Flat White

Does Daniel Andrews have new bars on free speech coming?

19 April 2021

4:00 AM

19 April 2021

4:00 AM

In 2018 a Scottish comedian was convicted of a hate crime after filming his girlfriend’s pug performing the Nazi salute and putting it on YouTube. 

In Canada recently, a man was reportedly jailed for contempt of court for refusing to stop talking about his son’s gender transition and referring to him as “she” and “her”.

Now I need to say that I do not endorse misgendering people or teaching dogs to do Nazi salutes – but getting the government involved in this is a road to madness. 

But buckle up, because it looks like at least one Australian state might be about to hit the highway.

A new report from the Victorian Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into anti-vilification laws has been released. It has a range of recommendations that, if made into law, will weaponise the authoritarian Karens. No longer will they just want to speak to your manager, they will take you to court.

Ominously, neither of the two Liberal Party members on the committee argued against the recommendations in a minority report. And now the Government is trying to sell it to the Victorian public with talk about banning the display of swastikas.

(On this point, swastikas are not banned in Israel. They take the approach that anyone who is ugly and stupid enough to identify which such symbols of hate should be allowed to expose their true nature for everyone to see.)

But the swastika issue is only one dot point in the report. These proposals are far-reaching restrictions on our freedom of speech that would divide this state into races, genders, the abled and disabled, the woke and the non-woke, the dobbers and the dobbed upon.

Soon enough, our public servants will become quasi-police, and Victoria’s courts will be full of people complaining about what they overheard someone say on the bus or read on Twitter.

Our prisons could fill up with young men who said the wrong thing at the footy and refuse to apologise.

Like much of the rest of the world, Victorian law stops people from threatening or inciting others to threaten physical harm to another person because of their race or religion.

Threats of violence are beyond the pale so this is how it should be.

But these recommendations would seriously lower the threshold. Under the proposal, bureaucrats and judges would only need to be satisfied that a person recklessly engages in conduct that is “likely to incite hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule” of a person based on whether they possess or associate with someone who possesses a “protected attribute”.

The list of attributes would expand to include race, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics, intersex status, disability, and HIV/AIDS status.

If this legislation came to pass, it would only be a matter of time before the list lengthened to who knows what? The short, the bald, the ginger – all of them with a list of petty grievances to take to Woke Court. 

Such a system will strongly favour the middle class and those with the resources to pay for lawyers.

What a nightmare.

But if the left side of politics think this might not impact them, maybe they need to have another think.

They could wind up in Woke Court for displaying the hammer and sickle – that equally sickening symbol behind the deaths of millions. A future conservative government could easily turn this into law.

And would it still be okay to wear a t-shirt bearing the likeness of the notorious racist and homophobe, Che Guevara?

People of the left could equally find themselves in trouble for supporting socialism. 

Where would it end? If this kind of law passes, I can guarantee that the list of prohibited symbols and protected people will grow.

 People on each side seem to think only those with opinions they disagree with should be censored. It always comes as a shock that these rules might also apply to them.

And, meanwhile, it will make little or no difference to political extremists who will find new symbols, meet in secret and become harder to identify.

Where extremists are currently moderated by public opinion, soon they will lurk in the shadows.  Some will recognise this as their chance to become a hero. They may choose to go to court, create gofundme pages, make speeches on courthouse steps, and some may become political prisoners. 

It’s a recipe for social chaos and division — with identity politics turning us into warring tribes. 

Free speech is fundamental in a democratic society. The Government has no place policing our private conversations. They should butt out before we become the laughing stock of the nation.

David Limbrick is the Liberal Democrats MP for Victoria’s South East Metropolitan region.

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