I am opposed to the new sedition laws for a
variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they may well be used
against someone like me who is a vocal critic of the war on terror and an
advocate of a military defeat of the occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I’m therefore not prepared to support calls
for people like Sydney shock jock Alan Jones to
be charged under the sedition laws for the comments he made which appeared sympathetic to attacks
against Lebanese people and supportive of the racially-motivated violence that
recently occurred in Cronulla and other parts of Sydney.
There’s no need to charge Jones with
sedition under this legislation. From my reading there’s ample scope for him to
be charged under the Racial Vilification Act of 1975
and the Racial Hatred Act of 1995.
Jones openly boasted about his role in encouraging
the Anglo community of Cronulla to take the law into their own hands and his
comments have been widely canvassed. Take a look at the following sections of
the Racial Discrimination Act, it seems clear that both Jones and his employer,
2GB, could be found to have a case to answer for incitement and vicarious
In terms of section
17 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, it is unlawful to incite the “doing
of unlawful acts”, or “to assist or promote” the “doing of such an act” (Section
17 (a) & (b).
radio station itself could be held to be vicariously liable because Jones, as
an “employee or agent” committed the act of unlawful incitement “in connection
with his duties as an employee or agent” (Racial Discrimination Act 1975,
Section 18A (1)(a))
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission provides some very clear guidelines for the media in relation to
racial vilification and incitement to hatred.
In 1997 I was a consultant to
HREOC on the writing and compilation of a guide to the
legislation for journalists and other people working in the media. One
aspect of my work with HREOC was to travel around Australia with the then
Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Zita Antonios, to brief journalists and
editors on the implications of the new legislation. We used several examples,
like the following, in our discussions. It’s worth noting that Alan Jones did
not attend a briefing session, though I believe he was invited.
Consider the following inflammatory comment made by a Sydney radio announcer in response to a
caller’s complaint about a Chinese restaurant:
“It makes you
feel like getting a dozen or so of your footballing mates together and have a
night down there and sort these little bastards out.”
The announcer also made references to staff in Chinese restaurants as
“chinks” and “weeds” and referred to Japanese people as
“rotten little slant eyed devils to the North screwing us down”.
Complaints about the comments were upheld by the then Australian
Broadcasting Tribunal as a breach of its radio program standards. The Tribunal
made an order that future broadcasts by the announcer be subject to a ten
second time delay so that comments could be edited if necessary. Failure to
comply rendered the station liable to non-renewal of its license.
compare these comments to those made by Jones and others in the lead up to the
Cronulla riots, the similarity is striking. HREOC does not publicly
disclose complaints during the early phase of proceedings as it prefers
mediation to taking legal action. It’s therefore unlikely – unless the
complainant(s) go public – that we will know if any complaint has been lodged
with HREOC. A similar proviso applies to the Australian Communication and Media
Authority’s complaints procedure.
other thing to remember, is that while attention is focused on Alan Jones
because of his profile and his previous form, there are other Sydney shock-jocks who made similar comments.
There is not much semantic difference between “encouragement” and “incitement”,
as the well-known comments from Jones and e his 2GB stable mate Brian Wilshire,
radio thugs will try to hide behind the excuse that they were only putting to
air comments made by callers and in unsolicited emails. However, the
responsibility is ultimately theirs. They should and do know better. It’s good to see that Wilshire was
suspended, but Jones, as usual appears untouchable. Perhaps it’s time for
members of Sydney’s
Lebanese community to test the vilification laws and the willingness of HREOC
to take these nasty little men to task.