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Sep 29, 2011

Bolt decision: 'Irresponsible journalism illegal'? Think again

Making "irresponsible" journalism illegal? You don’t have to like Andrew Bolt to find that notion worrying, but dressing up this week's decision as a major assault on freedom of speech is putting it far too high.


In paragraph 388 of his judgment in the Bolt matter yesterday, Justice Bromberg quotes a phrase from a Privy Council case. It should strike a chill into the hearts of journalists and media organisations in Australia, particularly at this moment in our history.

“The public deserve to be protected against irresponsible journalism.”

So who should do the protecting? This judgment, and the very fact that there is a Racial Discrimination Act, suggests that legislators and the courts see this as their role, at least on matters of race.

The worry being that one person’s irresponsible journalism is another’s forthright and courageous publication. So where do we draw the line?

The question is particularly pointy at the moment, with a media inquiry set up to examine, among other things, the effectiveness of the codes and standards that apply to journalism. We are in the middle of a major push to address “irresponsible journalism”, or journalism that is seen as irresponsible. Nobody who cares about freedom of speech can be unconcerned about where the line is drawn, and who gets to do the drawing.

Having said all that, to dress up yesterday’s decision as a major assault on freedom of speech is putting it far too high. The judgment does not fundamentally change the current rules of the game for journalists.

It is clear that had the plaintiffs taken defamation actions, they probably would have succeeded. The test Justice Bromberg applied is broadly the same as has applied to the fair comment defence in defamation law for most of my career.

If Bolt had got his facts right, if he had made a conscientious attempt to weigh the evidence, then he probably would have won this case even if his words did offend, insult, humiliate and intimidate. He would have been exempted under Section 18 D of the Act, which protects fair comment.

As David Marr puts in his piece in Fairfax newspapers today, Justice Bromberg’s judgment is not an attack on freedom of speech, but on bad journalism. But should such journalism be declared illegal? I think not.

The most fascinating, and in the long term most powerful part of the judgement is his investigation into Bolt’s methods — not only his factual errors, but the way in which facts that did not serve his purpose were ignored. The judgment amounts to an expose of which Media Watch could be proud.

Justice Bromberg analyses the way Bolt built his case, and exposes errors and the way in which other evidence was overlooked.

The idea that even opinion writers should get their facts right is not new. It has been upheld not only in defamation cases, but also in Australian Press Council adjudications in recent years. It is an accepted industry standard. In his column today,  Bolt makes only a glancing mention of his many errors, and says “none seemed to me to be of consequence”. That is a gobsmacking statement.

There were so many wrong or distorted facts that the inaccuracy undermined the comment, the core of the articles, which was the allegation that the named individuals had chosen to identify as Aborigines for political advantage. That is why the case against Bolt succeeded.

So why should we worry?

The fact that this judgment is about race, and a racial discrimination case, is not without significance. It makes it clear that when writing about someone’s racial identity, there is an extra range of legal hurdles to worry about.

Let me experiment. And in doing so, I will, to quote Justice Bromberg, use “language and structure highly suggestive and designed to excite” and also use a “derisive tone … provocative and inflammatory language and (including) the inclusion of gratuitous asides”.

So let’s say I call Andrew Bolt an arrogant, dishonest and irresponsible tosser who routinely bends the facts to suit his rhetorical purpose. I can say all that, and my only legal fear is defamation. I can also deride him as an arrogant man without running afoul of any extra laws.

But if I call him an arrogant white tosser, or an arrogant Dutch tosser then I have to worry not only about defamation but also about the Racial Discrimination Act. I can make aspersions about his gender, his occupation and his mental health and worry only about defamation. If I raise his ethnic identity and his race, then there is an extra legal worry.

The test will then be whether I am offending people, and whether I am expressing an opinion in good faith. On Justice Bromberg’s standards the test would include, not only my use of language and my factual accuracy but also an assessment of my readership and my influence — the “harm likely to have been caused” — and this opens a giant can of worms.

Is the audience of Crikey, reading these words about Bolt and his Dutch ancestry, particularly likely to racially stereotype Dutch people, or white people? Is my (limited) influence on the Crikey readership likely to mean that Dutch people will be intimidated?

Should the Crikey audience be protected from my irresponsible journalism?

Justice Bromberg took into account Bolt’s “significant public standing and influence”.

“His evidence suggests that his columns are popular and widely read.  They will have been read by persons inclined to regard Mr Bolt as speaking with authority and knowledge.  They will likely have been read by some persons susceptible to racial stereotyping and the formation of racially prejudicial views.”

So would it have made a difference if Bolt’s articles had been published in a small circulation literary magazine, or on a little-read blog?

These are unanswered questions, likely to be further examined in the likely event of an appeal.

Whatever the worth of what Bolt wrote, and I think it was highly offensive and wrong, it was in one sense not all that extreme or unusual. Similar views can be heard in many pubs and cafes, on the street, and indeed among some Aboriginal people. Justice Bromberg’s judgment contests the rationality of Bolt’s defence of his words. No problem there. The problem is that the conclusion to the argument is a finding of illegality.

The judgment means that journalists, particularly well-read, influential journalists, are to be held to higher standards than ordinary people. That the public “deserves to be protected” from them. It’s a dangerous notion.

Civil libertarians have for a long while argued that the Racial Discrimination Act is too broadly worded. I agree.

It would be overstating the case enormously to say that freedom of speech is at stake here. Yet it is also true to say that, particularly in the current climate, we should be concerned about this notion of using the law to protect people from irresponsible journalism.

The way to deal with irresponsible journalism is, in almost every case, a mix of self-regulation, argument and exposure. I have argued in the past for better and more meaningful self-regulation.  I would have no problem with the publication of corrections being mandated by the reformed Australian Press Council style body now under consideration.

But making “irresponsible” journalism illegal? You don’t have to like Andrew Bolt to find that notion worrying.


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163 thoughts on “Bolt decision: ‘Irresponsible journalism illegal’? Think again

  1. fredex

    “The public deserve to be protected against irresponsible journalism.”

    That is a perfectly acceptable statement.

    If you wish to suggest that it is not try arguing in favour of the converse.

    “The public does not deserve to be protected against irresponsible journalism.”

  2. Mark Duffett

    Best commentary I’ve seen on the Bolt case so far.

  3. Michael

    Margaret it kills me to say this because I do hate your politics, however todays article is right on the money.
    If the law holds and I doubt it will stand the rigor of an appeal, then journalism & news publication in Oz becomes a legal and therefore financial minefield.

  4. Damotron

    Andrew Bolt can dish it out but can’t take it, what goes around comes around. He had it coming so he should stop bitching about it, it’s a bad look.

  5. Aphra

    Yet another Henny-Penny argument.

    Had Bolt simply got his facts right there wouldn’t have been any court case.

  6. Ilona

    Is it fair to categorise the court’s decision as declaring the articles “illegal”? Sure, the articles breached the Act, but they don’t even have to be removed from the internet. The only practical restriction on free speech we’re looking at is the disclaimer that needs to be added to them.

  7. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    The public deserve to be protected against inaccurate journalism.

  8. Modus Ponens

    “The judgment means that journalists, particularly well-read, influential journalists, are to be held to higher standards than ordinary people. That the public “deserves to be protected” from them. It’s a dangerous notion.”

    No its not. The bloke in the pub doesn’t have the power to incite fear, hatred and mis-truths to a wide audience.

    Sorry but widely read journalists should be held to a higher standard. And self-regulation, argument and exposure hasn’t worked as awesomely as you seem to believe.

    If the Press Council had teeth and were independent of media and government influence, there might be a bit more contemplation by journalists before going to print.

  9. Fran Barlow

    Some context. Bromberg ruled that the relief available under s18D (basically protection for good faith statements on matters of public interest) from the more general constraint in s18C was not available because Blot made no serious attempt to get his facts correct. He further noted that had he done so the general claim he sought to make would have been implausible. Thus, a good faith defence was excluded.

    One might note also The News Ltd Code of Conduct which runs in part as follows:

    1. Accuracy

    1.1 Facts must be reported impartially, accurately and with integrity.

    1.2 Clear distinction must be made between fact, conjecture and comment.

    1.3 Try always to tell all sides of the story in any kind of dispute.

    1.4 Do not knowingly withhold or suppress essential facts.

    1.5 Journalists should be reluctant to rely on only one source. Be careful not to recycle an error from one reference source to another. Check and check again.

    So readers had a form of warranty about the professional practice of Bolt (laughable since it is not known to have been enforced but there you have it)

    He can’t claim 18D with that in the baggage he took to court.

    Bolt might have made his trolling claims of misuse of identity for personal profit at the expense of authentic recipients (i.e those having the requisite amount of melanin in their faces to satisfy him) of a program to which he objects in toto (again one coughs at the hypocrisy) if he hadn’t actually referred to any specific living person and avoided the terrible and crushing sanction of having a correction and apology published on his behalf of course.

    Also relevant here in the code:

    8.1 Do not make pejorative reference to a person’s race, nationality, colour, religion, marital status, sex, sexual preferences, age, or physical or mental capacity.

    No details of a person’s race, nationality, colour, religion, marital status, sex, sexual preferences, age, or physical or mental incapacity should be included in a report unless they are relevant.

    This last point — relevance — clearly implies accuracy, since inaccurate things are ipso fact not relevant. Blot ought to have known that even by the published standards of his employer, leave aside those of “lefty lawyers” he was out of order. He choooses to work for them and can’t bleat now about the state oppressing him into noisy silence.

    Moreover, I’d say it’s telling that when you strip away the posturing and consider the “sanction” imposed by law, it’s to publish a correction and an apology.

    The thing that offends Blot most is being forced to co-exist with truth and civilised conduct. This offence is so grave in his view as to truncate his scope to express himself as he pleases, to “silence” him. He dare not run such a risk this morning, according to him.

    Need one add anything to the Blot’s admissions to see how they damn him and the army of the living dead behind him? Probably not.

  10. Filth Dimension

    Aphra, had Bolt got his facts right there wouldn’t have been article.

  11. The Pav

    RE “The way to deal with irresponsible journalism is, in almost every case, a mix of self-regulation, argument and exposure. I have argued in the past for better and more meaningful self-regulation. I would have no problem with the publication of corrections being mandated by the reformed Australian Press Council style body now under consideration”

    The thought of legal involvement appals me however your preferred option has completely failed.

    Self regulation has never worked in any industry. Journalism is no different. Bolt is an appalling memebr of the 4th Estatee. Why have journalists with values not called him out on his pernicious behaviour?. Apart from a little by Media Watch effectively he has not been called to account. Thank god for the internet & blogs!

    It is impossible to get countervaling arguments out when 70% of the press is owned by one company and the other mainstream media are about as lacking in diversity of ownership and opinion. If this was the case Bolt’s persistent distortion’s and half truths would have been called to account long ago instead he has been rewarded with a TV show that further enables him to spread is misinformation and degraded values.

    Can you imagine how Walter Cronjite would regard Bolt? It is time for journalists to stand up for both free speech & integrity. Bolt fails on all counts and is a cynical manipulator of the system to appeal to vested interests for his own economic interests whilst making veiled inferences.

    How often does he lead off with a slur along the lines of I don’t know if its true or I’m not saying its true or similar.

    He doesn’t even have the courage to take ownership of the slurs.

    Bolt -Epic fail as both as a human being and a journalist with ethics.

    His own industry should cast him out. Not for his leanings but for dressing his bias in a cloak of impariality then squealing when he is casught out. If his own industry had acted then the court would not have been involved.

  12. paddy

    Spot on @Filth Dimension

  13. Delerious

    Margaret…people in pubs, at work etc don’t have large loudspeakers like the media in which to spray their personal garbage out to the rest of the world. So yes Journalists/newspapers/tv etc do have to be held at a higher standard. Stop using the ‘common people’ argument to justify a journalists crappy nasty reporting.

  14. crakeka

    One only has to spend any significant time in any number of coastal and western NSW towns and villages to realise the depth and breadth of racial prejudice against indigenous people. In these towns even if a light skinned indigenous person chose to not identify as Indigenous the town rumour mill would often insist that that person was pretending to be “better than they were.” In WA and NT these same attitudes are endemic.
    A young, blue eyed Indigenous person once asked me, in such a village, why was it that Aboriginality and Jewishness never breed out. She asked me why if you interbred a lion with a tiger you got a tigron, neither a lion nor a tiger. But she could have a Scottish grandmother but must remain identified as an Aboriginal.
    Throughout quite recent history these two racial identifications ( Aborigine and Jew) have been used to target and justify disadvantage to these specific groups of people in quite hideous ways.
    It is surely progress that people are now proud to be, and identify as, indigenous. Bolt’s two articles are ill informed, offensive and totally unacceptable. When bad journalism defames members of a group to whom our constitution still denies full citizenship and rights then yes, the protection of their integrity through our courts is not only justified but essential.

  15. Alex H

    There should be some potential consequence(s) of publishing incorrect material. Factors influencing whether penalties should be applied should include:

    – The unreasonableness of the errors
    – The amount of effort taken to get the facts right
    – Where the incorrect facts concern a person or legal entity, what attempts were made to contact that person or legal entity to check facts
    – Whether the incorrect facts have been used to support an argument not supported by the correct information

    An author sitting at their desk fabricating ‘facts’ to support their viewpoint should have a measure of concern about potential consequences proportional to the manner in which they are misrepresenting the facts.

  16. MLF

    I agree. Yes the public should be protected against irresponsible journalism. And also against whiny article like this.

    Self regulation is a farce and everyone knows it, that’s why Bolt has the job that he has. Should the courts and the legislators being the ones doing the protecting? You mean like they do in protecting people from fraud, violence, murder? Err, yeah, I’d say thats exactly their job.

    I’m currently studying media law and I know the laws imposed are tough on journalists and in principle they do pose a threat to freedom of speech etc. But seriously, if the media were more responsible with their power – and I’m talking for the last hundred years – then the laws might not needed to have changed. Maybe the laws should get tougher on media owners, that might make a difference.

    And there’s a reason that calling someone a tosser is different from calling them a black tosser – its called racial discrimination, hence the Racial Discrimination Act.

    Bloody hell.

  17. John

    If I compared Andrew Bolt to Joseph Goebbels, would I be contravening the Racial Discrimination Act? If not, would Bolt consider such a comparison to be defamatory?
    If I said Bolt’s editor was asleep at the wheel, would The Herald and Weekly Times consider that to be defamatory?
    Would James and Rupert Murdoch be prepared to front a parliamentary committee and declare they were proud of Andrew Bolt or would they feel humbled by Bromberg’s judgement?
    Would Wendy Deng be prepared again to save her husband from receiving a cream pie in the face? If she was too slow to react, would Rupert look like a black and white minstrel? If he sang and danced his way to the bathroom, would he be contravening the Racial discrimination Act?
    This is all too much for a white boy!

