Anti -hate speech laws may broaden in Victoria

Woman with white tape over mouth
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Anti – hate speech legislation has been debated in Victoria. However, any further movement is postponed until next year due to religious freedom legislation the Coalition government wants to pass.

Should hate speech laws be extended?

I’m really uncomfortable with laws that are deemed censorship. This is the problem with legislation like Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Do I want racism, bigotry against religions, homophobia and transphobia to increase? Of course not! It infuriates me when people, especially those with a massive media presence, make derogatory (and almost always false) comments against racial minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. But censorship has been proven to be a heartache, for both accusers and the accused.

Case: Eatock vs Bolt

In 2011, Newscorp columnist, Andrew Bolt was taken to the Federal Court of Australia and sued for two articles Bolt wrote in Melbourne’s Herald Sun and At the time, Judge Mordecai Bromberg concluded thar Bolt was in breach of 18C. The articles were forbidden to be republished. The Herald Sun was forced to apologise for publishing the articles and take them down.


I never read the articles. I’ve only the headings and snippets quoted in other articles. I have also heard and read Bolt’s defences in the aftermath.

The reason why I think the Eatock vs Bolt case has put 18C in a bad light is because of the affect it has had, even years later. Andrew Bolt has had a target on his back since 2011.

Bolt has been treated like a pariah in much of the media. He has written about serious abuse against him that’s been published on social media (which I vehemently condemned at the time), he has received threats that were deemed so serious, he and his family had to be escorted from their home for their safety.

Then, in 2017, Bolt was physically attacked by alleged Antifa members in Carlton, Melbourne. Unknown liquid was thrown on his head. Luckily for Bolt, he fought back. While many described the substance as merely glitter, Bolt insisted that the substance hurt his eyes.

Case: Cindy Price vs Queensland University of Technology

In my opinion, this is a tragic case.

In 2013, former Queensland of Technology students Alex Wood, Calum Thwaites and Jackson Powell, along with other students were sued by QUT administrator, Cindy Prior for racial abuse, citing 18C. Two students paid settlements to avoid court.

The event happened in 2013. The students were asked to leave the a computer lab that Prior said was reserved for Aboriginal students.

Thwaites, Wood and Powell made Facebook posts protesting “segregation”, and sarcastically asked where “the white supremacist computer lab” was.

Thwaites was also accused of using the word “ni**ers on the post. He always denied this and it was never proven.

The case was thrown out of the Federal Court in 2016. There were no real winners. Cindy Prior lost the case. She was ordered to pay all the court costs. She later filed for bankruptcy.

Although the judge ruled in their favour, Calum Thwaites, Alex Wood and Jackson Powell didn’t escape unscathed.

Arguments against broadening ‘hate – speech laws’

In the lead up to this year’s federal election, Labor proposed extending the RDA a similar way that Victoria Labor has.

On the surface, this may seem like a good idea. However, I think the Bolt and Prior cases show how badly things can go.

The laws end up causing division. They also cause people to have less empathy for racial, religious minorities and the LGBTQ+ community, not more. Talking about LGBTQ+ people, we had the marriage debate for a number of years. We had the Israel Folau religious freedom fiasco. I don’t think we need another culture war. We don’t need another ‘I told you so. I told you we shouldn’t have had same – sex marriage’.

A better way

Late last year, I wrote that the U.S’s First Amendment was admirable. The reason why I thought it worked, was because the U.S. had an independent media that is big enough to have an impact.

I love how Kyle Kulinski (Secular Talk), David Pakman (The David Pakman Show) and Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian (both The Young Turks) stand up and are often willing to stand against the status quo. They stand up for justice and accountability. Having a variety of voices and people willing to stand up for justice and accountability in the media is better than censorship.

Do you think anti – hate speech laws be broadened to protect religious minorities and the LGBTQ+ community? Should those sort of laws (i.e. like 18C of RDA) exist at all? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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By Sara Harnetty

I'm a student. Interested in current events, music and various issues.

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