Super women

Eva Cox writes: Re. Barbara McGarity (comments, yesterday) As it was my article, yes I can.

  1. Like many good ideas it disappeared.
  2. It’s not employer contributions that are the issue, it is that these increases come instead of wage rises, so it reduces take home pay, which is a problem for low income earners who need the money now. I am suggesting with the government’s generous tax concession, a further $8B be used exactly for that type of purpose. This would allow the workers to keep the extra 3% for current expenses and supplement those who rely mainly on the pension.
  3. Doubling the income tax threshold is in the Henry Report but with increased tax on lower income earners to cover part of the costs. The problem with it is that it goes to high income earners and cuts their taxes as well as lower income ones. That is why it is better to pay via extra payments or a low income credit rather than raise the tax threshold.

Andrew Bolt

Eliza Chapman writes: Re. “The extraordinary assault on Andrew Bolt and freedom of speech” (Tuesday, item 2) I usually agree with all, if not most, of Mr Keane’s opinions.  However, I’m concerned that in his exuberant, passionate piece on the right to free speech, he has got something very wrong.  It’s not just him — in all the commentary about current Bolt case going on in the Federal Court, there has been much bemoaning of the low opinion in which the legal profession holds freedom of speech and freedom of expression. However, those commentators, and particularly Keane, have missed a couple of important legal points (boring as they may be, and make for good journalism they do not).

For those who don’t know (and the media has done a very good job of obscuring the actual test of offensive behaviour under the Act, which hasn’t helped) section 18C of the RDA provides that it is offensive for a person do to an act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person (or group) and the act is done because of the race, color or national or ethnic origin of the group. Fine. However, there is an exemption in section 18D of the RDA, which basically provides that anything published in a paper that is written reasonably, good faith, and in the public interest, is not unlawful.

This is the protection of freedom of speech provision, bemoaned as absent by Keane. It is not absent. It is very much present, and it has protected newspaper columnists (including Bolt in a previous case, although under similar Victorian legislation) in the past. Wait, I hear you say, what if Bolt’s viewpoint isn’t in the public interest? Surely it isn’t, being such awful, offensive drivel (not to mention his unfortunate love affair with bad punctuation)? Fortunately, the Act also provides that ‘fair comment on any event’ is protected, if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the writer.  This is not an onerous test. I will wager a case of beer that Bolt will successfully defend his position.

The sadness for me watching this case is not a potential breach in the (mostly imagined) bulwark of our rights.  We do not have a constitutionally protected right to free speech, or to freedom of expression.  If we did, this would be a very different discussion.  What saddens me is that such a repugnant viewpoint as Bolt’s is getting free press, and the man himself is getting (another) very public soapbox from which to proclaim his worldview, in a case that he almost certainly will walk away from unscathed.  This is not the way to silence offensive opinion. This is just an opportunity for racism and paranioa to be heard.  My free advice? Sue him for defamation.  The common law is much more unkind to this type of journalism than the RDA ever will be.

Alexandra Dunwill writes: Whether we agree or disagree with Andrew Bolt it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has a right to express his views in this matter. Considering that these views are not inciting violence, his conduct is not illegal. If the nine prominent members of Aboriginal community were offended by Bolt’s views, they had many opportunities and forums to present their opposing point of view without taking this matter to court. It looks very much like a witch hunt to me. Andrew’s loss would be a sad victory for a totalitarian style censorship.

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Bolt on trial: columnist hits back on slur claims” (Wednesday) “The nine applicants are suing Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times for offending and insulting them under the federal Racial Discrimination Act. They argue Bolt implied in four 2009 stories that fair-skinned Aborigines “chose” to identify as Aboriginal in order to access publicly funded benefits and prizes.”

So it is now a criminal offense to offend and insult someone who considers that race is involved.  And how do we objectively define what is offensive or insulting? Well the test seems to be whether or not the ‘victim’ feels themselves insulted.

A legal system cannot base its rules on the subjective feelings of any individual.   It must strictly define what actions are a crime, what words are proscribed, and these ‘crimes’ must be proclaimed for all citizens to know.

Bolt’s crime appears to be the expressed opinion that ‘Aboriginals’ with mostly European genetics, have identified themselves as Aboriginal to access benefits and prizes.  He might be in error.  The persons involved might, or might not have that motivation – who could objectively decide that?  Bolt is being judgemental, he is making a call, he might even have been deliberately provocative.

But free speech is not only for those who never make errors, who are scrupulously fair, who have no prejudices and who never make anybody feel insulted.

Justin Pettizini writes: Justin Larkin (comments, yesterday) doesn’t just claim that Andrew Bolt’s words have the capacity to encourage genocide (in itself I would have thought a risible argument) but that they actually, literally, amount to genocide.  He wrote,  “It would seem to me that Bolt’s statements fit the UN definition [of genocide] in that he sought to destroy a part of the group which call themselves Aborigines by establishing himself as the most qualified arbiter and transferring the (now adult) children of the group to another group.”

Bolt wrote that a few people of mixed ancestry choose to identify as Aboriginal solely because of the perceived advantages to them.  I agree that that is offensive and to the people involved probably incredibly hurtful.  But he didn’t actually transfer anyone anywhere.  He didn’t kill or cause serious bodily harm, he didn’t inflict conditions of life on them calculated to cause their physical destruction and he didn’t try to prevent them from giving birth.