  18. Elan

    What she said.

    Somebody has to have the bloody guts to say it!

  19. Rena Zurawel

    The way I understand it, is that Bolt’s ‘revelations’ cast a shadow on the entire group of people whereas we should judge individuals by their deeds.
    Geneva Convention treats a group punishment as a crime.
    Irresponsible journalist has already damaged our reputation on the international arena: Children overboard, Dr. Haneef scandal, demonizing refugee children and their parents, etc. And… it has cost the public a lot of money…
    Just recently, a muslim schoolboy was bashed at Sydney school because schoolyard bullies treated him as a terrorist. The boy is 8 years old.
    Needless to say, that media have a big influence on pulic perception.

    Another thing is the very definition of a journalist. I’ve always held the view that a journo is a reporter, not a story teller.

    Re: freedom of speech relates to private opinion and private statements. Everything said and presented in public is under public scrutiny.
    That is why even our politicians/doctors/lawyers and many other professionals have to follow a code of conduct/practice and are not entitled to utter their sometimes very private opinion in public.

  20. shepherdmarilyn

    I don’t understand why Bolt thinks it is any of his business in the first place let alone his right to make up vicious yarns and pass them off as “opinion”.

    He has been inciting racism and hate for far too many years and he should not be allowed to keep on doing it.

    If he wants to go to the US and join the Tea Party.

  21. stephen@feneleyandco


    The question you raise here about where we draw the line lends force to the argument that we need to tread very carefully when it comes to legislative controls over the media and freedom of expression. Whether you realise it or not, you have put forward a very good argument for why we DON’T need another media inquiry. The convergence inquiry could have adequately addressed all the issues that this additional inquiry is going to explore.

  22. Elan

    Light bulb moment!!! :- Crikey is moderating all my posts because I’m Anglo-Pakistani!

    Dang it!! Now I get it!

    That would be right wouldn’t it…………..?

    Ed: Apparently not.

  23. Liz45

    @SHEPHERDMARILYN – I agree! And they’re welcome to him. This is not the first occasion where he’s behaved in this manner. When has it been OK for LIES to be classified as OPINION?

    Self regulation some people say? What a joke! It doesn’t exist as you’ve so capably pointed out at other times!

  24. The Pav


    Not telling porkies is neither a legal or financial minefield.

    As Ms Gillard said . Just stop writing sh&t. It can’t be that hatd

  25. fredex

    Actually the whole issue is not just about journalists [like Bolt or other] but about journals.

    Like News of the World, Ltd News Australia, Fairfax, Gina and so on.

    The unpleasant fact, which the article slips around, is that most Australian journalists are employees of journals ie mass media corporations.
    Who pays the pipoer calls the tune.

    So the question really is who should be watching what the journals ie owners of mass media, do?

    The owners?
    All by their lonesome, they get to make the rules, and only they?
    The society of which they are, presumably, members?
    Does it,they, us, get to be allowed any say in what information [or disinformation] comes their way from the owners and managers who employee journos?
    If not, why not?
    If so, how?

    Cos the present situation, here now in Oz, urgently requires change.

  26. michaelwholohan1

    I think on reading this that Andrew Bolt is one for which the Dutch Cap was made!

  27. Peter Ormonde

    Can’t agree Margaret – and usually I do strongly.

    I don’t have any concerns for the future of irresponsible journalism – of the type set out in detail by yesterday’s judgment. I’m sure it will continue apace.

    Facts are not checked. Google has replaced the records and libraries of newspapers as a font of all knowledge. Deadlines are tighter and editors crankier. But that is not the point – any one can get their facts wrong, even when they check. I once thought I’d made an error myself, but it turned out I was wrong.

    It’s what you do with your wrong facts that counts. Bolt did not just get his facts wrong – he cherry-picked, selecting material to suit his contentions, his own prejudices and those he sought to convince and inflame. He made no effort to contact his targets or get a balanced view. This is not journalism – irresponsible or otherwise – it is advocacy – propaganda and agitation.

    It was and indeed is irresponsible commentary – not journalism, not reportage, not even carefully considered or balanced opinion. It was a rant – one-sided, unchecked and designed like most of his utterances – to provoke a reaction and to smear his targets. It is what he does. But not journalism by a long shot.

    So I wouldn’t get too upset about it at all … no white horse needed to defend our freedoms and journalistic integrity – in fact His Honour has done that already. And good on him. More than the AJA or whatever it is called now could ever do.

    And yes, inserting “white” “Irish” or yes even “Dutch” into a string of perjoratives and invective, designed to denigrate, defame and cause material damage does push the commentator, the journalist or the blogger into the realms of racism. And this was the appropriate forum and the appropriate law to deal with it. And it was dealt with very nicely thank you.

    Now I reckon they should go for damages. Hard. Let them show his handlers how much Andrew Bolt can really cost them.

  28. Peter Ormonde

    Hey Margaret … while you are out and about defending freedom of the press… could you organise a session for Crikey staffers on what “moderation” actually means. They really need some help and expert guidance I think.

  29. John

    Anagrammatically, Andrew Bolt works in a bent world.

  30. SimsonMc

    Congratulations Margaret, you have managed to highlight what is so wrong with journalism at the moment. You are clearly a great example of the massive disconnect between how journalist see themselves and what the public expect.

    The following statement as pointed out by other here is the perfect example of the fact that you and your ilk just don’t get it:

    “The judgment means that journalists, particularly well-read, influential journalists, are to be held to higher standards than ordinary people. That the public “deserves to be protected” from them. It’s a dangerous notion.”

    As I have said before, society provide journalist with a privileged position within our communities whether you like it or not. However as journalists your profession continues to trash it and treat the GREAT privileged bestowed upon you with little or no respect. Then to argue self regulation is the answer, well you might want to call your lawyers because you really are a bloody idiot. (Pun intended in light of the article)

  31. tinman_au

    “The way to deal with irresponsible journalism is, in almost every case, a mix of self-regulation, argument and exposure.”

    That’s worked really well with Fox hasn’t it…

    Personally, I think it was a good decision. In a “one-to-many” relationship like journo’s have, they _should_ be held to a higher standard that “one-to-one” conversations in pubs. I imagine Joseph Goebbels thought he was just “saying it like it is” too…

  32. Gumnutz


    All you seem to be doing is making the point that a person’s ancestry or skin colour aren’t important.

    They’re not.

    Most adults understand this already.

  33. drmick

    Its about responsibility. Doctors Nurses and Specialists are expected to perform to different levels in their profession, and, in legal matters, their levels of responsibility are commensurate with their level of training and expertise.

    Bolt has no excuse and yes, experienced widely read “journalists” generally have credibility. That is usually based on their experience and their critical expertise and their ability to form a logical argument to support their point of view. With this comes a wider readership; there fore they have a greater responsibility to be honest preserve integrity and write responsibly. They should know better, and we should expect more from them than say a junior or cadet.

    Bolt has no credibility. He will keep his red neck supporters and be lionised by racists and crappy lazy journalists who mistake sensationalism for credibility. Whatever he had, he put on the line and lost and he hasn’t learnt a thing from the exercise.

  34. Boerwar

    [Whatever the worth of what Bolt wrote, and I think it was highly offensive and wrong,…]

    Actually, there is a different lead in that might be considered to the discussion.

    (1) there is only one Indigenous writer who gets regular MSM exposure
    (2) non-Indigenous people contol all the MSM
    (3) the historical pattern, the issues, and the agendas of public discourse about Indigenous people has largely been controlled by non-Indigenous people.
    (4) as a current example, in all the opinion making subsequent to the Bolt case there has been minute attention paid to the destructive impacts of racial vilification on Indigenous people more generally over time. Is it completely coincidental that Mt Isa suicides are now counted in the tens?

    Given points 1,2 and 3, racial vilification by non-Indigenous people against Indigenous people is more than just ‘offensive’ and ‘wrong’. It is an integral part of a pattern of destruction going back for a couple of centuries.

    Accepting that that is the case, is it not ironic that it is non-Indigenous people who are nattering about the issues surrounding, ‘worth’, ‘wrong’, ‘offensive’ and about ‘threats to free speech?’ Or is it just same-old same-old?

    The benefits of a free press are well known and should be treasured as being fundamental to our democracy. But what about the disbenefits of a destructive press? And what about who gets the ‘benefits’ and who gets the ‘disbenefits?’ Or does this not matter when discussing a free press?

    A reasonable question is this: ‘Just how much has non-Indigenous ‘free speech’ really cost Indigenous people over the past two hundred years?

    The Bolt case is being discussed as if it is a starting point and an isolated event with no context, no pattern and no history. The Bolt case is being treated as a trigger for a philosophical discussion about democracy and free speech. Here is another starting point:

    A couple of years ago I was involved in the launch of a major Indigenous community project in a major community in northern Australia. The community had signed a major joint agreement for a high end tourism venture, despite huge challenges, it was on top of the grog and petrol issues. The project being launched had significant outcomes in terms of employment and other values sought by the Australian Government.

    The newspaper stringer present did not think the editor of his newspaper would think that any, or all, of this was in any way newsworthy. Yet, at the time, a single case of pedophilia in that community would almost certainly have made its way to the front page of the same newspaper. It would also have triggered much unfounded chatter about pedophile rings. And it would have been used yet another justification for the Intervention.

  35. Jon Seymour

    Bolt violated Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and wasn’t able to successfully claim a defence under Section 18D.

    If Bolt had won, or wins on appeal, Section 18C would (will) become an effectively meaningless protection against deliberately inflammatory, racist hate speech.

    Do we really want that?

  36. jeebus

    Margaret, if you choose to call Andrew Bolt a tosser, that would be your opinion, to which you are entitled. If you called him an aboriginal tosser you would be making a factually incorrect statement, which is indeed another matter altogether.

    And this really sums up the case.

    People in the media have great power to influence public opinion, and with that power should come responsibility.

    A journalist’s job is to inform in a more quantitative way, whereas an opinion writer’s job is to inform in a more qualitative way. They are both important roles in shaping the quality and tone of the public discourse.

    If a media professional abuses their bully pulpit (as Andrew Bolt has done countless times) to attack people outside of the media then he should feel the full force of the law if those attacks are based upon lies – either knowingly, or due to utter ineptitude.

    No one should be defending Andrew Bolt. He has brought this upon himself. May it be a lesson to shock jocks and gutter journalists everywhere.

  37. Jamil Khan

    > So who should do the protecting?

    The law should do the protecting.

    > … should such journalism be declared illegal?

    Of course it bloody should. It’s illegal to drink-drive, it’s illegal to smoke in a pub, it’s illegal to beat up your wife.

    So why on Earth should it be legal to knowingly make up lies about an ethnic group and use your considerable publishing platform to hurt them when they can’t possibly fight back on the same terms?

    That’s called bullying and if it happened to your kid in the schoolyard, you wouldn’t stand for it.

  38. Peter Ormonde

    Jon …

    Yes apparently some of “us” do … cf Gedert Skertens.

  39. John Donovan

    Bolt was not factually correct. He withheld evidence that was contrary to his arguement. That is not journalism. That is a flawed opinion. Most people would read his articles under an assumption that what is being presented is factually correct. This was not the case.

    Can I propose that in future, articles from Bolt, and his ilk, are presented under a banner stating,

    “The views presented below are for entertainment purposes only, and may be substantially lacking in facts. We encourage readers to make up their own minds about the issues presented, and suggest they consult a journalist for reference”.

    Just a thought.

  40. Scott Grant

    I think there needs to greater sanctions than we have seen applied so far in so many cases. I do get tired of journalists defending the indefensible.

    Freedom is a relative term. I don’t have a newspaper column or radio broadcast or television program at my disposal when I exercise my freedom of opinion. I have no research assistants to help me with my facts and no company lawyers to defend me. I do not get paid for my opinions. So in the monetary sense, my opinions ARE free while the opinions of most journalists are not.

    Yes, Andrew Bolt, for one, should be held to a higher standard of accountability. I don’t care if it is through the courts and legislation or through an independent tribunal, so long as there are real consequences for egregious cases of deceit or negligence.

  41. Kevin

    Margaret, you ask….are journalists to be held to higher standards than ordinary people…”?

    I would argue yes, they are to be held to higher standards than the ordinary people especially when writing in a publically disseminated source. And yes that should also mean on-line journalism.

    I can’t see a problem with that, any more than an ordinary person is able to have a drink of alcohol before drinking, as long as they observe the BAL limit but an airline pilot is not able to do the same because of the higher standards and resposibilities involved.

  42. stephen martin

    @ SimsonMc – My reading of Margret’s first para was that she was concerned that the definition of responsible journalism was likely to be a subjective decision and she was concerned about who would make the determination anyway.

    @Rena Zurawel my thoughts exactly regarding irresponsible journalists, it’s not that Bolt is an isolated instance, it’s rife in Australian journals.

  43. Holden Back

    So his freedom has ben impinged upon by a judge stating two of his articles are factually incorrect and malicious, years after the fact. Of course, there will be devastating effect on future columns – the crippling uncertainty of a possible distant civil action could give the poor dear writer’s block.

  44. marcus

    I think it definitely would “have made a difference if Bolt’s articles had been published in a small circulation literary magazine, or on a little-read blog”

    A newspaper with that much power and influence has a lot more responsibility. If Andrew Bolt wanted to write what he wrote on a private blog I would not have a problem with it.

    And as for the self-regulation, that is never going to work when one man owns half the newspapers. Maybe bad journalism shouldn’t be illegal but something definitely needs to change…

  45. sharman

    Why it is unfair to expect a journalist to check their facts before printing an article particularly an article that really bags people?

    Andrew Bolt should stop being such a sook!

  46. ronhoenig1


    You make the point that it might be offensive to say that Bolt is a Dutch…tosser. That’s not the point. The point is that he said that these people are ‘choosing’ to be Aboriginal for all the benfits that offers.

    He’s suggesting that successful Aboriginal people who look white should not choose to identiufy as Aboriginal and that if they do, they’re doing it for some nefarious purpose.

    The offensive part of it is the suggestion that all successful Aboriginal people who are fairskinned are participating in a con.

    To call Bolt a Dutch tosser is one thing, but to say (or snidely suggest) all Dutch are tossers, that is racsim.

    It makes it worse that he has the enormous power of News Limited behind him and all he can come up with is badly researched pub talk intended to offend his target.

