A Bolt of Dutton: Fake news and Section 18C

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(Screenshot via @GeorgeBludger)

The Coalition and its camp-followers want to amend s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act so they can tell even more malicious racist lies, says managing editor Dave Donovan.

This week, we heard all about fake news. Such as fake news on Facebook, which apparently helped deliver Donald Trump the presidency.

Meanwhile, the Trump wing of the Coalition and its camp-followers continue to agitate to amend Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

It’s not complicated. Section 18C stops them saying the things they want to say.

Racist things, obviously.

Because section 18C Act makes it unlawful to publicly insult, humiliate, or intimidate others because of their race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.

Very racist things.

Since section 18D of the same Act provides exemptions for works of art, science, or any other genuine purpose, made in the public interest, providing the item is fair and accurate and based on a genuine belief.

In other words, very racist, malicious and misleading things.

Clearly. Since the things they get away with saying at the moment are bad enough.

Take this, for example, from The Guardian on Friday (18/11/16):

Malcolm Fraser made mistakes in bringing some migrants to Australia and the country is paying for that now, Peter Dutton has said.

The immigration minister made the comments in an interview with Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt, who repeatedly questioned whether it was an error to “let in” people from Middle Eastern and African nations or cultural groups.

Dutton appeared to connect the immigration program of the 1970s – which saw people arrive mainly from Lebanon, Chile and the Czech republic [sic] – with allegations of Sudanese men committing crime, and the descendants of immigrants leaving Australia to fight in the Middle East.

“If there is a particular problem that people can point to within a certain community, and we’re talking about a significant number of people in that community who are doing the wrong thing, then clearly mistakes have been made in the past,” he said.

“The reality is that Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in in the 1970s and we’re seeing that today. We need to be honest in having that discussion.”

So, according to Bolt and Dutton, immigrants from this and the previous generation are predominantly terrorists and criminals.

These comments are divisive and dangerous.

We know this, because similar comments by Alan Jones on 2GB in 2005 were proven to have incited hatred in the community and help foment the Cronulla riots.

By any reasonable definition, Peter Dutton is a racist. But even so, he is not in any danger from s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Consider the facts.

In 2008, during Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations, for instance, Peter Dutton stormed out of Parliament — the only Coalition frontbencher to so absent himself.

This very public act was not actionable, of course, by s18C.

Then, in September 2015, as immigration minister, he was picked up by a boom mike at a very public photo session joking about water lapping at the doors of Pacific Islanders affected by climate change.

Again, s18C did not strike him down. Indeed, this insensitive comment didn’t even affect his career, given Malcolm Turnbull was happy to keep Dutton on in the same hyper-sensitive role when, just days later, he toppled Tony Abbott as prime minister.

Section 18C also did not have a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech in May this year, when Dutton said refugees

“… won't be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English."

Nor did it stop him from going on to say:

“These people would be taking Australian jobs, there's no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there's no sense in sugar-coating that, that's the scenario."

The section also did not step in to stop a racist and discriminatory immigration regime that has been described as "criminal"  and "torturous" by not only refugees and refugee advocates, but also by immigration workershealth professionalslawyershuman rights experts and even the United Nations.

None of Peter Dutton’s many racist statements and acts have caused him to be punished under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act — although it is true his interviewer above did fall foul of it once.

Yes, Murdoch columnist and broadcaster Andrew Bolt is one of the few people ever to have been found to have contravened s18C. In 2011, he was found by the Federal Court to have knowingly and maliciously lied in a series of newspaper columns in an effort to humiliate and hurt several Indigenous Australians on the basis of their race. Note the reference to lies — because the judge said that if he had been telling the truth, he would have been excused under the exemptions found in s18D of the Act.

Of course, Bolt is one of the Government’s best friends. So, we can be pretty sure why the Coalition and its friends want to scrap section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act: they want to mislead and tell racist lies, like Bolt was found to have done. Like Trump and his media trolls did in America, to get that racist elected.

In short, want to be able to make up fake news to divide us. To scare enough people and scare them to enough to vote for their abhorrent, inhuman policies. They want to be able to lie with impunity. And have it so there is not a thing anyone can do to stop them. Like there isn’t in America.

I don’t think we need to give people like Peter Dutton and Andrew Bolt a licence to do that. What they are already able to say is quite bad enough.

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

Listen to Dave speak to political editor Dr Martin Hirst about this "shock" U.S. election result in the latest IA podcast HERE.

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