Yesterday’s tribunal decision ordering 2GB and Alan Jones to apologise and pay damages for hate-comments in 2005 is a victory for all minorities.
As the ABC reported this morning, Alan Jones and his employer 2GB have been ordered to pay $10,000 in damages and apologise on air to me after I made a complaint to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal in New South Wales over a series of radio broadcasts.
The tribunal also ordered the second respondent (2GB) to conduct “a critical review of its policies and practices on racial vilification and the training provided for employees including all ‘on-air’ personnel with a view to determining whether they are adequate to ensure compliance with the racial vilification provisions contained in the Act.”
This was an expensive, time-consuming and stressful victory. However, the complaint had to be made because years of efforts at engagement with talk-back radio and Jones in particular produced only temporary results that would fade away very quickly after each of the few meetings we had.
The string of comments uttered by Jones in April 05 included the following:
“Lebanese males in their vast numbers not only hate our country and heritage.”
“They have no connection to us.”
“They simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that’s taken them in.”
“What did we do as a nation to have this vermin infest our shores?”
“Tell me we don’t have a national security problem in the making.”
“Take the gloves off, and make life a collective hell for these bastards and their followers …”
It took approximately two years at the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW and a further two-and-a-half years at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to get a decision that virtually means that such comments are not acceptable to be broadcast in Australian society.
While this is a victory, a conclusion that arrives four-and-a-half years after the incident is a slow conclusion indeed, its slowness meant that the respondents continued with comments such as the following in the week preceding the Cronulla riots, which were reproduced by Media Watch in February 2006:
“My suggestion is to invite one of the biker gangs to be present in numbers at Cronulla railway station when these Lebanese thugs arrive, it would be worth the price of admission to watch these cowards scurry back onto the train for the return trip to their lairs … Australians old and new shouldn’t have to put up with this scum.”
And the following exchange:
Jones: Yeah, good on you John.
John: Now, ah, my grandfather was an old digger and he used to say to me when we were growing up “Listen, shoot one, the rest will run!”
Jones: (still laughing)
This case has taken a great toll on me and my family over the past four-and-a-half years. The comments that went to air at 2GB motivated some people in the community to help partly fund the tribunal action, I had to borrow some and use my own finances, a third each or thereabouts in order to get an adjudication. My children understand that I preferred to fund this action instead of their university studies in order to protect Australian society against divisiveness and vilification.
While some of the comments quoted above were said to be comments made by listeners, either by phone or email, Jones still chose to broadcast them and a minority of Australian society became victimised while the majority were being told that they are the victim. This is indeed a tragic irony, that needs to be stemmed by our legislature. Otherwise, it can create fears, tensions and Cronulla-style riots and, God forbid, pogroms and worse.
The damages awarded by the tribunal, when they are eventually paid, will go directly to a Muslim Women’s Respite centre as promised all along.
The apology, if it is not appealed, will eventually come, either through agreement or by order of the tribunal, and the review will hopefully improve the standards of broadcasts to eliminate vilification.
This whole costly exercise could have been avoided soon after the broadcasts with a sincere apology. I hope that this decision will give heart to all Australians, especially the long-suffering Muslim Australians.