    I think that is rasicm and gutless, too.

  47. Jackol

    Margaret, your comparison of an insult you might write about Bolt with and without ‘white’ or ‘Dutch’ being included is quite illustrative, but not in the way you intended it to be.

    Let’s compare sport sledging – a reasonable comparison I think as it’s all about the potential ‘heat of the moment’ use of insults. Sledging continues to this day, and no one makes any great effort to stamp it out. That’s quite different from one footballer calling another a ‘black xxxx’ on the field – that is deemed unacceptable, and in recent times severe penalties have been applied to players who use racial elements in their verbal biffo.

    Would you argue that this prohibition on racial sledging is somehow infringing the players’ right to freedom of speech? Clearly it does, but also quite clearly the racial overtones are an extra level that we have additional laws in place to deal with because we have had a particular historical problem with racist language. We accept that it’s not ok for public figures to use racially offensive language; why would journalists be special?

    The public interest aspects of the law in question would clearly have protected Bolt if he’d remotely tried to get his facts straight and write in a reasonable fashion, so there is no sense that Bolt’s ability to express his opinions has been curtailed, only the way that he might do so.

    The fact that the whole process has had full transparency, with published court proceedings and judgment – I really don’t see even the faintest trace of ‘slippery slope to totalitarian suppression of journalists or freedom of expression’.

    Purist approaches to rights like freedom of speech or journalists being beyond the control of courts are misguided. We have a system that may be a bit clunky and inconsistent, but we have control over it. Provided egregious cases can themselves be discussed so we, as the voting public, have visibility about how the laws of the land are working with respect to journalists and news/opinion reporting, I think the system is working well.

  48. klewso

    Bolt was commissioned to paint yet another “political landscape (by numbers)”, for “Citizen Murdoch” and found someone had “borrowed” his yellow, so he just made up his own, again – same old same old.

  49. Alex

    The greater implications aside, I am very glad to see Bolt held accountable for his words. The problem with “shock” journalists & jockeys is that so often they suffer no consequences for their words, they have no skin in the game. And, yet, they are a great impost on society; we suffer and they get generously remunerated. Example; Shocks have brought the quality of debate to a desperate low with regards to Global Warming and consequently delayed remedial action, the cost of which may prove to be enormous. Something needs to be done to bring more responsibility to journalism. Perhaps, this is not the best way, but I’m pleased with the court’s decision.

  50. Filth Dimension

    aww c’mon mr. moderator. We’re all adults. Let me rephrase:

    If you make up crap you usually end up stinking of it.

  51. canila sky

    These days Australia is becoming worse then Communism.

  52. Elan

    Wassup Ed: lost your sense of humour?

    ….You do realise I was joking in my last post …., don’t you?

    (Looking forward to you beaut bolded Ed comment!)

  53. churchill

    I just laught at the irony of AB’s crusade against A bill of Rights, which may (or may not) have provided some protection for himself in this case.


    “Apparently we need a right to be a jerk”

    apparently we do Andrew! apparently we do…. LMFAO

  54. Western Red

    Many of the comments are on the money, as is the article.

    Whenever anyone says defamation I think of the lawyer I know who says to potential clients “if you can afford to lose at least fifty grand and 5 years of your life then lets go for it.”

    Add to the above the concentration of media ownership and to protect free speech for all of us, not just the well heeled and well supported Bolts of this land, we need a right of reply process which has teeth.

  55. Boerwar

    Actually, there is a different lead in that might be considered to the discussion.

    (1) there is only one Indigenous writer who gets regular MSM exposure
    (2) non-Indigenous people contol all the MSM
    (3) the historical pattern, the issues, and the agendas of public discourse about Indigenous people has largely been controlled by non-Indigenous people.
    (4) as a current example, in all the opinion making subsequent to the Bolt case there has been minute attention paid to the destructive impacts of racial vilification on Indigenous people more generally over time. Is it completely coincidental that Mt Isa suicides are now counted in the tens?

    Given points 1,2 and 3, racial vilification by non-Indigenous people against Indigenous people is more than just ‘offensive’ and ‘wrong’. It is an integral part of a pattern of destruction going back for a couple of centuries.

    Accepting that that is the case, is it not ironic that it is non-Indigenous people who are nattering about the issues surrounding, ‘worth’, ‘wrong’, ‘offensive’ and about ‘threats to free speech?’ Or is it just same-old same-old?

    The benefits of a free press are well known and should be treasured as being fundamental to our democracy. But what about the disbenefits of a destructive press? And what about who gets the ‘benefits’ and who gets the ‘disbenefits?’ Or does this not matter when discussing a free press?

    A reasonable question is this: ‘Just how much has non-Indigenous ‘free speech’ really cost Indigenous people over the past two hundred years?

    The Bolt case is being discussed as if it is a starting point and an isolated event with no context, no pattern and no history. The Bolt case is being treated as a trigger for a philosophical discussion about democracy and free speech. Here is another starting point:

    A couple of years ago I was involved in the launch of a major Indigenous community project in a major community in northern Australia. The community had signed a major joint agreement for a high end tourism venture, despite huge challenges, it was on top of the grog and petrol issues. The project being launched had significant outcomes in terms of employment and other values sought by the Australian Government.

    The newspaper stringer present did not think the editor of his newspaper would think that any, or all, of this was in any way newsworthy. Yet, at the time, a single case of p********** in that community would almost certainly have made its way to the front page of the same newspaper. It would also have triggered much unfounded chatter about p******** rings. And it would have been used yet another justification for the Intervention.

  56. James Guest

    I have been trying to point out since the case began that those who brought it, or at least those who supported them, may find they have produced a classic case of unintended consequences. After all, in the June 2010 edition of Quadrant there was an article of which this is a fair sample:

    “I really feel sorry for the Arabs—every time a Jewish scientist wins a Nobel Prize, they must feel outraged and insulted. And what do Arabs do when they are outraged and insulted? They scream on the streets and explode themselves and others!”

    Now I was only offended because I have admirable Arab friends and it is true that much of the article could be said to be unpalatable truths offensively expressed, but are we sure that we want judges – especially if you know some – making decisions (at great and expensive length, casting a cautionary warning over every strongly held, or merely controversial or unorthodox, opinion that someone might wish to publicise) on the expressions of opinions by journalists? Or should we leave it that the law of defamation, perhaps streamlined, will allow enough expensive harm to be done?

    Having served for many years on parliamentary committees sometimes in the chair, and therefore principally responsible for the report, I have an informed view of what the likely process was which lead to the legislation on which the case was founded.

    Start with most MPs wanting to go into parliament to make the world a better place and soon fiinding that their power and influence is remarkably limited. Put them on a committee and that too, because it gathers normally sociable people together and gives them a common focus, ensures that the urge to “do something” is in danger of getting out of hand. Often the best report, even if it includes findings about a real problem, would simply recommend that nothing, or not much, be done. Given a chance to be high-minded about race, Aborigines or any other cause from time to time important to the high-minded, a parliamentary committee recommends legislation of the kind that has done for Bolt. Of course a committee of bureaucrats in an important minister’s office could do much the same.

  57. James Guest

    Here is the link to the article I referred to, namely, “Monologue of a Jewish Peacenik” by Michael Galak.


    I would be interested to read careful distinctions which might be made between that savage satire and Bolt’s blogs and articles.

    Perhaps the author had Tony Mokbel rather close to the front of his mind when he wrote
    “Don’t they know that cheating has been a time-honoured Arab tradition since Mohammed double-crossed the Qurayshi?”

  58. drmick

    Case in point is “cash for comment” radio commentator/former prime ministerial speech writer and “entertainer” stage managing the “convoy of who cares”.

    He is lying, “live”, to the crowd about people being pulled over by the Police so they cannot attend the tea party. The TV crews report (factually for a change), that this is not so, and and the TV crews commentating live at the event get pilloried by commentator for telling the truth!!!

    Even in the face of overriding facts and proof to the contrary, they tell their fawning minions what they want to hear, not what is going on. Is this illegal? Should we protect the thick from themselves? or should we protect the gullible from these ratbags? No.

    We have a system and it works. There is your free speech. You are free to listen to anything you want and see anything you want. 200 years of civilization and 600 years of law says that Bolt was wrong. Worse than that, he knew he was wrong and still wrote it down. The difference between manslaughter and murder is intent. Bolts intent was pretty clear, even to his thickest fan.

  59. tinman_au

    Basically, it boils down to this: Journalists are still OK to go about their job of reporting on the facts, but opinionated bloggers that use half-truths and leave out pertinent facts if they are inconvenient, better look out…

  60. Richard Leggatt

    I think we should feel pity for those people who ever thought that Bolt was ….a journalist! His whole profile is based on his opinions, that’s not journalism, that’s entertainment! You can laugh with him or you can laugh at him, ( I prefer the latter). This ruling will prove to have no implications for serious journalism in this country.

  61. SimsonMc

    @ Stephen Martin

    I understand Margaret’s argument about what is responsible journalism and is it possible for someone to judge it but that is not what we are talking about here in the Bolt Case. His Honour was not saying Bolt had no right to voice his opinion nor did he try to set a precedence on what can and can’t be reported. His Honour was simply stating that Bolt’s opinion was racist and vilified a section of society using information that was not true. As pointed out by others, if they plaintiffs had of brought action against Bolt under defamation laws, they would have also won. The fact that Bolt virtually broke every rule in News Ltd’s Journalistic Code of Conduct (i.e. check your facts, report without fear or favour, etc) is really should be the end of the matter. All these arguments about free speech is simply News Ltd’s and other lazy media organisations fighting for their right to employ crap journalists who assist them in maintaining an outdated infotainment news model.

    The only reason the judge commented upon his research was because that was the only lame defence Bolt had and which he ran with. He tried to claim that his opinion was based on what he thought was the truth and that he had reasonable grounds for believing it was the truth. Fortunately His Honour didn’t buy it and was simply giving reasons why he believed it was not reasonable for an experienced journalist, as Bolt presents himself, to believe he was telling truth without any sort of adequate research. Let’s face it, most of the discussion surrounding this case has been about free speech and not whether His Honour was wrong about Bolt’s journalistic ability which is a good indication that most people think he is useless at his job.

    And my point was that whether journalists like it or not, the public expect them to take their responsibility seriously and make every effort to report the truth. Like Doctors, Accountants and other certain professions with great responsibility, society bestows upon them and expects higher standards and unfortunately that is just life. I don’t have a problem with the courts determining what is the truth is and what’s not as they have been doing it quite successfully for hundreds of years.

  62. StrewthAlmighty

    Brilliant article Margaret. Cut right through all the propaganda of both sides of the argument and hit all the key points.

    Jon Seymour – the point is whether we want the RDA to apply to speech which offends (as opposed to inciting racial hatred). I know I don’t. There are many arguments relevant to our modern day society which hard to make without running the risk of offending people.

  63. DonM

    Margaret, what would your position mean for Aboriginal people like Pat Eatock, Waytne Atkinson, and Larissa Behrendt?

    By using his influence to challenge recognition of their Aboriginality, Andrew Bolt is not just insulting them or stating a personal view, he is undermining their place in this land where whitefellas like us have been for a mere 220-30 years. You’ve stated that you see his views as highly offensive and wrong – however if their publication does damage, should Aboriginal people just have to wear it? Or put their faith in a rebuttal in the pages of the Fairfax press or Crikey, while the Andrew Bolt view of the world and their place in it gains further traction?

    Australian society just does not offer opportunities for redress via a “mix of self-regulation, argument and exposure” when it comes to protecting Aboriginal interests. The kind of media hysteria that occurred at the time of the Wik case is just one example of how fear campaigns based on race can be conducted with impunity. Argument and exposure are not enough when the balance is so strongly tilted against Aboriginal people and their rights.

    Day 1 after the ruling comes out and we’re in the middle of debate about free speech and journalists’ right to publish – but just how Aboriginal people’s rights figure in the equation is already being obscured. As the debate continues, could you address these issues head-on?

  64. rubiginosa

    I’m not saying this article reeks of self-interest. I certainly don’t accuse the author of self-interest, even if members of the public without a megaphone may wonder why journalists shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than the bloke in the pub.

  65. John Bennetts

    Let’s not lose sight of the absolute failure of the systems which should have acted well before the present to rein the Bolts of the world in.

    Press Council: Total fail. Dead at the wheel. Beyond redemption.

    Journalist’s Code of Conduct: I’m not sure that he is engaged in journalism, as opposed to commentary.

    News Ltd internal Code of Conduct: Equally toothless and totally without effect. Lacks even rudimentary indication of penalties or consequences of noncompliance.

    Bolt’s own ethical code: Missing in action.

    Clearly, none of the above 4 mechanisms can be relied upon and should be scrapped immediately.

    The question is: What would an effective referee of journalism need to look like and how would it need to act in order to satisfy the reasonable expectations of the community, the aggrieved and the profession?

    I feel that, at least in extreme circumstances, real threat of legal sanction must exist. I like the idea of requiring a header to future articles for a period of time, stating the nature of the previous transgression and the punishment.

    “The following may contain inaccuracies, unjustified personal opinion and be the result of failure to establish the facts before placing pen to paper. Reading may result in confusion, anger or antisocial feelings.” This warning to be displayed for the term as stated in the judgement – say 1 month for first offence, doubling for subsequent offences.

    Wrap the lot in green packaging and remove the manufacturer’s name from the outside of the packet.

    Just like that other great risk to society and to individuals, cigarettes.

  66. Mark

    What is Simon’s actually advocating? Not much it seems. She waffles on for a bit before determining – for no real reason I can see – that it is best if journalists continue to regulate themselves rather than utilising an already impartial and independent judiciary. Huh?

    Could Simon’s explain what she finds dangerous about the idea that influential journalists should be held to a higher standard than ordinary people? Public figures are generally held to a higher standard.

  67. nuytsia

    Lousy journalism? I’ll buy that – his articles were poorly researched and clearly prejudiced. Defamation? Sounds about right – he perpetuated personally damaging untruths. But how on earth is this racist? Just because the subjects were aborigines?

    The focus of Bolt’s articles were necessarily aboriginal (it was an intrinsic part of the story), but racism relies on both generalisation and offence (either implicitly or explicitly). Bolt did not generalise, or at least only generalised at such a fine scale that his comments related to hardly any aborigines at all. He made specific claims about a minority subset of people who are aborigines and who also share a range of other characteristic of equal importance to the story (which if true would have constituted a genuine story about fraudulent use of public money).

  68. Johnfromplanetearth

    If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we are led, like sheep to the slaughter~ George Washington

    As Putin preapres to return to Russian rule, i wonder who really will be worse off?

