The Report on Bolt and Its Implications

Yesterday, as you should be aware, Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun was found guilty of racially vilifying a group of indigenous Australians in the newspaper. The articles argued that the complainants used their aboriginality to gain employment. The case has been controversial not just for what was said, but also the potential implications of the guilty verdict, for the media and perhaps even for the broader public.

First of all I would like to say that I do not agree with what Andrew Bolt said in the article in relation to the identified group. I think it was incredibly stupid and perhaps misinformed at best. There is a perfectly good reason for what is called ‘positive discrimination’ at times in society, particularly when such striking disadvantage exists between indigenous Australia and the rest of the population. At the same time I do believe that merit is the most important feature in employment and as long as educational opportunities exist for all, then a culture largely based on merit should prevail.

Second, I must point out that freedom of speech is not a right enshrined into our Constitution or our laws. It is however, implied through our common law, but this perhaps is not strong enough in the face of the court result yesterday.

It is quite ironic, that a Bill of Rights, which Andrew Bolt spoke against, could have possibly saved him from losing this case. A Bill of Rights would do no more than provide for the most basic and fundamental of human rights, including freedom of speech to be enshrined in law more forcefully. Yes it could be changed by an Act of Parliament and if put to Constitutional referendum would likely result in failure.

I cast no aspersions on the court for the decision that was made. It was obviously made with due regard to existing legislation and common law. What the decision, in my opinion does is to make it harder for people to voice an opinion on racial based issues, in print, on the airwaves and online. Furthermore, I am concerned as to the implications it has for private citizens, if any (I am not a lawyer).

Whether or not you agree with what Andrew Bolt said, if you believe in free speech you should accept his ability to voice an opinion that is not hateful. A Bill of Rights should now be discussed more openly and as a matter of priority, not to usurp anyone, but to guarantee the fundamental human rights of all. Allow opinions to be be aired and leave it to bodies such as ACMA and the Press Council to decide whether or not it is based on fact or not. As Voltaire said ‘I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’. I hold this to be true insofar as the speech involved is not hateful, inflammatory or discriminatory.

About Tom Bridge

A perennial student of politics, providing commentary for money and for free. Email me at tbridgey@gmail.com or contact me on 0435 035 095 for engagements.

Posted on September 29, 2011, in Federal Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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