18C: Rights Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane may be drumming up work as race hate cases fall

18C: Rights Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane may be drumming up work as race hate cases fall, by Chris Merritt. Cartoonist Bill Leak recently published a cartoon depicting an Aboriginal policeman returning a delinquent Aboriginal youth to his equally delinquent father. Tim Soutphommasane encouraged people to complain about the cartoon.

Tim Soutphommasane

On Soutphommasane’s Facebook page, the commissioner reproduced Leak’s cartoon and invoked the heads of liability in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act: “If there are Aboriginal Australians who have been racially ­offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated, they can consider lodging a complaint under the ­Racial Discrimination Act with the commission.”

Why is he drumming up business?

That information comes from the commission itself and it shows that it is not exactly overrun with complaints invoking section 18C. In June, it was dealing with just 18 matters concerning racial hatred.

This information was only disclosed with great reluctance. It is outlined in heavily redacted documents that the Institute of Public Affairs extracted from the commission using the Freedom of Information Act. The IPA wanted to know how many matters in this category were being heard or conciliated.

Bureaucracies grow to suit the needs of the bureaucrats. Shame to have a $300k per year job and a staff to help him if there were hardly any need.

The commission has not yet produced its annual report for 2015-16. But the reports for the previous three years show that the annual number of complaints about racial hatred never fell below 116. …

The commission’s numbers tend to support the view that those who believe section 18C is an essential safeguard need to explain why so few people are trying to use it: just 116 out of a population of 24 million.

This is a racist bureaucracy that encourages more racism and encourages divisiveness, and 18C must go.

The QUT case has stripped away the spin of politically correct authoritarians and exposed the ugly truth about section 18C: it is building a new version of apartheid.

For a nation of immigrants, anything that entrenches racism — and that is the practical impact of this provision — is intolerable and will eventually be swept aside. …

As currently structured, section 18C is an appalling law. It perpetuates uncertainty about what can and cannot be said because of the subjective elements that are part of the test for liability. …

For those who sue using section 18C, this test is no test at all. It has all the rigour of tossing a coin in the air while shouting: “Heads I win, tails you lose.”

It encourages people to see themselves not as part of the Australian community, but as separate groups entitled by law to their own special legal standards. It ­divides the nation by race and panders to identity politics.

In the QUT case free speech is on trial. Good that the university itself didn’t see a problem with his speech. Tricky business, this existence of vague rules that are selectively enforced. It engenders a climate of fear — but maybe that’s the point?