    This is a sad Australia we live in currently.

  69. Fran Barlow

    This topic raises the broader question of how one may seek to reconcile what most of us imagine is a public good — freedom of the media — with other public goods we seek — accuracy, intellectual rigour in public commentary, social inclusion and so forth.

    In my opinion, attempts by the state to use the force of law to regulate what may be uttered are an incipient hazard to confidence in the transparency of governance, and should only be entertained within very narrow and carefully defined limits and then only according to transparent protocols. There used to be an unofficial “d-notice” system in this country, and even then I found that dangerous.

    It seems to me however that it would be possible to have a system in which preaches of the professional code of practice developed not by the state but by journalists might be judiciable. Breaches, rather than being punished by swingeing fines, could be entered, along with the reasoning, into a public register. So much of the media as declared itself to be compliant with good practice would be obliged to publish prominently extracts about their publications from the register on a daily basis listing the number of breaches and outstanding unresolved complaints that had been held to have sufficient merit to be the subject of judicial review. Any journalist or regular columnist who appeared would be obliged to have their “stats” (including mentions) alongside their by-lines. Those that declined would be deemed to be outside the system and would not be able to make claims to be amidst the responsible press.

    Publications withing the system could declare sections of their copy to be non-judiciable — since they were not intended as “news or serious comment” but something else (e.g. advertising, entertainment etc. ) Such sections could be marked with an appropriate “wash” or watermark. e.g yellow wash for ranting blogs, blue for advertising, etc … a specific disclaimer would attach warning that the group offered no warranty as to the accuracy of the copy, that the copy might well include serious errors of fact or inference and that readers should seek reliable sources of information upon which to rely before drawing conclusions.

    People could then make up their minds how much weight to give to the claims being made.

  70. Peter Fuller

    The claim of an unfettered right to freedom of speech by a journalist is analogous to the Member of Parliament who interprets parliamentary privilege to mean “I can say anything I like”. That does and has led to abuses.
    With those sort of rights comes responsibility.

    Similarly as others have pointed out, there are plenty of restrictions on people’s freedoms. An earlier poster alluded to pilots zero blood alcohol obligation. It’s the same for taxi drivers and bus drivers, and imho, the greater responsibility of those people towards passengers is analogous to the greater responsibility of a widely-read journalist compared to any mug in the pub.

  71. LisaCrago

    This was a *really* good read. The question you raise is more important than many will see as they are blinded by anti-Boltism.

    “But making “irresponsible” journalism illegal?”

    It is a highly questionable thing to attempt to do, as Margaret Simons has rightly pointed out.

    “Should the Crikey audience be protected from my irresponsible journalism?”

    Never. Love your work, even when I don’t agree with it.

  72. san jose

    now i see the coalition intends to rewrite the law so people like bolt/news can publish lies and racist remarks with impunity. is this one of the worms escaping rom the can?

  73. Mad Dog

    As I said in response to Charles Richardson’s quaint piece of irrational non-sequitur:

    Andrew Bolt has been found by a Federal Court judge to be a deliberate liar, on his own admission, freely given by himself. He has used a platform given to him by the Murdoch mis-information machine to promulgate deliberate, hurtful untruths about people, and to accuse them of profound insincerity. These people have used the duly enacted law of this country to prosecute a case against him, in a way that their legal counsel told them had the best chance of success, to have Bolt held responsible for this deliberate lying.
    The case had nothing to do with free speech. It had to do with calling a repellent, self serving bully to account for his malicious falsehoods, which caused pain and anguish to his targets.
    He called ‘Fire’ in a packed theatre, and has suffered the consequences.

  74. LisaCrago

    Posted Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Just an honest question here as this does get close to home for me in an odd way.

    “To call Bolt a Dutch tosser is one thing, but to say (or snidely suggest) all Dutch are tossers, that is racsim.”

    I don’t know if it is really that simple. example; my ex-mother in law was a nasty 6foot tall scary Dutch woman. I have met a few and I have to say that all the Dutch that *I* have met are tossers. Is that racsim? I don’t know! Am I racist for having a negative opinion of Dutch people based on lifes experiences? I am not trying to be argumentitive, I just don’t think it is so clear cut.

    But what I believe Bolt has attempted to point out, maybe very poorly, is reverse racism, and of people possibly gaining benifits from this. This in his pov seems to be unjust.

  75. MLF

    @LisaCrago – the problem with your view here is that not agreeing with something doesn’t make it “irresponsible”.

    Using your position and power to dishonestly sway public opinion is. Lying to achieve same is worse.

  76. Peter Ormonde

    Nuytsia …

    Intention is important here. And the intent behind Bolt’s piece was not simply to erroneously smear those named in the article (that would be simple defamation) but to assert – using his targets as examples – that only those who “looked Aboriginal” should be considered as such.

    It was a generalised message about what constitutes Aboriginality and how that should be determined and by whom.

    It was an ignorant piece of work – playing to prejudice and targeting public figures and people regarded as community leaders by Aboriginal people. And the purpose was to fuel public concern that a group of faux Aboriginals was getting kudos and public support through fraud. Not just this group either… they were only his chosen “examples”.

    It’s that common shock jock ranter tactic … “we all know they’re out there and here’s the proof”.

    That all goes well beyond defamation of the individuals concerned. It defames anyone that Mr Bolt and his ilk reckon doesn’t look enough like David Gulpilil. It’s much much more complicated than that thanks to our wandering genes and other bits.

    Nice name you’ve chosen but be careful – you’ll give a perfectly good – if parasitical – plant a bad name.

  77. MLF

    Just checking if all my posts are being moderated..

  78. MLF

    Yes, it would appear they are.

    Talk about abuses on freedom of speech. You don’t agree with the author you hit the mods?

  79. Noodle Bar

    Yes, journalists should be held to a higher standard due to the power they wield. Reading the article, I was more interested by 2 questions:
    1 – to whom should they be accountable? Courts are awful, slow and expensive. Some sort of independent industry body, which would include respected industry peers (hopefully that’s not an oxymoron) with teeth would be better an perhaps one or two highly regarded public figures.

    The Teeth would have to be imposed by statute due to:

    2 – the nature of the penalties. Reading through her article, I was thinking various levels of Industry shaming would be appropriate.

    I was fantasising about the Telegraph having to print a big red medal on its front page with something on it like “An affront to journalism” “Inciter of Hatred” “Fact-less Newspaper” for 3 days in a row.

    Or a full page ad on page 3 with a huge
    “Bold Wrote Garbage – We Apologise for Inciting Hate”

    Any member of the public could bring a complaint before the industry body, and if the article complained of breached reasonable standards of journalism, a Shaming Penalty could be individually drafted to redress the wrong done.

    Shaming is likely to affect advertising revenue – the most effective motivator for behaviour change. Sadly.

  80. Tom Jones

    If there was a Press Council with teeth Andrew Bolt could be called to account. However in the current climate we have people like Andrew Bolt who are published nationwide and who seems to be saying, that if a person is Aboriginal they must pass Boltist criteria to meet standards, even if they have been raised as Aboriginal. Bolt has been found by the court to be behaving badly and misusing his powers. There needs to be a better way than legislation as freedom is precious. However it shouldn’t rely on a person’s ability to fund a court case as to whether they get any kind of justice in this kind of situation. Bolt invokes Freedom of the Press but has shown time and again that it is very much a one way process as he publishes very inflammatory comments whilst censoring others on his blog.
    As Mad Dog said – bullying which matches the behaviour of too many shock jocks.

    For Andrew Bolt to say that the judgement is divisive shows just how deluded he is and the need for News Ltd to reprimand him under its Code of Conduct policies and possibly censure from the Press Council. That type of action may avert draconian laws.

  81. Elan

    For Crissakes calm down!

    What utter hypocrisy!
    For the over thirty years I’ve lived here I remain staggered at the underclass apartheid existence of Indigenous Australians. We are an embarrassment on this globe because of it. We show little concern for this situation.

    Not that our indigenous brothers may want to live outback,-but that they still live in squalor. We patronise them; we condescend to their problems (note the ‘we’/’them’), by forcing them to go to high priced designated exploi…providers for their food. Their own peoples are…alleged….to have exploited them, and ..alleged..to have ripped off funding.

    Well SOD ALL THAT!! Let’s get Bolt because he is Bolt,-if he dares to make any kind of comment on those Australians who are educated and privileged and known. Those who because of ———————— are recognised; have their work recognised;-have that work receive…..merit?

    Most of you are so hell bent on ‘getting’ Bolt that you cannot see your own appalling double standards FFS!
    What about the talented indigenous artist/s squatting on the dust knocking out some pretty spiffy artwork?

    You reckon those folks are going to receive any glittering prizes? Well do you?
    Many of them so highly talented; those poor ignored buggers.

    Dammit! Can’t you see what the man was trying to say?

    What a pompous self righteous lot (most of) you are!!

    Burning while Rome fiddles……

  82. Sean Doyle

    Is the constant referencing to Stalin and or the USSR in an argument best described as a “Godwinov” or a “Godwinshvili” (for Stalin in particular)?

    It’s pretty concerning to see the groupthink and abrogation of responsibility from alleged journalists in relation to this case. Freedom of speech has (quite rightly) never been absolute and those who abuse it should be held to account for the damage they cause. As the judge has pointed out, Bolt made no effort to establish the facts (and distorted some of the ones he came across) and used his falsehoods to slander individuals, not only in relation to their racial background but also in regards to their honesty and integrity.

    Simons’ compliant that journalists shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than Jo(sephine) Public somehow manages to conveniently overlook the unequal power relationships between the two groups. As one might expect basic medical competence from someone advertising their services as a doctor, one should be entitled to perceive at least some flecks of journalistic integrity from someone who proudly and loudly proclaims to write the most read newspaper column in the country. Bolt’s columns were merely hatchet jobs on largely defenceless individuals who were singled out because they failed to pass Bolt’s brown paper bag test.

    A competent regime of self regulation that Simons suggests for an elixir would have had the likes of Bolt sacked long ago. Hopefully the legal solution will have consequences for Bolt graver than a fauxpology prominently displayed in point 6 text between births and deaths.

  83. Oscar Jones

    I agree completely with the judge-the vast general public has absolutely no comeback as opposed to the power of the tabloids (and tabloid TV) to manipulate and distort.

    However it’s always been my belief that defamation laws always should have been made accessible to the general public and the average citizen as opposed to the current case where they are only for the very rich. That in itself is a disgrace-the concept that one branch of the law in practice is only available to one class of citizen.

    It’s up to the media to get themselves out of this mess.

    It wasn’t the public who built empires like News Corp that can become so powerful they are able to promote a wars against foreigners and all built on sordid tactics like phone hacking.

    As usual, those in the media are now bleating like crazy when they always had a means of treating the public fairly- press councils . Instead they have shown they will abuse their own power.

  84. Oscar Jones

    A Bill Of Rights could go a long way to solving this problem.

    I think many are losing sight of what has happened here. Bolt and News Corp use their power to bully and there is no comeback. The group that took him on are all very able people. Most are not.

    Crikey doesn’t bully and as in the case recently where Brit journo Nick Davies objected to a crikey piece, Davies was able to put his case. That reflects well on crikey.


    When you set out to claim that certain people are ‘gaming the system’ by some means, in this case “claiming” to Aboriginal, and conveniently leave out the facts or distort them to your purpose, then who should call you out on it?

    In this case the court has done an excellent job, but only because the group maligned had the power to bring it there. (Where’s the class action by climate scientists, for example?) Because Bolt transgressed into issues of race he exposed himself to sanction, but most days he gets away with it.

    Put this one down as a rare win for decency, fairness (pun intended), and calling a gobshite a gobshite.

  86. Peter Ormonde


    I used to think a Bill of Rights was a good idea – now I’m not so sure.

    What changed my mind was reading the transcript of a Canadian Court case against a very nasty piece of work – a violent paedophile caught with some 5,000 images, stories and other items depicting graphic sexual violence and abuse of children.

    A key witness for the defence was one Jo Nova – then a Vice President with the Canadian Council for Civil Liberties arguing that the charges violated the defendant’s constitutional right to free speech. Shortly later Ms Nova left the CCCL to establish a network of anti-global warming websites and launch an international career as a climate change denier.

    The point is that rights can be interpreted in a totally individualistic manner without reference to – or even in opposition to – the broader social interest. I’m not sure that a Bill of Rights – of itself – can actually resolve these problems. Rights are not synonymous with individual freedoms and must be balanced I think against the broader social context.

    Andrew Bolt’s claim to be exercising his “rights to freedom of expression” are a case in point. A Bill of Rights emphasising his individual “freedoms” over or against the social context would not really assist resolve the issue. The RDA on the other hand did it rather neatly.

    Not convinced either way … and certainly not as convinced as I once was.

  87. Policeman MacCruiskeen

    Boerwar @ 3:23 – exactly. One only has to remember the offensiveness of The Bulletin in colonial days to realse that the historical context in which Bolt operates is a media steeped in prejudicial attitudes to Aborigines.

  88. Justin

    I’m sick of journalists frantically trying to find Some ground to defend Bolt on. He lied, he knew he lied, they were Huge lies, he’s refused to apologise or withdraw the accusations, even after they were proven in court (not exactly easy if there was quibble room), and he’s been proven to practice “shoddy journalism”.

    Why is there this race to defend him? Is his public persona or actual personality So dependant on Always being right that he can’t take a step back, admit he was wrong, and start fresh? How has he not been fired?

    What is journalism coming to in this country, that people can publish Known lies and horrible half, well not even Half-truths, more like 10-15% truths, baldly insist on them being true for years, have them proven to be lies in court, and still insist they were small and inconsequential, and still have their job?

    He should be sacked or demoted to writing ad copy for telephone companies!

  89. SimsonMc

    @ Elan

    Yes I will be the first one to put up my hand and say I am happy to be a member of the “Get Bolty” fan club. Not because of his views, if he wants to be right wing, good luck to him. However, the way he is liberal with the truth and distorts the facts to suit his own ends, well that is not on and we as a society should be doing everything possible to bring him and his ilk down. Because if you can’t argue your point fairly, honestly and in good faith then you don’t deserve the privileged responsibility that journalism brings.

    I totally agree with you. The way many sections of the Australian community treat the original custodians of this land is a national disgrace and a global embarrassment. I think we should be able to have debates about sensitive issues like race, religion, etc in a civilised and mature fashion. Unfortunately the way Bolt and others like him go about it by manipulating facts and controlling the dissemination of information doesn’t help anyone and has probably set the process of trying to have an intelligent conversation about such issues back 50 years. I suspect that any discussion from now on about these issues will be viewed through the Bolt Prism and therefore nothing will be achieved. He carps on about free speech but in one fowl swoop, his actions have probably destroyed any chance we as a society had in exercising our right to free speech on such sensitive issues.

