Preachers of hate

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I hope Tony Abbott will forgive me if I’m a little sceptical about the “preachers of hate” red card legislation he wants to push through Parliament.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m just a bit cautious when I notice the first time he goes into the plan with Alan Jones on 2GB.

Alan Jones, you might remember, is the man who has repeatedly faced court over claims he incited the Cronulla race riots with his own on air hate speech and who launched a vicious attack on Julia Gillard based on the demise of her father.

I’m also a little sceptical about a Government pushing so-called “preachers of hate” legislation, when it is the same crowd that only recently, reluctantly, backed down on its election promise to amend the Racial Discrimination Act to allow people to promulgate racial hatred and bigotry.

Amongst those preachers of hate Abbott sought to give a green light to rather than a red card were Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt. How handy, then, to be discussing hate speech on the Alan Jones programme — I mean he is, after all, an expert.

In Australia, the last time I remember there being this much fuss over “preachers of hate” speaking in Australia was when Geert Wilders came to our country, despite widespread calls to have his visa application denied. Wilders has many notable followers — including Anders Behring Breivik, who massacred 77 people in Norway in 2011; Andrew Bolt; and, of course, Cory ‘The Beast’ Bernardi.

When this particular “preacher of hate” came to Australia, it was Tony Abbott’s former parliamentary secretary, Cory Bernardi, that gave him not the red card, but the red carpet treatment, acting as his guide. Of course, as in reported in IA, he did have other more surreptitious Coalition supporters at his hate-filled events, including the MP who passionately wants the burqa banned — ‘Gorgeous’ George Christiansen.

Still, “preachers of hate” is a pretty loose term, so one’s view of what constitutes hate preaching could depend on your views on preachers and, indeed, hate.

In the U.S., there is federal legislation to protect its citizens from hate crime. A hate crime is deemed a crime against someone who is based in the victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Tony Abbott seems to view hate a little differently, saying on radio to Jones:

"Under the law that we are bringing through the Parliament, hopefully before the end of the year, it will be an offence to promote terrorism not just to engage in terrorism but to promote terrorism.”

Whilst I agree with this, I don’t think it goes anywhere close to far enough.

In fact, it would seem to the casual observer that Abbott believes a “preacher of hate” is someone who promotes terrorism, not someone who is on a soapbox making speeches designed to promote intolerance, hatred, discrimination and ignorant bigotry.

I would suggest this is a very narrow view indeed.

Preacher of hate Alan Jones used the Abbott interview to preach some hatred about an Islamic organisation in Australia he would like to see banned.

The group is called Hizb ut-Tahrir and they are banned in some parts of the world. I don’t claim to know enough about this group to give my views on them being “preachers of hate”, so I won’t — but banning them would seem futile to me.

Banning hasn’t exactly worked a treat for bikie gangs, why would this be any different? In fact, it seems to only make it more difficult to monitor their activities as they move underground.

Banning an organisation won’t suddenly change its members’ beliefs, indeed it would seem more likely to antagonise the membership.

It is starkly ironic that the same people arguing for greater freedom of speech when it came to the Racial Discrimination Act are the same ones wanting less freedom of speech for those whose views they find objectionable. Hypocrisy writ large.

I am totally in agreement that freedom of speech should not be a get out of gaol free card for those who incite violence, directly or indirectly — however this clearly needs to be a two-way street.

Those who claim to be Islamic while promoting violence against civilians and other terror related activities should be charged and gaoled. And by the same token, those who promote views that lead to hatred and discrimination against Muslims and those of Middle Eastern background should also be arrested and incarcerated.

If it was a criminal offence to preach hate in Australia, maybe we would see less comments from those seeking to promote class warfare by branding people such as the disabled, pensioners, single parents and the unemployed as “leaners” (or bludgers), claiming they are parasites on society while others do the “heavy lifting”.

Maybe also we would see less speeches made that brand homosexuals as perverts and people with no morals, by those who claim some sort of moral superiority, of the like we often see in certain religious groups and Liberal Party senators.

Maybe it would stop those who are trying to ensure that we view every woman wearing a head covering as some sort of threat with their incorrect and discriminatory calls to “ban the burqa”.

Maybe it would mean groups like the World Congress of Families coming out here to spew hate about single mothers and homosexuals are damaging society’s moral fabric would have to tone down their rhetoric or have their visa applications denied. Given their Australian ambassador is Kevin Andrews, minister for social services, I’m sure the government wouldn’t like them being seen as “preachers of hate”.

There is no doubt that hate speech is a current and relevant topic and something our laws need to consider.

However, I’m not sure that it’s a decision that should be made by this Government alone and I’m also not sure that it should be put forward by a Prime Minister on the radio programme of someone who has called for public the country’s prime minister ‒ amongst other public figures ‒ to be drowned at sea in a chaff bag.

This should be something that is overseen by a completely independent panel and has representatives from all cultures, religions and minority groups taking part.

This is far too important an issue to let it be overrun by a blinkered, hypocritical rightwing agenda.

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