skilled jobs because of our high immigration intake. Some visa categories are uncapped and set to rise, while employment is falling. There should be no discrimination against Australians, and the globalization of our workforce is disadvantaging Australian job seekers.

  2. It is possible to offend a person. A religion is an abstraction, an idea. A religion is not a person and religion cannot be offended... just like Newtonian mechanics cannot be offended. Any attempt to restrict criticism/ridicule of any idea has to be considered to be an infringement upon free speech.