  90. jeebus

    To sum up the judge’s ruling plain and simple:

    Journalists & media commentators have the right to their own opinions.

    They do NOT have the right to their own facts.

  91. wothers

    Bolt just didn’t get a few facts wrong, he got a lot spectacularly wrong. Like accusing Larissa Behrendt of having a white father when he was a black Australian. Bolt then used this mass of wrong facts to launch an appalling attack on the individuals motivations.

    Sorry, Margret, but I just don’t see why journalists are so precious that they need to have a “right to free speech” protected so they can go on to attack people who have struggled against prejudice for all their lives. And lets not forget that Bolt’s vicious attack was clearly designed to destroy these peoples reputations.

    I don’t think its a particularly onerous request that journalists make serious attempts to provide accurate information in their articles and check facts. Bolt failed to convince the court that he had made much of an effort to check his information (and in fact appeared to have lied about these attempts during the trial).

    But it was a sad day for Australian journalism – it shows how far the standards of journalism in Australia have dropped.

  92. Jeremy Williams

    I don’t have a strong opinion on this case, the racial issue is a tricky one. However I really am sick of bolt lying and distorting the truth without there ever (well almost ever) being repercussions.
    The number of times for example he’s distorted or misrepresented a scientist’s views on climate change – the scientist complains – there is never an apology or admission of error and the scientist rarely even gets his letter printed in the paper. This is diliberate deception not ‘opinion’.

  93. MLF

    @Fran at 5.25pm

    That’s an interesting argument you put forward given that many times I’ve read your comments along the lines of how Australians have been brainwashed into being afraid of “the boats”.

    Until media ownership is sorted out “freedom of the media” should not be an assumed or implied right, because what you are actually saying is “freedom of a profit-at-any-cost global mega-corporporation to do and say whatever it likes”.

    And I’m sure you don’t mean that.

  94. fredex

    Two people already have the ‘right’ to silence, or at least limit to that of being a single individual as opposed to a voice heard by …lots, the ‘freedom of expression’ of Bolt.

    Gina could take away, just as she originally gave, his ‘right’ to voice on an organ of free speech ie ‘his’ TV show.
    Similarly Rupert, who gave Bolt his writing voice [albeit through delegated proxy subordinates I presume] could silence him tomorrow if he had the whim to do so.

    The power that these two people, or their relatively miniscule number of subordinates, and similar persons eg Fairfax, who have the power to give or deny ‘freedom of speech’ via a ‘free press’ aka corporate mass media, has been largely overlooked in this issue which seems to concentrate essentially on whether the other 22 million or so people living in Oz should be allowed to have a minimal amount of power by comparison.

  95. Merve

    Read the headlines for the two stories, the sub editor knew what they were about. They weren’t journalism, they were hit pieces accusing people of exploiting Aboriginal welfare for their own nefarious means. They were never asked by Bolt what their own opinions were on the matter. Bolt exploited race for notoriety and to inflame hatred.

  96. rupert pupkin

    Your “experiment” is bizarre to say the least. Why would you want to comment on Bolt being white or Dutch? If you can come up with a scenario when it would be legitimate to mention Bolt or anyone else’s ethnicity in such a revolting manner, you may have given readers cause for concern. As it is, your hypothetical would lead me to support the people who would cause you “worry”. You are basically saying that when you verbally abuse somebody, you don’t want to have to worry about getting in trouble for being racist.
    I for one think that saying that anyone is arrogant, a tosser etc is completely unacceptable. The appropriate thing to do is to criticise behaviours (selective editing, lying) rather than attacking the person (Man, Dutch, dishonest). If “playing the man” was outlawed in public discussion, I would not shed a single tear.
    Rather than arguing by analogy that the right to attack somebody’s gender or mental health should be extended to allow racial abuse, I would argue that this case should give cause for limiting the ability to attack gender and mental health.

  97. Julius

    @ Justin (just to attract your attention, but see below)

    As I don’t take the Herald-Sun or regularly read Bolt’s blog and certainly don’t want to read the judgment would someone please elucidate the references to Bolt’s “lies”, said to be found to be such by the judge, and asserted by Justin to be lies “which he knew to be lies”. My point is that lies are not lies unless they are known to be lies when uttered. It mightn’t make a difference in an action for fraudulent misrepresentation if the falsehoods were uttered with indifference to their being true or false, but lies are only lies if they are conscious falsehoods.

    It goes without saying that Bolt’s view of the plaintiffs when he wrote about them made him, if not reckless, at least careless whether the facts he researched by whatever means (searching Google or his memory or whatever) were correctly stated. That might have been bad for a defence in a libel action both on grounds of lack of “justification” and because it would add to evidence of malice in relation to a defence of fair comment, but it doesn’t make Bolt a liar. And bloggers who incorrectly call someone a liar because they disapprove of the views he expresses, are on pretty shaky moral ground. If they can’t substantiate the charge how about apologising, at least to those who read the blog in expectation of responsible comment?

    BTW does anyone know, or have an educated opinion about, the reasons why the plaintiffs didn’t contest his errors and views immediately on the blog and why they didn’t sue for libel?

    The answer to the second question might, I suppose, be that it isn’t possible (I think) to join many plaintiffs in a defamation action unless their cases are essentially identical and also that Ron Merkel and others pushing the case and offering to act without fee weren’t interested in offering the same support for nine separate actions to obtain money for the offended parties. But why they failed to respond immediately via the blog is more mysterious unless perhaps one supposes some difficulty for the sponsors of the case to get them up to fighting a battle, and that it took quite a lot of time and urging.

  98. Elan

    SSMC: Bolt criticises the lack of FoS; Crikey practises it !!

    Can’t you see that? Every post on this is being moderated. Given the Court decision and possible Appeal (which I hope is done-that opinion of course, is heresy here on Crikey!!),-it is the wisest thing to do.

    Don’t you get it? There can never be complete FoS, and I agree. It is the double standard that amazes me! There has been little criticism here of Wikileaks and its FoS? I’m glad about that-(though even WL needs to have a care) . Assange himself does not like FoS when he does not want to answer questions about himself.

    But Bolt is criticised because he feels his FoS has been curbed. Just Bolt.

    I’m tired; I’m putting this badly, but I know exactly what I mean. As for journalistic dearth of facts/lies/distortions/opinions rather than facts blah blah; you surely jest? You think this guy is the only one doing this? It’s common today. it is the rule rather than the exception.

    So now you say it is because of the subject? I KNOW racism. I grew up with it. On this matter of race Australia is in the absurd position of ignoring its indigenous peoples; treating them like second class citizens………then suddenly gets all fired up to rush to ‘their’ defence.

    Except that all of you have not done that. You are vilifying a specific journalist that even I can’t stand (I mean that)-and protecting the rights of a specific group of people who have not, because of their own skills and capabilities, experienced anything remotely like ‘their people’ who get slammed with some pretty rough opinions and treatment.

    THEY need the defence, not a group that is demonstrably able to use its position and intellect to take on this White man.

    Can’t any one of you see this? Are we so far gone on…..I’m going to say it…I’m going to…Political Correctness (I HATE these phrases), that we have to show our cultural merit by being seen to defend a group that least needs it;-and continue to ignore the vast majority who do need our concern- just because it is a damn good way to give Bolt a kicking.

    It’s gone so far here, that someone has written: ‘in this rush to defend Bolt’ !!! Where? where?!!
    [Moderator: this comment has been slightly edited to remove one line which may insult other commenters]

    I’m not defending Bolt the man. I AM defending his right to make the comments he did because (treading carefully) I do not agree with the definition of the judgment-and I strongly believe that this is something that is causing angst many indigenous Australians.

  99. John Nicholas

    The silence from Bolts employers who profit from their promotion of him and his comments, does not erase their association. Is that ‘harm minimisation’?

  100. klewso

    Few people are granted the opportunity and position to use their opinion to influence the thinking and actions of others, let alone be paid for it week in, week out – especially with our amassed “news media”, from such a narrow ownership base and it’s political bent.
    Some might expect with being granted a position like that comes reponsibility, and with that one would think comes the inherent implication of “objectivity” and “impartiality” (an abilty to see shortcomings on “both” sides as appropriate and call for the same acceptable standards from “both sides”) enough to have the curiosity to investigate thoroughly, before committing to words that are going to negatively impact others. Instead of being happy to follow one’s prejudices, as “facts” and to perpetuate them.
    Not to use that position to influence favor for one side only, all the time – to play partisan politics?

  101. guytaur

    It is simple Bolt did wrong and is paying for it.
    As for Media Freedom it is simple. Make ACMA cover all media and give it teeth.
    In the first place it would be interesting to see how things change if the Murdochs are found not to be fit and proper persons to own a Newspaper. For those that argue to have a license to own a newspaper is to curtail free speech has not kept up with the times. Now anyone can have free speech as that we had to rely on newspapers for, we can do in blogs.
    So mass circulation media can come under ACMA and its provisions. I certainly have had no problems with that and think radio and television is certainly free. I just think it should have teeth so they can do something about the comments like those made by Alan Jones during the Cronulla riots.

    Maybe just maybe to protect real Journalistic integrity and credibility to the supposed editorial independence of editors will become just that. When an editor can choose what they cover in a newspaper more on what is news and less on what gets you clicks or greater circulation then quality may rise. As we have seen quality can be commercially successful. See the Financial Review and in television George Negus on Ten. The defunct Sunday programme.

    Those that argue people want gossip and titillation can run a purely gossip mag etc. That way News and Opinions on News will be quality and that quality will be demanded as a natural part of the equation.

  102. Policeman MacCruiskeen

    Of course the freedom of speechers will be upset. It is an Australian birthright that whitefellas can define who is or is not an Aborigine. This is, after all, exactly the process that was played out during the grandest eugenic experiment of the 20C – the stolen generations. Courts telling journos that they can’t express opinions about who is a ‘true blood’ or not is a calamity for Australian national identity. What’s worse is that these blackfellas have successfully asserted their right to self definition on cultural terms making the old eugenecist formula of ‘blood’ redundant. I fervently hope that this is appealed and goes as high as it can. Time to sort this issue right out. Congratulations and thanks to the complainants for having the sheer guts to see this one through.

    Policeman Mac (trans ‘Walleye’ Mac).

  103. Catching up

    Maybe the Press Council should also be doing it’s job and demanding a retraction and apology.

  104. Elan

    ‘ The silence’ JN, is because their lawyers are going over that ruling with a bug comb!

    If they appeal, they will need to have strong grounds for doing so-very strong grounds. This case revolves around a hugely sensitive issue-it is being ‘tried’ in The Court of PA on many discussion sites.

    As a prominent SA QC remarked a few months ago; ‘you have to concentrate like stink’!

    They are concentrating;-like stink!

  105. Duds

    “The judgment means that journalists, particularly well-read, influential journalists, are to be held to higher standards than ordinary people. That the public “deserves to be protected” from them. It’s a dangerous notion.”

    It’s not a dangerous notion!

    It’s called a standard of care and is an element of a duty of care owed by those with expertise in any field. Gosh, anyone would think doctors should be held to higher standards of health care advice than an ordinary person. Or, god forbid, we expect higher standards of advice when building a bridge, from an engineer?

    Unless of course you think that your average blogger has the same level of journalistic expertise as a journalist. In which case lets hear the end to that old argument. And for that matter such pointless concepts as bachelor degrees in journalism. Anyone can write, right!

  106. Peter Ormonde

    Catching up…

    The Press Council is of course doing its job. Sadly. Precisely as intended.

  107. Stiofan

    Racism is perfectly acceptable. The only thing, apparently, that is unacceptable is the direction of racism at a favoured group.

    Exhibit 1: “Sydney’s Irish sobered by attacks” – headline in the SMH on 17 March 2010 (about assaults on Irish tourists).

    Exhibit 2: SMH publication of Irish jokes by Peter Fitzsimons.

    Neither, as far as I’m aware, resulted in a court case or even an apology from the SMH.

  108. Michael Schwartz

    What an Orwellian concept. I suspect that Judge Blomberg would be more at home in the old USSR or maybe the current Chinese regime.

    These laws should be modified if they are going to be applied in such a stifling and oppressive manner.

  109. John Wilkes

    Wow! Someone mentioned “unintended consequences”. It should be mentioned again to all those (at least 95 per cent) of Crikey bloggers who, at least in the non-responsible medium of a Crikey blog, shoot from the hip with authoritarian Left (as fashionable for the current minute or two in the perspective of a couple of centuries since the Enlightenment) puritanism.

    Think hard about what you want the coercive power of the state (mediated by politicians – maybe not the ones you like, bureaucrats, lobbyists and political hangers-on) to be used for. The RDA counts for the sake of considering this point as criminal law and let’s wonder how it was that the criminal law grew out of its origins as a means of keeping the peace and preventing feuds and self-help getting out of hand. That’s how the churches got the abortion criminalised by statute – as the RC Church and US Red State evangelicals still would – and would make it an offence to conduct experiments using human embryos etc, etc. Crikey readers will surely not take too long to allow a thousand examples to creep into mind, starting perhaps with what you are allowed to read…..

  110. SimsonMc

    @ Elan

    I think I understand most of what you are trying to say and I will try and address your points.

    I have noted every post is being moderated but is that just Crikey being nervous and trying to protect their bloggers from leaving themselves open to being sued. Not sure but I guess Ed could enlighten us.

    I am not criticising Bolt in relation to his right to FoS. I think the problem is that people are trying to infer that this has something to do with FoS. It doesn’t. It’s all about Bolt being a crap journalist. And the way Bolt is reacting, he is not a leader’s shoe lace (I was going to say something else but thought better of it). Good leaders can admit they are wrong and get on with it. Bolt is trying to cover up his inadequacies with a diversion about FoS. Quite frankly I think the arguments about FoS as it relates to this case is purely academic. Once Bolt actually gets off his soap box and goes and writes a well researched, truthful piece about Indigenous issues that is in good faith AND it’s tested in court then we can have a debate about the merits of FoS. Until then it’s all speculation and navel gazing. As has been proven time and time again, we will never know how the courts would have interpreted this case until Bolt gets off his you know what and actually done his job properly.

    Is Bolt the only one that manipulates things to suit his own agenda, of course not, hence the reason why I put in my post that we should try and bring him AND is ilk down. Maybe I am living in dream land but I always abide by the principle that if you can’t fight (and that includes arguing, debating, etc) fairly then don’t fight at all. I am also a fully paid up member of the “Get Jones” club, the “Get Hadley” club and the other thugs and goons that troll the media space.

