Dear Everyone, Including Particularly Our New Senate,

We need to talk about section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. What it does and doesn't do. There seems to be some confusion (we're looking at you, new senators). Let's see if we can clear a few things up.

  1. Section 18C prohibits acts that are reasonably likely to `offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate' someone because of their `race, colour or national or ethnic origin'.
  2. It doesn't apply to religion. It won't stop Islamophobia. It's up to public opinion to fix that.
  3. It doesn't inhibit your personal, legal right to free speech. We have no such right in Australia.
  4. Yes, the price of philosophical free speech is people saying offensive things. Free speech is important. So is freedom from racial vilification it's about balance. It's funny isn't it, you don't often hear people in racial minorities defending free speech and the right to offend people.
  5. There is a defence in section 18D for acts done reasonably and in good faith for a genuine purpose in the public interest, or to make a fair report on a matter of public interest. Looky there. More balance!
  6. But careful how you go free speakers, this defence didn't help Andrew Bolt and if you want our two cents it wouldn't help Bill Leak either. Bolt's defence failed because of factual inaccuracies and inflammatory and provocative language. We say Leak's cartoon was so obviously inflammatory and imbalanced that an 18D defence would fail for him too.

Now, can we please stop talking about repealing section 18C. It doesn't stop you (new senators) from harassing our Muslim community and you can still say things that will offend people because of their race. You just have to be accurate, reasonable and act in good faith. In short, don't be a complete turkey and you'll be right.