Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, October 17, 2002

Uncle has been inclined to take the view that the legal offence of racial vilification is a gratuitous and expensive way of helping people who are incapable of repartee or a swift right hook, as the occasion demands.

That’s why I thought it dumb to make anti-semitic grub Toben sluice down his Website.

Here are the Toben claims that led Judge Branson of the Federal Court to take action:

1. There was serious doubt that the holocaust ever took place.
2. It was unlikely that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz.
3. Jewish people who are offended by and challenge holocaust denial are of limited intelligence. And –
4. Some Jewish people, for improper purposes, including financial gain, have exaggerated the number of Jews killed during World War II.

That is, the causes of offence, amounting to vilification under the Racial Discrimination Act, were for the most part matters of historical/political interpretation, and not the kind of vile personal racism Toben no doubt practices in private. There is also no doubt the historical event in question generates strong feelings.

The obnoxious Alderman Eldridge of the Wagga Wagga Council was also tried and found guilty of offensive historical talk in various public places by the Equal Opportunities Tribunal following a complaint by the Wagga Aborigines Action Committee in 1995.

And you don’t have to be a corporate body to take action against vilification:

In October 2000 Mr and Mrs McMahon got from the Federal Magistrates Service $1 500, costs and a free punch at their neighbours the Bowmans who had uttered derogatory remarks about the McMahons’ racial background.

I bet they felt better after that.

Now consider these choice words:

The criminal dregs of white society colonised this country, and now, they only take the select choice of other societies, and the descendants of these criminal dregs tell us that they are better than us. And because we are not elitists, we tolerate them.

Of course we know that convicts were a small part of the migrant intake of this country, but it’s the thought that counts here. And the thought is sheer racism.

India, the Asian country which is dominated by the lowest of the low amongst racists.

I bet Indian-Australians really feel good when they read that. And then there’s this general wrap-up (via the Bunyip):

The likeness of Islam and Kuffar is like that of fresh clear spring water and water brought up from the bottom of a suburban sewer. If even a drop of the filthy water enters the clear water, the clarity diminishes. Likewise it only takes a drop of the filth of disbelief to contaminate Islam in the West.

I guess that covers the rest of us.

What these extracts have in common is their source; a publication freely available in print and on the Web in this country. The publication is Nida'ul Islam Magazine which claims a circulation of 4 000, most Australian and mostly young.

The first two extracts above were by brother Keysar Trad, the public face of the Mullah of the Lakemba Mosque. The second was by brother Amir Abdullah.

Do we have to allow these hate-mongers to afflict us, pollute the minds of our impressionable fellow citizens and encourage violence against us?

Not according to the declaration of the UN’s World Conference against Racism held in South Africa last year.

“certain media, by promoting false images and negative stereotypes of vulnerable individuals or groups of individuals, particularly of migrants and refugees, have contributed to the spread of xenophobic and racist sentiments among the public and in some cases have encouraged violence by racist individuals and groups".

Those words are taken from the Conference’s final Declaration, and they’re not far wrong. Last week you might have found the idea of “vulnerability” too limiting for your taste, but after Bali?

HREOC agrees that we just don’t have to take it any more.

“Hate speech is harmful. My paper today rests on this premise, as indeed do the other remedies I will outline in a moment. Hate speech does not have to be targeted if and only to the extent that it is seen to cause another, discrete, separate harm. Hate speech, in and of itself, is harmful” according to Dr Katharine Gelber, at a HREOC conference on racism in August this year.

And HREOC is indeed willing to punish racial vilification, defined by the Racial Discrimination Act as an “ act [that] is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and (b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

The vilification just has to be not in private.

Two neighbours shouting at each other in an otherwise empty street was judged to be not in private. How can a publication be “in private”.

There is a let-out, of course. If you act in good faith and “in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest” or your comment is “a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment”
then you can be as rude as you like.

But I don’t see that protecting brother Trad, let alone brother Amir Abdullah.

So, go for it, bomb-threatened fellow citizens. Ask HREOC to help you fight those who vilify you.

If you’re feeling lucky have a swing at them first. Not that I’m recommending that, of course.