    I will bang on about this point until the cows come home. Journalists, whether they like it or not are in a position of great responsibility which has been granted to them by the public at large and so they need to treat that position with the respect that it deserves. Good journalists get that, windbags like Bolt and his mates don’t.

    I am not sure what you were trying to say in relation to the treatment of Indigenous people in the second half of your post. It didn’t make sense to me. I guess I will need to reiterate, as I said before I think it’s a national disgrace and global embarrassment the way we treat the true custodians of this land. These are not just overnight views, they are long held beliefs as I do come from an Indigenous background. Are you suggesting the likes of David Marr is just jumping on the Indigenous bandwagon because he sees a Bolt free kick? From all the time I have known him, he has continuously advocated for Indigenous rights. I criticise Bolt not on the issues he raised, he has every right to raise them and I agree that we need to be able to have a mature and civilised discussions relating to Indigenous issues. I do however criticise him on his method. His method was wrong and using such a method doesn’t help anyone, especially those who do want to contribute to the debate with actual reasonable, thorough and well thought out discussions. I personally think that due to the method that he and his ilk use every day they actually damage FoS not help it.

  111. Mark from Melbourne

    Aren’t the same “difficulties” you raise already part of defamation cases? If I defame Joe Blow then the court looks at my audience etc etc? Nothing new or remarkable here.

  112. Fran Barlow

    MLF said:

    [Until media ownership is sorted out “freedom of the media” should not be an assumed or implied right, because what you are actually saying is “freedom of a profit-at-any-cost global mega-corporporation to do and say whatever it likes”. And I’m sure you don’t mean that.]

    I don’t mean that but regardless of what he do about horizontal and vertical integration, I do believe that we need something that can place some restraint on the MBCM’s trolling. I’m also in favour of other measures to break up media cartels.

    I’m not sure how you derived your point from my post.

  113. Peter Ormonde


    Yep couldn’t agree more … we all know how to spot one don’t we? But lately it’s getting harder from a distance.

    Up here in Woolibuddha we use that most simple of tests … would you want him living next door or marrying your daughter?

    But as Andrew Bolt has so carefully pointed out – it’s the pale ones you’ve gotta watch…. if you’re not careful they can sneak into the club right through the front door – bold as brass – and before you know it they’ve married your daughter and have got the street littered with old utes.

    Not that we’ve got any here of course. No siree. Never were.

  114. Bohemian

    There is a lot I disagree with Andrew Bolt about but closing off free speech on the grounds of racial vilification smacks of totalitarian rule ala Stalinist Gulags etc. It was Stalin who destroyed some say up to 60 million of his own people one way or another during his reign of terror.

    I digress. The unintended consequences of this dumb ruling is that countless criminals who can pull the race card now will preventing genuine exposure and labeling of criminal groups and criminal acts simply because journalists who in my view are a dying breed anyway as the regurgitators of the government press release usurp their positions in a world press controlled by five companies de-facto controlled by even fewer global banks.

    Long and short is who is going to risk going to gaol because they may have wanted to write about some criminal group who can now use this race vilification rulings to their advantage. As for that racial discrimination commissioner whatsee..her…. job is to find evidence of vilification – not evidence of incorrect application of the statutes attached to it so you can rule out any objectivity there.

  115. The Pav

    Dear Bohemian

    The judgement was not dumb but considered and reasonable.

    It does not stifle debate or free speech unless your definition of free speech is to lie distort or defame without limit.

    Reasoned debate conducted in good faith is facilitated by this decision.

    To compare what has happend to Bolt the victims of the Gulag is odious and an affront to those who truly suffered. It is merely a histronic reference , unrelated and seemingly an attempt to inflame matters.

    Next to what criminal group are you referring and there is nothing in the judgement that would help them. Again I suspect another shameless attempt to misdirect & inflame matters

  116. drmick

    The defendants supporters are having trouble coming to grips with the facts and the truths delivered in the decision. Not so surprising really having been fed a diet of the opposite for so long.

  117. Fran Barlow

    Micjael Schwartz said:
    [What an Orwellian concept. I suspect that Judge Blomberg would be more at home in the old USSR or maybe the current Chinese regime. These laws should be modified if they are going to be applied in such a stifling and oppressive manner.]

    and similarly


    [There is a lot I disagree with Andrew Bolt about but closing off free speech on the grounds of racial vilification smacks of totalitarian rule ala Stalinist Gulags etc. It was Stalin who destroyed some say up to 60 million of his own people one way or another during his reign of terror.]

    So Stalin destroys 60 million, BrombergJ a smack on the wrist for some trollumnist. I suppose that is how it “smacks’ of totalitarianism. Oddly, I though it was truth telling that got you into the cross-hairs of totalitarians rather than making up lies to serve authority.

    Seriously though, nobody who has actually experienced a Stalinist Gulag or even a Chinese one will think of Bromberg’s ruling.

    [ The unintended consequences of this dumb ruling is that countless criminals who can pull the race card now will preventing genuine exposure and labeling of criminal groups and criminal acts …]

    Ok you haven’t read the ruling and don’t know the provisions of the law.

    You’re another person who could profit by keeping it buttoned until you know what you’re talking about.

  118. SimsonMc

    Ed – why are some posts taking so long to moderate?

    Ed: As you might expect, there’s a large volume of comments on these posts and in this case — and others — we’ve decided to pre-moderate. You’ll have to bear with us.

  119. Fran Barlow

    The Pav …

    Actually, given the relatively rapidfire appearance of two posts making the same point (Schwarz and Bohemian, and the blatantly absurd claims in both — I suspect it’s a “Poe” (look it up if you don’t know)

    I took it at face value at first, and it is possible that these are some of Blot’s flying monkeys, but they are just so ridiculous that they seem to invite derision. Perhaps someone really does think this is the way to go …

  120. kennethrobinson2

    So its alright for me to be called “A WHITE BASTARD”, but if I reply in kind, I an breaking the law.
    Its a pity we lost the right to free speech, by some minority pressure groups.
    Dont worry I am ready for the tirade of abuse, but I should have the right to say my piece.

  121. Liz45

    @MICHAEL SCHWARTZ – Have you even read the Judgement? There’s no stifling of free speech. It was the ‘distortions, lies and falsehoods’ put in a manner that would cause ‘offence, or be insulting or demeaning.

    Bolt’s assertions about every person(9) was not truthful, and he didn’t bother to research what he wrote for the truth. For example, he asserted that people chose to be aboriginal rather than it being a lifetime reality. Each part of the judgement is carefully explained!

    I suggest you read it!

  122. Boerwar


    So, you are a wannabe martyr to the truth? Poor thing.

    I do think there was a court case in which an Indigenous person was charged for calling a non-Indigenous footie player wtte ‘a white bastard’ or it might have been a ‘white c***’.

    The law which Mr Bolt broke is a goose/gander law. It is colour blind. There is nothing in it specifying which races it applies to. As far as the racial vilification law is concerned, it is pure coincidence that Mr Bolt happened to be sticking it to some Indigenous people.

    Apart from the particular context of the racial vilification law, I leave it to you to figure out if it was a coincidence that Mr Bolt just happened to be sticking it to some Indigenous people.

  123. LisaCrago

    Posted Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    @LisaCrago – the problem with your view here is that not agreeing with something doesn’t make it “irresponsible”.

    Using your position and power to dishonestly sway public opinion is. Lying to achieve same is worse.

    Your post is not very clear.
    It seems you are saying it is ok disagree with something as long as you don’t do as Bolt does and publish it? Do you think that publishing the subject at all was wrong or that the way he researched, which produced insignifigant correct facts was “irresponsible”.

    The judgment is too lose for my likeing and I hope the new legal test that is set up to ‘protect’ people from being offended, the test of “irresponsibility” is cleared up in the appeal.
    It seems from the judgment that if Bolt had done more homework, like not relying on Google and using more accurate resourse than the bl**dy internet then his defence would have been upheld.

  124. Holden Back

    So much shouting at the television, so little time!

  125. tinman_au

    That’s probably fine if you white and a bastard Ken (though you may run foul of the Liberals “Swearing in public” laws in Victoria).

    Depending on the situation it is used in, I believe you could sue for defamation as long as your parents were actually married.

  126. LisaCrago


    I agree with you.
    I am lucky enough to have the unique experience of knowing a large group of aboriginal people who are my maternal cousins. They call me a silly whitefellow and worse and I call them dumb co*ns and we all do it with a smile on our face as we know the intent is not malicious. The PC police have not got us yet.

    And may I add, that this large group of enterprising yet poverty stricken rural aboriginal people don’t think too much of all the money thrown at *some* (gee we have to be careful now don’t we) who know how to do the applications and work the systems in Canberra.

    Now on my paternal side, I have more aboriginal blood in me than a certain Aussie cricket player who identifys as an aboriginal, but I am as white as snow.
    I CHOOSE to identify as an Australian.
    For some people it is a choice and I am proof.

  127. tinman_au

    This whole thing has a “Bigger picture” that I think Margaret and many other journos are missing, Andrew Bolt and his ilk (the “sorta” journos that see the truth and facts as something that can be rearranged to suit their agenda) are _the_ reason Australia doesn’t trust the media.

    The decision was not about freedom of speech, it was about freedom to lie.

    By the real journos not cheering this on as a “Truth in media” win, they are really digging their own grave when it comes to credibility, and possibly even shortening the time “dead trees” have left to save themselves…

  128. LisaCrago

    “Do you think that publishing the subject at all was wrong or that the way he researched, which produced insignifigant correct facts was “irresponsible”.”

    should read; significant incorrect facts was “irresponsible”.

  129. wearestardust

    I have been surprised, even in the better articles and comments, at the lack of anything but the most cursory discussion of this particular case rather than generalisations and concern about broad principles. That is, there appears to be little if any discussion of whether racial vilification does or does not trump freedom of speech; most commentary starts with an implicit assumption one way or the other before proceeding. Perhaps this has led to what seem to me a general mischaracterisation of the details of the case and how they may affect the future.

    We should recall that there is no right to freedom of speech in Australia as such. The only basis we have for such a right is the kind of loud and repeated assertion as is happening in the current ‘debate’ (noting that Bolt opposes a Bill of Rights that would formally establish such a right. What we do have – again noting that it is as a result of precisely the kind of judicial interpretation that Bolt warns against in relation to a Bill of Rights – is a right of political communication. It seems to me that in the light of the justification of this right, and please excuse elision of some of the joining of the dots, it behoves us to consider the present matter properly in its own specific context rather than continuing with alternating chants of “free speech trumps all“ (untrue) and “stick it to the bastard journalists” (unhelpful and pointless).

    To my mind some of the key points are as follows.

    1. We need correctly to characterise the specific right that is being claimed. It is not merely a right to offend (as Bill Rowlings puts it on The Punch), as if Bolt had criticised someone’s hairstyle or choice of football allegiance. What is being claimed is the right publicly to make incorrect comment in pursuit of creating a (more) negative public view about a community that already has more than its fair share of disadvantage, and in particular to attack the actions and reputations of certain individuals. Or to call a spade a spade: we are talking about right to vilify based on falsehoods.

    2. Expanding on one of the preceding points, racial intolerance is not a matter just of casual, day to day offence. It is about putting the view, and creating the circumstances, in society that certain groups are inferior and less deserving of the full benefits of citizenship and the law. At the dark end, intolerance of race, together with ethnicity, religion, class and sexuality are the bases of the systematic mass murders that have characterised the last hundred years.

    3. The case is not about stopping irresponsible journalism and claims to that effect are risking straw man status. The case is about racist speech, notwithstanding that Bolt’s case was harmed by his apparent sloppy use of information.

    4. Anxiety about potential limitations on freedom of political debate, including in the media, to the extent they are based on anything, imply a slippery slope argument. Like most slippery slope arguments, it is not clear that this is true. Possibly the reverse is true; the judgement arguably creates more certainty of permissibility and protection for discussion of these issues just with the not entirely unreasonable proviso that comment is fair and correct. The judgement certainly has no adverse effect on the quality of political debate or journalism; on this the reverse is certainly true.

    On balance I lean to the view that hate speech and vilification ought not be outlawed, as uncomfortable as it is to find myself on the same side as Bolt or, for that matter, Danny Nalliah. But only just, and with considerable doubt about my position. It seems to me a substantive debate is yet to be had. I am unsure that it will be.

    A final wild, crazy and dangerous thought: What would a world look like if journalists and commentators could say whatever they liked, but had to publish corrections where they got things wrong without having to be required to do so through court action. Would that world be entirely awful?

  130. Filth Dimension

    Is Bolt as a commentator a purveyor of ideas and does he profit from it? Are Bolts untruths a form of deception to his consumers? Are there not laws against deception? For example: This is a washing machine, buy it it is good it will wash your clothes. You get home and it does not wash your clothes, it is not good, it is not a washing machine.

    Just a thought. Plenty of intelligent people on here who could probably stretch this out. I’ve had my Friday night drink and will leave it there before I spew on my keyboard.

  131. MickGCollins

    You have freedom of speach, what you do not have is the freedom to make up your own ‘facts’ as a way to maliciously malign someone else.
    Especially when you enjoy the power of having a wide platform to spread your hate, and those you are maligning are relatively powerless

  132. Rodger

    There should be a new act, the Anti-Bullsh-t Act. Run like a football tribunal, with greater penalties the greater the bullshit. Ban the writer or presenter from publishing or presenting for weeks at a time and include fines. Require references to verify facts. Require disclosure of affiliation with and payment by interest groups.
    Apply this rigorously to professional journalists and commentators and to a lesser extent to anyone who writes publicly on the internet.

  133. David McRae

    I’ve had a gutful of bad journalism – it’s pretty much all there is – bloody stenographers at best, crap merchants mostly.

    Regulation – I’m all for it, can’t make it worse – and forthright and courageous ohh would it be nice to see some of that

  134. Liamj

    M.Simon: “In his column today, Bolt makes only a glancing mention of his many errors, and says “none seemed to me to be of consequence”. That is a gobsmacking statement.”
    Not really, arrogance never knows itself.

    “Apart from the particular context of the racial vilification law, I leave it to you to figure out if it was a coincidence that Mr Bolt just happened to be sticking it to some Indigenous people.”
    Que? Targeting the weak is Bolts bread & butter. Do you mean choosing indig-hate/’free speech’ to deliberately martyr himself over?
    Could be, cunning from a curs point of view.

    Anyway, cheer up AndyB, at least you’re distracting from the police corruption stench .. for a little while.

  135. Laura Hampson

    What freedom of speech do you imagine you have anyway, Australia?

    Is it the freedom that has a wall of silence from your entire press, including Crikey, when cables are released proving duplicity and corruption within a previous government?

    Apparently, this is not worth a single column inch in Australia:

    When it does break from abroad, and it will, the silence will speak volumes about the real nature of what passes for democratic freedom there.

    Are you going to blank this comment out as well, Crikey, as you have my others?

    You might find that your crass censorship comes back to bite.

  136. Andrew McIntosh

    I’ve never seen it as a freedom of speech issue because Bolt and his employers never have. Such talk is distraction. Getting bogged down in such distractions is testimony to the high intensity feelings that the very term “freedom of speech” generates. It’s manipulation based on peoples’ ethics and finer feelings. It’s cynical and needs to be seen through.

    What’s more interesting is that all this “freedom of speech” prattle gets in the way of looking at Bolt’s record re; indigenous affairs. That someone who has nothing to do with Aboriginals feels qualified to determine who is and who isn’t is, in itself, something that needs to be brought to harsh light. Here is someone telling other people who they are and who they aren’t – if it’s “freedom of speech” people are concerned about, then the speech of the people vilified needs to be heard. The fact that Bolt and News Australia are riding rough-shod over these people and their own words is all I need to know about their commitment to “freedom of speech”.

    What I can’t understand is why normally intelligent people (leaving aside those who just parrot what they want to hear) are falling for this. I can understand concerns about the law, its imperfections and its potentials. But what is the alternative? Do defenders of Bolt’s “right to say it” really feel that by letting Bolt and others of his ideological and attention-craving ilk write and say whatever the hell they want in as many public forums as possible with total impunity is some kind of panacea against Stalinist style gulags? Do they feel that by not drawing a line, that the public good is maintained more than having legislation against certain types of speech that can be demonstrated to be hurtful? That non-research and non-truths are as legitimate as research and proven facts?

    Do defenders of “freedom of speech” really think there is a difference between talk and action? Bolt has shown such impunity and indifference to others with his columns, his appearances on radio and television that is has an impact on an audience that feels their own prejudices and bigotries justified. And if we take “freedom of speech” to it’s logical conclusion, every garden variety racist, homophobe, misogynist, etc., all have the “right” to express their views as well. If it was a matter of considered dialogue, such views would be easily put down. Bolt has demonstrated, time and again, he is not interested in considered dialogue and not interested in changing his views (he called his book “Still Not Sorry” for rut’s sake!). With such a figure-head, the bigots of the land have not only their bigotries justified but their staunch refusal to listen and consider justified as well. This does nothing for freedom of speech, let alone anything for how Aboriginal people are allowed to exist and thrive in this country.

    This is not freedom of speech, this is impunity to slander. You don’t have to look too far back into Australian history to see how mere attitudes towards Aboriginals and anyone else “other” can have physical, detrimental impact on people. We have now had a public court case that has demonstrated society’s commitment to stopping such attitudes from becoming more harmful. Nothing about law is perfect but in lieu of a perfect world I’ll take settle for it. We should be grateful for the outcome of this case and be as vigilant as ever in condemning Bolt and anyone else who feels they have impunity to slander. Freedom of speech, among other values, demands it.

  137. zimmerman

    i hope this law doesn’t inhibit the self ordained Viceroy of Virtue, he who must be obeyed, the sneering sentinel of self righteousness from his stellar career in Tweetdom…..come down good sir Julian………….and Harry Potter wants his glasses back

  138. netvegetable

    The way to deal with irresponsible journalism is, in almost every case, a mix of self-regulation, argument and exposure.

    Is that how you should deal with journalism that defames and vilifies people? Because that is precisely what Andrew Bolt did.

    The judgment means that journalists, particularly well-read, influential journalists, are to be held to higher standards than ordinary people. That the public “deserves to be protected” from them. It’s a dangerous notion.

    People with their own newspaper columns and tv shows can do a lot more damage than the crazy man standing on a street corner. With that power comes responsibility.

  139. shepherdmarilyn

    What if Bolt had done an article questioning “who is a jew”, he would be demonised by all.

    His article was a pack of ugly lies which ignored a terrible fact in our history – the whites were trying to white out the black for most of the early 20th century.

  140. Elan

    LAURA HAMPSON: I will take a look at your link and judge for myself. I would say though that it amazes me that there are some damned smart people here and elsewhere that must know that Governments/Corporates routinely lie. Yet: even when one is NOT referring to ‘the Martians did it/my Uncles cat is psychic’ mob etc, but putting up a reasoned (and I DO mean reasoned) argument-or at the very least questioning the official line;-all are dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists’ ! We do the Gov/Corps’ work for they-they must love our obedience!

    Dismissing people in this manner is what silences many of them;-that’s the object.
    I am neither dismissing or endorsing what you’ve put up;-I’ve yet to take a squizz.

    SIMSONMC: Moderation of all is probably prudent at this time. I am on permanent moderation. Crikey is unique in this. There is one other site that I am aware of that is strongly moderated (not permanent modding for individuals), but at least its owner is open and humourous;-he refers to himself as The Benevolent Dictator. I don’t like what happens there, but at least the guy is up front.

    I have spoken directly to Crikey yesterday; many of my posts have simply disappeared. Yesterday I was affable with Crikey about this;-now I’m not. This is of real concern.This post I suspect will now follow-so why am I bothering? Because I told Crikey that when I am addressed; responding is the right thing to do.

    Stephen Mayne’s Crikey is gone. This one is extraordinarily inconsistent in moderation….but I would say that wouldn’t I? However it is. Crikey knows damn well that any criticism it doesn’t like does not even see the light of day-unless the author calls them on it-then they put the post up to prove that they are not doing what they ARE doing.

    I am a semi retired lawyer. I know the laws of defamation very well. I’ve done nothing wrong. Crikey’s policy of ‘play the ball not the man’ is looking pretty shonky don’t you think? My previous post said that, and disappeared.

    Its increasing censorship is worrying, NOT on this issue, but generally. Crikey is increasingly becoming like those shockjocks here and partic in the US. You don’t like what is said-cut the caller off.

    From today I will c/p all my posts. I will publish those that disappear. Eric Beecher needs to step in and do something.

    It is pointless for me to discuss what we are actually discussing here. The post will just vanish. Copy/paste will at least provide some evidence that my vanished posts did not breach the forum rules (that are being breached by Crikey itself-and many posters!!).

    What has happened to Crikey?

    OK. I’ve just checked. I made three posts in the early hours of this morning (insomnia!),-two have been put up. On both I was forced to restrict what I said and word the posts as if I were being bugged! That is a disgrace.

    Crikey allowed me to put up a previous post there that only said ‘I cannot respond to two posters who addressed me’. That’s it ! That’s what they did allow!!

    Both of those threads btw have gone to the back burner on the Crikey homepage.
    This one by MS remains on the homepage. It was on this page that I levelled criticism at Crikey on its increasing censorship. It vanished.

    I stress; I have NO criticism of Crikey’s caution on this matter, I’m questioning something else entirely. Crikey ARE censoring what they don’t want said. They ARE culling posts (certainly mine) when they are questioned about what they are doing.

    Play the ball not the man??

    Are Crikey loyalists so hellbent on playing that particular man that you can’t see what is going on with Crikey? Do you even care if it is not happening to you? Are you going to turn round now and tell me that I’m being ‘over sensitive’ or some such. I think not: there was? a period when one poster continuously had her posts culled; she questioned it; I noticed it.

    Will this post not be put up? I promise you it will be, if only elsewhere.

    Surely you cannot justify this Eric Beecher? I would be happy to discuss this with you personally.

  141. Elan

    LAURA HAMPSON: I’ve looked at your link. It concerns Shappelle Corby.

    Personally I would like to know who is behind the site; who is funding it?

    And sincerely;…..I would suggest to you that using atmospheric music and drumbeats will only lend itself to dismissal of the entire thing. If the site seeks to make a serious point, than a dark background and that music will have the majority of those who view it, dismissing the entire thing, and thus ignoring any valid points it might have made.

    As for corruption in high places? REALLY????? you shock me…

    Post c/p’d.

  142. Rosenberg

    @ Marilyn Shepherd

    Haven’t we had enough BS without your tossing in
    “What if Bolt had done an article questioning “who is a jew”, he would be demonised by all.”

    It is a highly contested question, though mostly by Jews, and it lends itself to the point (cf. Bolt’s point) that many Russians (in particular) who know b-all about Judaism, have claimed to be Jews for the material and other advantages of getting Israeli residence and citizenship. In Israel where only Orthodox Judaism is recognised for many purposes one can well imagine someone saying “that’s pretty rich coming from so-called Rabbi X when it he would be pushed to prove that his mother’s mother, and therefore his mother, was even Jewish”.

    So, would you instead like to make a point that Bolt, who isn’t Jewish, would cop it because the ready accusation of anti-Semitism would be raised in an instant? And would that be fair? And, not least if it was reinforced by threats to boycott Herald-Sun advertising (as with The Age over Michael Blackman’s criticisms of young Israelis in a snide manner) would that not be counter-productive for the aims of the hyper vigilant activists who watch for these things? Because of course Jewish solidarity is noted by plenty of people who don’t write to newspapers or on blogs and is resented or at least treated as making it clear who is family and who isn’t.

    Now, having raised the Jewish connection, and noticed no doubt that counsel offering services pro bono to the plaintiffs were well known Jews, what do you think they should be doing about a fellow Jew writing as Michael Galak did about Arabs in the piece someone cited above which is, from memory, “Monologue of a Jewish Peacenik”.

  143. Laura Hampson

    You miss the point Elan, possibly because you half wanted to? The music? It’s called a trailer. What would you have in a trailer, silence?

    Why don’t you just read the reports on there. They are PDFs. Black on white. Why don’t you look at what they document, rather than pick on subjective presentational issues, which are irrelevant.

    I guess it is an Australia thing again, but this is not mere corruption, it is an affront to democracy.

    It is a government, routinely committing criminal acts.

    They HID evidence which was critical, to her and they lied and lied and lied to the media, to parliament, to the public. With the proven corrupt AFP, they covered it up. And hey, look at the ACLEI report: that is what passes for an investigation over there, and it is an insult to honest cops globally.

    I am sorry, but if that is ‘routine’ in Australia, you are the rogue state that increasing numbers view you as. Anyone who actually reads those reports certainly do.

  144. LisaCrago

    I agree with many things you raise but chill out as all the posts are moderated here.

    It would be better to allow no comments than entrust someone to moderate who murders your posts.

    I am actually surprised that they have comments even open on this legal case; it is very sensitive subject area and is likely to still be before the courts on appeal.
    In cases such as this most online papers do not have open comments sections.

    ps. from an ‘original’ Crikey loyalist from way back before it became a leftist only whinge rag.

  145. green-orange

    Bolt breached the rule between “opinion” and “statement”.

    While I agree with his opinion that some white people are claiming aboriginal heritage to obtain benefits (such as the redhead who got a prize for aboriginal art), changing this opinion to a statement by making incorrect statements about persons and then failing to apologise led to this situation.

    The fact that the media now routinely lies and obfuscates (vox pops for their favourite scheme, for instance) appears to have led them into believing this is actually legal.

  146. Julius


    Good for you in recognising what a whinge the Crikey blogs have become.

    As your surprise that comment is being allowed while there is still a good prospect of an appeal I would say how surprised I was that no comment was allowed while the case before Bromberg J was being heard, or, I think, afterwards when he had reserved his judgment.

    Generally the media, and their legal advisers, are too cautious in their approach to contempt of court (which is what we are discussing). It is probably because the legal advisers can only get into trouble if they say “publish”erroneously rather than if they act as cautious censors.

    The fact is that it is almost impossible to commit, outside a court, contempt of court when a judge is sitting without a jury, or, a fortiori, on appeal to a bench of judges. It would be contrary to the self-respect which members of the Bar and judges have in bucket loads for them to admit that ignorant lay criticism or prejudices were going to affect them.

    It is of course possible that some of the intended Comments at the time of the original hearing were seriously inflammatory and such even as to “scandalise the court”. It would have rung alarm bells for example if someone had commented other than in very circumspect language that the judge and the plaintiffs’counsel were all Jewish. So perhaps Crikey made the practical decision that it would be too expensive in time and legal fees to have the blog thoroughly moderated rather than it being an example of typical media laziness and ignorance.

  147. crakeka

    To Green- Orange.
    When did being of Aboriginal descent and having red hair become mutually exclusive? Visit Indigenous settlements and you will see read haired children, who presumably grow into red haired adults.

  148. Rebekah Mulholland

    The problem is that consumers of media have very little practical and theoretical knowledge about journalism and professional comunication- this makes it very easy to judge and criticise the “irresponsible” journalism that is published. I also believe that more self regulation on behalf of the journalist is the way to go- I’m a student journalist who does not have an editor to check and double check my stories for legal consequences- it’s my issue to sort out and predetermine. Obviously my stories are not read by hundreds of people, but even a mispelt name can have serious legal ramifications. This is why publishing misinformation write ups in newspapers and making it a legal requirement is a great idea.

    Well read and opinionative journalists publishing irresponsible journalism should be pulled up by their media organisation, not fined or sentenced, I also believe it is the readers responsibility to be critical of news and read opinion with a critical eye. Opinion is interesting and sells news. It’s based on dialogue. Good journalist’s understand that their work has many moral and legal issues that need to considered when making and publishing stories. It is not an easy job to distinguish and gauge what should and shouldn’t be reported, but it’s an issue that is always being tackled by communication professionals.

    21st century convergent journalism has many more legal and moral issues to reflect upon than ever before. If journalist’s writing is moderated further, the watchdog, and fourth estate traditional roles of journalists will be abolished, and the opportunity for journalists to discover the most effective way of tackling 21st media ethical and moral issues would be removed. I believe if this type of “irresponsible” journalism is made illegal, how and why would anyone want to produce any news at all if there is the possibility your work is deemed irresponsible? Why would any journalists want the possibility of recieving a criminal record? Once a journalist is charged with “irresponsible journalism” does this mean they also lose their job?

    I think that making irresponsible journalism illegal is aspirational and also really scary, it removes the need for consumers of news and opinion to be critical and also makes a journalist’s job ten times harder- with any word that could be deemed irresponsible acting as a road block to creating news that is both educational, and interesting. I doubt I would want to write anything that wasn’t quoted from a press release for fear of being labelled irresponsible and then, being slapped with a criminal record… So then the consequence of this is news becomes even more regulated and controlled by the Government and large organisations with fantastic PR and spin doctor teams. Win-Win for the Government and corporations, and not so fantastic for journalists who want to publish and write stories that educate and promote dicussion within the public sphere about policy- which believe it or not opinion helps to create debate between media, and consumers of news.

