Tony Abbott says his government should have pursued less ambitious reform of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, in comments that will re-open debate in the conservative wing of the Liberal Party about changing the Act and potentially create a new headache for Malcolm Turnbull. …
Crossbench senators David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day have both flagged they will introduce legislation to, respectively, abolish section 18C of the RDA, which makes it illegal to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person, or in Senator Day’s case to remove the words “offend” and “insult” from the controversial clause.
Attorney-General George Brandis has said the issue remains off the table for the government.
Tony Abbott apparently now regrets not axing 18C:
Mr Abbott said in his speech Section 18C of the RDA was a “troubling law. At its worst, it limits free speech merely to prevent hurt feelings”.
“After the successful prosecution of Andrew Bolt, I promised to “repeal it in its current form” but reneged after fierce criticism from Liberal premiers and a wall of opposition in the Senate. As well, I was seeking ways to limit jihadi hate preachers . . . perhaps the cause of free speech would have fared better if my government’s initial bid had been merely to drop “offend’ and “insult” while leaving prohibitions on the more serious harms.”
There was now, he said, “no real prospect of change” to the law and as a consequence “our Parliament prefers to tolerate over-the-top prosecutions than to upset thin-skinned activists”.
Here is an interesting observation from Abbott’s speech:
There wouldn’t be a person in this room tonight – not one of you – who would say that our civilisation is more secure today than five, ten or twenty years ago.
The new tribalism, the loss of civility, and reality TV politics is taking its toll across the Western world. Yet for all our present discontents, there’d hardly be any one, here, unconvinced that Western civilisation, especially its English-speaking version, is mankind’s greatest achievement.