By trying to stretch a definition further than it can possibly go in order to demonise someone with whom he disagrees and whom he no doubt finds intolerably offensive, Larkin makes the concept of genocide meaningless.  If what Bolt did amounts to genocide then what word do we use to describe the Holocaust or Armenia or Cambodia or Rwanda?

Barry Everingham:  I too hope Andrew Bolt can go unhindered after the case is settled. He is  someone I hold in absolute contempt for his arrogant  moralising and his disdain for those who oppose his narrow views, but in our society he has every right to offend which he certainly  does with almost every word he pens.

Carrie Muir writes: I have to say I don’t regularly visit your site, but I have read what you have posted and this seems to be fair reporting.

However, after the trial is over, I ask you to remember this. This is as far as I am concerned, an effort to silence Bolt. Now you may applaud this, but remember, these laws can also be used to get anyone. I believe there was a saying in Germany, that went something like this….

First they came for the Jews, and I was silent, then they came for the shopkeepers, and I was silent, then they came for me.

You may disagree with us right wing nuts, but be very careful lest after they silence us, they silence you.

Freedom is under attack in my opinion, from left wingers who have pushed this legislation. You should be campaigning to get these laws eliminated.

James McDonald writes: Crikey readers may not like Andrew Bolt, but it almost sounds as if he is being accused of a racial slur for calling someone white. OK, we all know white men can’t jump, and some of us spend a fortune on solariums trying to be darker, but that hardly makes being a paleface a racial put-down.

Whatever insult Bolt may be liable for is overshadowed by Ron Merkel, QC, combining the racial identity element and the German name element, by some mystical alchemy of logic, into an accusation that Andrew Bolt is setting up Australia for some kind of genocidal Final Solution.

Whatever happens now in court, the public are unlikely to forgive Mr Merkel, or his clients, for such a shabby, rancid smear tactic.

Doug Belot writes: Andrew Bolt is a man who speaks as he see’s , I happen to agree most times and I do want to add my moral support to who I see as one of the very few real journalists who actually seek out new and report on news as it happened , not as the journalist wants his/her readers to see it.

Valerie A Hodgson  writes: This matter is not about whether one likes Bolt or his ideas  or not. It is about freedom of speech and all Australians should fight for that tooth and nail. In that respect ,since it is your business also, you’d better hope he is acquitted

Gavin Greenoak writes: When the poetry and myth of religious expression was appropriated for the purposes of legitimizing authority of one person/group over another it was corrupted. It is the same with science.  Wherever this will to dominion is present, so is a splinter and a suppuration of the tissue of debate.  It only seems necessary where good faith fails, but where it prevails, so may good sense. Because it is based on a profound mutual respect.

Mark LcLaughlan: Bolt was trying to be funny? Now that’s a laugh.

Libya

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 11) Richard Farmer’s memories of Croatia are unfortunately not relevant to the current situation in Libya.  Right now, the West must take careful stock because the high cost of our failure to seize the moment is soon to be called in.

The imposition of a no-fly zone at the height of the rebellion, when a confused Gaddafi peeked out from the ruins, would have tilted the balance and seen a  new regime take control, for better or for worse.  Now, the moment is gone and the rebels are not an aroused cross-section of Libyan society, but those adventurous and stupid enough to be willing to fight Gaddafi’s forces from open trucks in a desert.

Selling them some weapons will do nothing to resolve their lack of skills, organisation, or tactical ability.  This might not matter in a mountainous country in Europe, in the open desert it counts for everything.  We should know this, our own troops fought there and conditions are not now so different from 1942.

Having failed, pathetically, to get their diplomacy up to the speed of events, the West must now consider either cutting its losses or finding cohesive, formed military formations.  This can only occur by buying off entire units of Gaddafi’s army, or placing rebels under NATO officers, with all the implied risks.

More Dick in Crikey

Bill Williams writes: At times Crikey‘s editorial team seems to be part of the Ross Garnaut fan club… its key journalists fawning with admiration over his complicated neo-liberal views about tax and market architecture. Dick Smith proposes something far more practical, concrete and likely to produce results and Crikey doesn’t even bother to report it. Come on guys, Crikey seems to be an alternative media version of the ABC.

Disability

Stuart Mackenzie writes: Re. “Superinjunctions and the Streisand Effect” (yesterday, item 5). It’s interesting that disgraced former Royal Bank of Scotland head honcho Sir Fred Goodwin is so anxious to distance himself from his banking career that he has taken out a court injunction preventing the media from referring to him as a former banker

Apparently though he is more than happy to retain his status as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Bankers in Scotland as well as his knighthood for services to banking.

Surely the UK judge should have made it a condition of granting the injunction that Goodwin resign from the Institute and hand back his knighthood?

Tony Barrell

Harold Thornton writes: Re. “Vale broadcaster, writer, journalist and ‘latte watcher’ Tony Barrell”  I am very saddened to hear of Tony’s death.  Apart from anything else, as a jam maker I lament the passing of a colleague.  Vale Tony.

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