A few days before the storm that engulfed her last month — over comments opposing marriage equality and calling trans kids “the work of the devil”– former tennis great Margaret Court and her husband Barry (a former president of the Western Australian Liberal Party) were attempting to lobby politicians to back their pick for Gillian Triggs’ replacement as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission. According to a report in Tuesday’s Australian, a letter to former prime minister John Howard suggested he should also support Augusto Zimmerman. He is a WA based, Brazilian born legal academic and a member of the Victory Life Church in which Court is a pastor. “He is a good Christian” the letter told Howard.

So what do we know about Zimmerman? Here he is, in his own words:

He’s a widely published academic, and a lecuturer on constitutional law at Murdoch University. He made submissions to the recent senate inquiries into freedom of speech — all about ditching section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act — and religious freedom. The wording of the two submissions (both composed with PhD candidate Joshua Forrester and constitutional law lecturer Lorraine Finlay) is relatively academic and restrained. From the 18C inquiry:

“… in purporting to combat racial hatred, s18C targets the wrong feelings, in the wrong people. This is because:

Despite s18C being within Part IIA of the RDA, which is titled ‘Prohibition of Offensive Behaviour Based on Racial Hatred’,  18C itself does not target hatred. Instead, it targets emotions that, in many cases, have little if anything to do with hatred. Offence, insult and humiliation are themselves emotions distinct from hatred. An act that creates offence, insult or humiliation will, in many cases, not create hatred.”

And from the religious freedom inquiry, where the trio make the argument oddly common to opponents to marriage equality, that it will require Christians bakers to make cakes for people whose lifestyles they abhor:

“As noted above, an indispensable incident to the free exercise of a religion is freedom of association. This freedom includes the freedom to disassociate from spiritual practices not in
keeping with one’s religious beliefs … In the United States, vendors of wedding cakes and flowers have breached anti-discrimination laws by refusing service for weddings of homosexual couples.”

But less the formality required of inquiry submissions, what does he have to say? His publication history also contains several articles for conservative publications Quadrant, The Spectator and the Institute of Public Affairs’ Freedom Watch website. In February this year, he had his say for The Spectator about “The myth of white male supremacy“:

“Arguably, the principal victims of identity politics are white working-class men.  The main culprits for the terrible plight faced by this unfairly targeted group are the radical feminists.”

 

In Quadrant in May, he argued “18C defiles our democracy” and, amidst his free speech absolutism, he employs tactic of anyone who has a strong argument — comparing the position of his opponents to that of the Nazi party:

“… broad legal prohibitions on racially offensive speech will never alone be successful in eliminating racism from our society. They may even be counter-productive — when ideas are forcibly repressed they cease being exposed and challenged in the course of public debate. Perhaps the most compelling evidence to this point is pre-Nazi Germany. The Weimar Republic of the 1930s had several laws against ‘insulting religious communities’ and these laws were fully applied to prosecute hundreds of Nazi agitators, including Joseph Goebbels. Far from halting National Socialist ideology, those laws helped the Nazis achieve broader public support and recognition, and ultimately assisted the dissemination of racist ideas.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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