Malcolm Turnbull’s famous excuse for not wanting to touch section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act – ‘it is not going to create an extra job’ – is demonstrably false, as the small but growing army of lawyers, paralegals, human rights apparatchiks and increasingly full-time litigants will attest. Truth be told, it’s created a bit of work for the media too. Editorials and articles don’t write themselves. Cartoons aren’t drawn by machine.
As much as we can all get philosophical about this abhorrent law, and about the grand perversion of identity politics (okay, some of those articles almost do write themselves!), there are also the constant twists and turns of the various inquiries and court cases to report on. Most Speccie readers would have been thrilled when Melissa Dinnison dropped her complaint, and the Human Rights Commission dropped its investigation. Likewise, Cindy Prior’s vexatious case against the hapless QUT students was quickly dismissed in court. Not that that was the end of it, of course. No sooner had Judge Jarrett ruled that the students had no case to answer, than her solicitor was busy filing an appeal, although she missed the deadline and is now blaming Jarrett for her tardiness and inability to read. To add to the fun, one of the students is suing Labor MP Terri Butler after she defamed him as racist. No doubt 2017 will bring further inquisitions and show trials. Such is the unending saga of confected racism in the age of 18C.
As we’ve said, it is right and proper for this magazine and (sadly, very few) others to ‘not stop talking about these few sentences of legislation until they are repealed, and until Australians can talk and draw, write and think about controversial issues without the spectre of state sanction’. But we must never forget the real victims here. No, not the ‘useful idiots’ like Ms Prior or Ms Dinnison, nor the QUT students, as awful as their situation is as they try and embark on careers and lives only one Google search away from being labelled racist. Nor Bill Leak.
The real victims of 18C are indigenous Australians; subject to patronising and racist policies all their lives.
The heinous crime with which Mr Leak was charged was questioning indigenous policy; the vast majority of which is formed in academic ivory towers, think tanks, and government departments. It’s so genteel and uncontroversial that it’s not even accused of being meaningful, let alone racist. But the thing about cartoonists is they don’t tend to appear before Senate inquiries or churn out long form essays (although Mr Leak has written some great ones, including in this issue). Rather, they shine light on topics as only they know how to. Indigenous policy desperately needs this provocative scrutiny.
Despite what is essentially bi-partisan agreement (so it must be good, right?) on record government expenditure for education, health, housing, and legal services – not to mention smoking ceremonies, arts funding, public service days off for secret aboriginal business, indigenous football rounds, the Recognition campaign, manifold bureaucracies and commissions, Sorry Days, Apology Days, and the white Left’s constant hectoring – aborigines are condemned to lives on the wrong side of the statistics for literacy, education, home ownership, incarceration, health, life expectancy, child abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol and drug dependency, domestic violence, and employment. But the systemic inability of successive governments to deal with systemic problems is – or should be – Australia’s national shame. 18C didn’t create any of the problems, but it certainly hinders our national ability to deal with them, because it shuts down our ability to discuss them.
In 1984 Bob Geldof’s Band Aid troupe wondered whether starving Africans ‘know it’s Christmastime at all’. This obscene exercise in vanity spoke to the white conscience rather than the black stomach, as the telethon lines ran hot with those lamenting the lack of Ethiopian snow. 18C is our Band Aid. It allows social justice warriors, Leftist journalists, and an utterly self-serving human rights industry that cares nothing about indigenous health, schooling or employment to scream ‘Do they know Bill’s a racist at all?’, while lamenting Andrew Bolt’s ‘tone’ or some facetious QUT Facebook posts. All we want this Christmas is to see an end to 18C.
The Coalition appear to be flirting with pricing carbon emissions. It is the season of goodwill, so allow us to offer the PM this friendly advice: proceed with this folly and you will destroy your government, the Liberal party, your career – and 2017 will see the birth of a new conservative force in Australian politics. Merry Christmas.
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