The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into freedom of speech in Australia has perhaps a misleadingly broad title. As Zaahir Edries, Muslim Legal Network New South Wales branch President, pointed out at the February 1 hearing in Sydney, the inquiry only concerns itself with the effects of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act on freedom of speech and not, say, defamation or counterterrorism law.

And for all the ink spilt over 18C, it’s worth remembering how rarely the clause is actually invoked. As Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs pointed out during the opening session on December 12 last year,  only “3.8% of complaints last year, or 77 cases, were made under section 18C.”