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Crikey says: Brandis fails political strategy 101

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The moment for reform [of the Racial Discrimination Act] has clearly passed,” Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson said in opening today’s “Freedom Symposium” in Sydney. “But the lessons about the need for a united approach should not.”

It’s advice that should be heeded by Attorney-General George Brandis, who was notably absent from today’s event.

It’s Brandis’ failings that do much to show the need for that united approach — first with the government’s efforts to reform section 18C of the RDA, and then with its bungled announcement of a data retention scheme.

There are many who believe Brandis lost the chance to reform 18C when he declared that people had the right to be bigots. It is a straightforward statement — like it or not, people do have such a right — but politically, it was a disaster that altered perceptions of the government’s proposed reform away from free speech to the right of people to express crude racism and bigotry.

More broadly, the government manifestly failed to learn the lesson that its predecessor struggled to grasp: that proposing any controversial reform requires voters to be convinced that there’s a problem that needs fixing in the first place.

It’s a lesson Brandis himself might make an effort to learn as he works to reverse the debacle of the government’s own attack on free speech via data retention.

3
  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 7 August 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    He’d have to shed his Hubris armour first?

  • 2
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 7 August 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I find it truly ironic that Brandis of all people can, and appears willing, nay eager - if AM interview is true, to suffer for being correct in his principal of staning up for the rights of Bigotus Brandisii. Delectable.
    Who knows what other sound principals might lurk in that unpromising, humanoid shaped form?

  • 3
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 7 August 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure it was Brandis’ declaration - that people have a right to be bigots - that lost the argument. I think the deciding moment might have been the government’s realisation that if they put themselves between Andrew Bolt and section 18C they would also have to throw themselves between Mike Carlton and the Israeli lobby.

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