The Australian went the full Pravda on 18C yesterday, which was just like old times. The front-page lead was a story spruiking an opinion piece by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, outlining the lamest change to 18C — i.e. replacing offence by perception of the group with a “reasonable person” test — as some sort of yuggge victory. It isn’t, of course, because it does not address the core objection to 18C, which is the judgement by the state on speech, which is odious (in cases other than harassment, verbal abuse, etc, etc). Indeed, Fierravanti-Wells’ suggestion would actually cement 18C deeper into the body of the law, by establishing the principle that some abstract imaginary public is the invisible jury for all speech. Nice little motif from Mussolini’s corporatist state, so good to see Fierravanti-Wells honouring her heritage. The IPA and other lovers of ferrdom! will oppose this if they have any guts. An open question. Poor old James “Sprog” Paterson looks like he lacks all internal organs whatsoever, and feeds by photosynthesising in the Senate courtyard. To give the grace note to the Pravda-style exercise, Chris Merritt has a lip-smacking piece about how good all this is for Malcolm Turnbull. Luckily for him, the still extant 18C doesn’t cover insults to the intelligence.

Speaking of Pravda, has anyone seen Chris Mitchell’s column these days? Old Eraserhead (“Telex has ruined journalism!”) is far from the op-ed, in the media section, these days, with a teaser half-column on the front, leading over to an article dump on the back page. Another year, and he’ll be under the bowls scores. Someone going to say Siberiaaaaaa …?

Not Gerard Henderson. He does not like these Soviet comparisons (admittedly he found a particularly stupid one from Laura Tingle), applied to members of the right, and in another disquisition on it last Friday, talked about the reality of Soviet life, Stalin’s repressions, and “Lenin’s five-year plans”. Alas, Gollum, as an old Cold Warrior, you are really losing your touch. Lenin, of course, made no five-year plans. When he died in 1924, the USSR was still under the NEP mixed-economy system. The first five-year plan was launched in 1928. Gollum became an acolyte of BA Santamaria, almost as soon as he hit university. His BA was BA (Santamaria). Later he did a PhD, on BA Santamaria, which I guess makes him Gerard Henderson, BA (Santamaria), PhD (BA Santamaria). Maybe he should have read another couple of books as well. — Guy Rundle

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW