After devoting hundreds of thousands of words to 18C over the past few months, it is not surprising that the national broadsheet has awarded its own Australian of the Year — because the regular Australian of the Year awards are too PC, or something — to the lawyer and students involved in the QUT 18C case, Anthony Morris and Calum Thwaites respectively. In an editorial, the paper said in fighting the QUT case the five were protesting “their innocence and protect[ing] their freedom of speech”. Given the ongoing “culture wars” where Crikey readers overwhelmingly voted for Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs in last year’s Crikeys, it is not surprising that the Oz would go in the other direction. But it is interesting considering Morris and Thwaites demonstrated their commitment to free speech so lauded by The Australian by suing an elected member of Parliament for defamation and getting a five-figure sum settlement.

Both Morris and Thwaites have made submissions to the 18C inquiry currently underway, with Thwaites’ submission detailing his difficulty in dealing with the Australian Human Rights Commission as the complaint made against him progressed. The Australian cartoonist Bill Leak (who Ms Tips think was frankly robbed for not getting the Australian of the Year award from his own paper) in his own submission said that complaints against him over a cartoon he drew last year had thrown his life into “utter chaos” and compared the Australian Human Rights Commission to Islamic State.

“While less murderous than the tactics deployed by Islamist terrorists, the actions taken by the AHRC were no less authoritarian and they sprang from the same impulse: to use whatever means they have at their disposal to silence those with whom they disagree. Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was just the ticket. It provided them with the blunt and brutal weapon they were looking for.”

Peter Fray

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