Australian free speech fiasco: Secret complaints stifle debate

Australian free speech fiasco: Secret complaints stifle debate, an editorial in The Australian.

Given how section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has worked in the past, Melissa Dinnison had every right to expect things might work differently for her.

As readers have now come to know, complainants often fill out an online form via the Australian Human Rights Commission, then engage in confidential negotiations that may or may not involve conciliation hearings before often walking away with sizeable amounts of compensation. Discreet and quick, this is a form of justice that lacks accountability and fairness.

In The Weekend Australian Hedley Thomas detailed the case of Kyran Findlater, a 26-year-old graduate of Queensland University of Technology. A year ago, when working in Canada, he received a message from a lawyer telling him he was being sued in the Federal Circuit Court over a racial discrimination complaint he had never heard of from a woman he didn’t know.

He learned that an Aboriginal QUT staff member, Cindy Prior, had taken offence at his 2013 Facebook post protesting how he and other non-Aboriginal students had been barred from an indigenous-only computer room. “All this does is encourage separation and inequality,” was the punchline of his post.

Ms Prior claimed this was “racial vilification” that caused “psychiatric injury” and economic loss. To cut a long story short he was given the chance to pay $5000 to make this accusation go away, and he did. Many similar claims have been settled in the same confidential and pecuniary fashion.

Plight unmasks the injustice of 18C, by Hedley Thomas.

Kyran Findlater made an alarming discovery when he checked his LinkedIn page one day in November last year.

The married Brisbane man, 26, a robotics engineer and graduate of the Queensland University of Technology, had been working in Canada since December, 2014. He had not heard of Cindy Prior.

He knew nothing of a racial vilification case Prior had brought against him and six other QUT students under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act over their Facebook posts in late May 2013.

Until now, Findlater, a quietlyspoken young professional with no interest in, or history of, political activism, did not want to speak publicly about any of these facts. He feared the smear of racism, and damage to his reputation, budding career in Canada and family.

The chilling effect.

hat-tip Barry Corke