  149. Elan

    Gawd! It gives me the bleedin’ irrits when people put up a response to something they haven’t fully read!

    LCRAGO: …….read again. Then again. I don’t need to go any further. I’m chilled to the point of cool. Real cool…..er, man.

    LHAMPSON: you really know how to win friends and influence people, don’t you? I knew you were touchy on this matter, and fair enough,-that’s why I put the ‘sincerely’ thing.
    And I meant it. I also meant what I said. If a body/club/whatever wanted me to join and a receptionist yelled “yeah, waddiyouwant?” I’d walk. That is why- on this matter, the ‘trailer’ needs to be conducive to peaking the interest, not something that will turn a potential supporter to the ‘here we go, another bunch of c/theorists’.

    Has it crossed your mind that you are not helping Chappelle Corby with your attitude? No of course not.

    Political expediency is a powerful thing. The Balibo Five could attest to that, from wherever place they were sent to so abruptly.

    LCRAGO: I agree Crikey has changed-but not in the way you suggest. I’m curious though;-why are you bothering yourself with a Leftist whinge rag?

    (Btw: ‘someone’ IS ‘murdering’ my posts. Nicely put. It will be denied of course, but that is routine. There are always forum rules on all discussion sites, as there should be, but there are no rules against personal opinion/feelings of moderators when doing their thing. It is disingenuous to suggest that that never occurs. It does;-but try proving it!!

    My view on the matter under discussion opposes most here. They have a golden opportunity to take a shot at me over the censorship comment. They haven’t because they read my post, I reckon).

    ……………and they are sticking to the topic. I want the same opportunity. I’m ‘alleging’ that I’m being denied it.


  150. Mark Duffett

    @Rebekah Mulholland, eeek. “Good journalist’s” (sic) know how to use apostrophes. It might seem a pedantic point (especially in comparison to the weighty main issue at hand), but I reckon every student journalist ought to know that I’m far from the only person for whom the credibility of what I’m reading goes down 50% every time I hit something like this.

    However, “making irresponsible journalism illegal is aspirational and also really scary, it removes the need for consumers of news and opinion to be critical” is spot on. Going right back to @fredex at the top and subsequent comments, the only protection the public ‘deserve’ from irresponsible journalism is that deriving from their own critical faculties.

  151. SimsonMc

    @ Rebekah Mulholland – with all due respect I disagree as I believe you are missing the point. There is a clear distinction between what you are discussing re: an investigative journalist or a well considered opinion writer debating a sensitive issue and what Andrew Bolt did in this case. The simple fact is Andrew Bolt did not act in good faith when writing his opinion pieces as the courts have found. Good faith is an abstract and comprehensive term that encompasses a sincere belief or motive without any malice or the desire to defraud others. It derives from the translation of the Latin term bona fide, and courts use the two terms interchangeably and have been deciding what is bona fide in relation to a range of matters for hundreds of years.

    The concept of good faith or bona fide is not rocket science when it comes to applying it to a journalist’s writings. As in other areas of law, legislation can be structured to ensure that if a journalist took reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy and the basis of their story was done in good faith then they will be afforded protection, as is the case with sec 18D of the RDA. I have not heard one reasonable person come out and dispute His Honour’s assessment of Andrew Bolt’s modus operandi when it comes to his selective writing skills. Remember sec 18D was never really tested in this case due to the fact that Andrew Bolt did such an appalling hack job. So in essence we will never know the true implications in relation to how a court would decide as to how far a journalist can go in relation to such matters.

  152. Peter Ormonde


    Dead right. Bolt was not found guilty of being sloppy – he was sloppy with calculated intent and malevolence. That is more than just irresponsible journalism – not a mistake – it was deliberate. He was making a point and in doing so chose to cherry-pick “facts” to suit, fabricated others and not to check… he just “knew”.

    Implicit in his diatribe was the underlying assumption that “everyone knows how to spot a black fella – and they don’t have red hair and freckles”. Wrong on all counts.

    I for one will be most disappointed if the plaintiffs do not now pursue his unrepentant hide for defamation and damages.

    Nothing whatsoever to do with “free speech” … everything to do with deliberate and intentional racial abuse and prejudice.

    And Mark Duffett …

    I’m with you … I’d like to be able to take legal action for misplaced, unnecessary apostrophes. Aside from discounting the credibility of the author, it demeans us all… a stain on our education system and indeed our way of life.

    I’m feeling indignantly litigious today.

  153. Elan

    DUFFETT: As I get older I over punctuate. Buggered if I know why, I just do. To that end I find it petty in the extreme to pull this student journo up on a minuscule error.

    (We can now get bogged down on WHY it is important to be grammatically correct. That as a journalist..etc., Are you all so hellbent on ‘getting’ all journalist””’SSSSS that you need to condescend to this poster?)

    The message she is trying to convey is correct-(or perhaps I should say I agree with it!)
    I’ve elaborated elsewhere; I’m not doing it again.


  154. SBH

    Geez Rebekah, that’s a wobbly piece of work. Not only is it peppered with typos and made up words like “opinionative” but you seem not to understand the differences between the criminal and the civil law.

    As for the ‘Government’ regulating and controlling media content well, governments in Australia just don’t.

    Mark Duffet, I agree that people should be critical of what they see, hear and read but would you concede that there should be some kind of compunction for journailsts to at least be honest and accurate. Isn’t it a danger to open discussion of ideas for people with the megaphones to distort, to lie, to be lazy about facts?

    As a digression I can’t help but recall with irony a complaint made about a children overboard presser by a journalist who when picked up about some of the basic facts in a story whined that they got the facts from the presser and they should have been entitled to believe it was true. Lazy and naive.

  155. SBH

    rassenfrassin m*derator!!

  156. Elan

    There you go RM: How dare you!!

    We of the elite are going to make damn sure journalists know their place, don’t you…don’t you worry about that!!

    Gawd Bolt! What HAVE you done…?

    ‘journailsts’ SBH? Easily done isn’t it?

    Perhaps a little ‘incentivation’ on your part to nail all journalists?

    Just using my inshitanive….


  157. SimsonMc

    @ Peter Ormonde
    Thank you

    Just another point in relation to Freedom of Speech. The concept is not an absolute one and I am not sure why people believe it is. No right is ever one way nor is it ever absolute. Freedom of Speech comes with great responsibilities. I would bet my last dollar that when our forefathers developed the concept of Freedom of Speech, it was framed against the back drop that Freedom of Speech would be done responsibly, honestly and in good faith. I don’t believe for a second that they would have expected or wanted Freedom of Speech to encompass the concepts of omitting facts and distorting the truth to make a point.

    In relation to the issue of why they went down the path of RDA instead of defamation, I noted the following points by RodH on the Overland website:

    “Firstly, to do so, would have inevitably sparked cries from Bolt and others of his ilk (and there are sadly many) that they were essentially “only in it for the money” – one of the very inferences that Bolt himself had sought his readers to draw in his articles.

    Secondly, and more importantly, this has never been just about the specific false claims made about the individuals concerned, now tested in court. Bolt’s false claims, as Bromberg found, had effects far beyond these individuals that went to matters of the “humiliation” and “intimidation” of a substantial section of Australia’s Aboriginal community, not just the individuals bringing the action. Individual defamation actions do not address such things.”

    I thought these were valid points and to me it put it into perspective.

  158. Mark Duffett

    @SBH, I would argue that the more people ‘distort, lie, be lazy about facts’, the more the amplification function of their megaphone is impaired. In other words, they can only do that so often before their credibility is shot – IF their audiences deploy their critical faculties. If not – well then, those audiences truly get the journalism they deserve.

    Despite the fact that Bolt’s audiences remain very large, I think he still stands as a case in point. There was a time not so long ago when he still had considerable ‘crossover appeal’, i.e. a wide cross-section of people would consider him worth reading, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with him. I don’t feel that’s been the case for a while now. He’s mostly speaking only to a solid inner core these days, albeit that that still may be a large body.

    @Elan, petty it may be, hell, it probably isn’t even fair or rational (it’s largely instinctive in my case). Nevertheless, it’s also simply a fact that many of us find punctuation errors detract significantly from an article’s impact. Just saying, as the, er, saying goes. Were I a student journalist, I think I’d want to know that.

  159. Peter Ormonde


    Yes while agree that there were significant political reasons for going through the RDA – if nothing else to underline that the initial piece was not only defamatory but vilifying of a whole class of “pale” blackfellas.

    Had Bolt taken it on the chin, come out and apologised for his deliberate falsifications and the offence – if he had understood – that would have been sufficient, I reckon.

    But he didn’t. Instead he has tried to dress this up as a “free speech” issue – puffed himself up with self-importance, attempted to portray himself as the wronged victim of the nanny state and has refused to retract and apologise. He has learned nothing.

    Perhaps his employers – those who provide him with a platform for his venom – might learn a lesson from losing a string of defamation actions and from the demolition of this flimsy obfuscation.

    There is no right of free speech for liars.

  160. Liz45

    It’s intrigued me that nobody has stated the bleeding obvious – about skin colour, DNA, what we inherit etc.

    My parents were different – my father had black hair my mum was very fair. Half their kids took after one parent, almost half the other, and one had reddish hair? Nobody questioned the rights of any of the 9 kids to claim the right to these parents as our ancestors, or their ancestors nor to a claim to Irish ancestry, or our love for Irish music, accent, culture, heritage etc? I’ve known people from Ireland with great contrast of ‘colourful attributes’ from the very dark/black hair etc to very fair? None are questioned as to their rights to claim a state of belonging?

    What’s the difference with indigenous people? If it hadn’t been for racism, assimilation, r**e of aboriginal women and who knows how many other abuses, the country would still be inhabited by aboriginal people? It was Anglo-Saxons who created any ‘mess’ in the first instance? Conveniently forgotten?

    If one parent is different in colour, should that bar a child who looks ‘different’ to their sibling/s to claim authenticity? I think not! The whole argument raised by Bolt ( even if he’d couched his ‘discussion’ in different terms) was just plain illogical, hurtful and wrong? He then went on to claim(via his media conference outside the court) the importance of focusing on our ‘sameness’ not on what “divides us”? Follow that if you can? Gross hypocrisy and arguing against himself? Trying to justify his behaviour with some ‘motherhood statements’? Total rubbish!

    What really adds insult to injury is the fact, that in past years, it was the kids who weren’t ‘black enough’ who were removed from their families – with the stated aim of getting rid of the whole race – it’s documented if people doubt this? They’re ‘doomed’ either way, aren’t they?

    Just goes to prove, that if you want to clutch at straws to make an argument, the deceit will show itself in time. The more I ponder the whole saga the stronger these musings come to mind.

  161. SBH

    Indeed Elan, but I’m not trying to make my living with wordcratf (whoops) like Rebekah is. The typos were a minor problem for me. Much worse was the lack of understanding of how our courts operate.

    Mark you may be right. I hope Bolt is his own worst enemy but we have all sorts of restrictions on people telling lies to make money. I don’t see why journos should have some sort of license to be just wrong. Not even Adam Smith thought the market should just be let rip.

  162. Ian

    Forget the specifics of this case. We need to look at the broader picture of the mainstream media in Australia.

    It is very clear that it does not work to inform but to push a very narrow set of views or ideologies that benefit a very limited elite and turn news into some form of entertainment; to downgrade it. News is about profits. Profits for the media moguls and for their advertisers.

    We need to address the problem at various levels including requiring facts to be supported and opinions to be justified as in this this case. But there are other steps we need to take like deconsolidating the media, replacing the voluntary code of conduct with enforceable ones that carry significant adverse consequences if breached. The ABC and SBS need to be truly independent and provide alternative news where appropriate (eg reporting from the victim’s point of you rather than the offender’s where these are powerful governments etc), open up channels to alternative non- commercial media and so on.

    Part of the reasons the world is in crisis is that the media has performed badly when comes to digging beneath the, often untrue statements of politicians and so called “experts” like, say Ian Plimer to get to the real truth of what is going on.

  163. Elan

    I understand the Court system SBH: Criminal/Civil.

    I am not prepared to dismiss the entire message because of that, and the apparent need to point out typos. There are seasoned journalists on Crikey who have committed this heinous sin-are we now going to pull them apart because of it?

    Yes it irritates me sometimes, but I prefer to concentrate on what they are saying, rather then how they are saying it. I have never seen an illiterate journo. They would never make it to print.

    You cannot criticise journalists for any perception that they are saying they should be above any criticism for what they write-(which IS what MS and the poster above are being called on).- And then criticise them for being just like me an’ thee;-making the occasional typo!! You can’t endorse the free right of Cryptome etc., for expressing an open opinion,-then hammer someone else for doing the same thing! The poor sods can’t bloody win!! (I’m talking journalists in general here).

    (But Bolt? I’m coming to-‘but it is what he said’. Again defamation becomes front and centre of my mental screen).

    (I am not here to give ‘an apple for the teacher’ for any journalists. I’m clearly not overly impressed with specific Crikey journalists. I’m simply expressing a point of view like what youse is).

    This matter is proving to be a great debating subject on Crikey though. OLO and Crikey have not shied away from allowing discussion on it. Crikey is moderating all comments. (Which I did actually know…..). Prudent I reckon.

    Interestingly most/all? print is not allowing discussion-even when they moderate all posts. My my,-this case HAS been successful hasn’t it?

    Hopefully this situation will improve. There is only one way to do that. I hope it occurs; I hope it succeeds. (One benefit of all this is;-no matter what happens, irrespective of Bolts blustering;- his arrrr’s will be hauled in, both by him and the Group. He will deny that-but it will happen).

    There are two distinct factors here: what he said; his right to say it.

    Personally? There are aspects of the RDA that must be changed. It has gone too far. Regrettably, saying that feeds into the clearly racist camp, but I’ll stick with it. It has gone too far.
    (I’m almost relieved I’m ‘Coloured’/White !! I know full well what could be levelled at me if I were not. I suppose it still could be, but grow up with racism?-you’ll learn; how you’ll learn).

    My believe is that Bolts article — — ——, I reckon that is clear!

    (And a conversation with a friend in an outback town confirms that many Indigenous Australians ARE staying silent. ‘I’m not going to support that man/ I’m not going to get into strife/ But I’ve got my opinion’.
    This is NOT verbatim-but the message was clear).

    Go Wikileaks!!!
    Bolt: shut your face…….


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