No winners with same-sex hate bill

This week has seen the further eroding of free speech in Australia with the passing of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017. The Bill seeks to provide a “further safeguard against vilification, intimidation and threats to cause harm” based on “the religious conviction, sexual orientation or gender identity or intersex status of a particular person or group”. The new legislation is designed to apply to both sides of the debate and will be in effect only until mid November after the survey results have been announced. Possible fines of up to $12,600 apply for any breaches.

At first glance this bill seems fair. It targets campaigners on both sides equally. Vilification of LGBT people is off limits, but so is vilification of people based on their religious beliefs. All campaigning material including that posted on social media, must be clearly authorised. Even the ABC and SBS must allow ‘reasonable opportunity’ for both sides to broadcast their views.

But what seems like a win for both sides, is in reality confirmation that many on both the left and right sides of politics are only willing to impinge on our right to freedom of political expression when it suits their own purposes. Very few MPs have batted an eyelid about the fact we now have ‘fresh’ new legislation that places a subjective limit on how people can express their political point of view on SSM. As Kerry Packer once said: ‘every time you pass a new law, you take somebody’s privilege away from him.’

What does this new piece of legislation say about the attitude of the political class towards ordinary Australians? Malcolm Turnbull told us at the launch of the Liberals and Nationals for Yes Campaign that he respects the wisdom, good sense and decency of the Australian people. He said “the worst argument against the plebiscite or the postal survey is the proposition that Australians are not capable of having a respectful debate on such an important social issue. That holds the Australian people in contempt.” And yet within three days he oversees the passing of legislation that is based on the complete opposite view.

Mathias Cormann has said that the bill sends a message that “hateful and malicious conduct will not be tolerated”.  Mark Dreyfus has said that he expects Australians to debate the issue with “grace and kindness”. They both sound like a couple of schoolmarms. How patronising and infantilising it is to be told by the political elite that we must all be on our best behaviour. That we’re so mentally feeble that we can’t bear to be called a homophobe or a bigot or hear someone say that they believe gays will go to hell.

The thinking behind this legislation is to protect us from bad or offensive ideas, and yet as Penny Wong points out, the bill can’t “stop all of the hurt, all of the prejudice that’s being expressed”. Once a hurtful thing has been said, issuing the perpetrator with a fine is not going to change that. The idea that we need to be protected from our feelings by the benevolent hand of government shows a distinct lack of faith in the Australian people’s ability to participate in no holds barred, robust debate. Are we so feeble that we need a law that seeks to save us from hurt?

The most insidious thing about this bill, is that it represents a further erosion of our already threatened right to freedom of communication on political matters implied in the Constitution of Australia as well as our natural rights to freedom of speech and expression. This bill restricts speech based on the subjective criteria of vilification or intimidation, similar to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. As with all hate speech laws, it comes down to a select few privileged individuals who get to decide on what constitutes a breach.

As Cory Bernardi noted, Attorney General George Brandis is effectively the gatekeeper on which misconduct complaints are referred to the court. A single member of parliament who has a public position on the SSM debate is not the ideal person to perform such a role. Even Sam Dastyari has expressed some concerns about the risks some people may face sharing social media content, unaware of the legal implications.

Even though the bill is temporary, it sets a dangerous precedent. Already there has been a call by a Just Equal activist for these laws to become a permanent fixture. “Federally we have permanent, national anti-hate speech laws for race and religion only, yet clearly there is a need for permanent laws to include sexuality and gender identity.” Once hate speech laws exist for one group, it’s inevitable every identity group will eventually want in.

These calls echo comments made by Mark Dreyfus earlier in the year when 18C was under review. At the time he gave an indication that Labor would be open to consolidation of discrimination legislation such that offence laws like 18C would also cover sexual orientation, gender, age and disability should they win government. Perhaps religion would be next, heralding in a new era of blasphemy law. Anne Aly has already suggested it.

It may seem like a great idea to restrict speech when those being restricted are on the opposite side of the ideological fence, or are people with offensive and bigoted opinions. And yet once we become complacent with laws that limit how people express themselves, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves on the receiving end.

In these times we would do well to remember the words of HL Mencken who once said “the trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” Instead of making oppressive new laws to try and combat hateful speech from a minority of ‘scoundrels,’ we could perhaps take the advice of Matt Canavan and ‘grow a spine’.

This original LibertyWorks article was also published by The Spectator Australia 14th September 2017. 

Nicola Wright
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44 Comments on "No winners with same-sex hate bill"

  1. So when Brandis said that people have a right to be a bigot he didn’t mean it?

  2. The new laws rushed through for the Same-Sex Marriage postal survey are extremely dangerous. They’re an authoritarian’s wet dream.

  3. Good article. There’s always unforseen outcomes. Particularly disturbing is so many people being so sure of themselves with this. How far will laws against vilification go? If you state a fact about lgbt people can you be fined even if you are correct?

  4. The rage and hate seems to be mostly from the Yes side but it is hard to see how such legislation can be enforced given the power of political correctness and its impulse to censor dissenting views.

    This is such an emotional issue for some, naturally, and Penny Wong is a classic example. She is an admirable politician on so many counts and an engaging individual, but she has slandered those questioning the Yes vote , dismissing them as bigots and homophobes, in ways entirely unfair and conducive to fomenting hatred.

    The Postal Vote was a stupid idea and has served, as the writer articulates so well, to further limit our freedoms and to divide society.

  5. Turning marriage into a pantomime as this bill does will simply make it a farce for everyone

  6. A country gets what it deserves as we vote for these things directly or indirectly. Try and tell me the direction we are taking here is healthy for our nation.

  7. Well articulated piece.

    • Were we reading the same article? All I saw was some libertarian claptrap whining about not being able to say whatever they want about whoever they want.

    • “It may seem like a great idea to restrict speech when those being restricted are on the opposite side of the ideological fence, or are people with offensive and bigoted opinions. And yet once we become complacent with laws that limit how people express themselves, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves on the receiving end.”

      What is it about that paragraph that you don’t understand Felix? One day you might realise that arguing for freedom of speech does not mean condoning bigoted or hateful opinions and your mind will be blown.

    • Felix , I grew up in a world where we learnt to defend ourselves and didn’t go crying to mummy when someone hurt our feelings.

    • Well, welcome to the 21st Century, Greg. Where you can’t say whatever you want and get away with it. Perhaps you should move past the days when you were growing up, and actually grow up.

    • Go look in the mirror boy if you want to see someone who needs to grow up

    • Libertyworks, if this was a perfect world, people wouldn’t say hurtful things about each other. But as this ridiculous marriage equality debate (ridiculous in that we even have to discuss it) has shown us, that’s a distant possibility.

      People shouldn’t be able to say what they want, free from repurcussions if it offends large sections of the community. You can’t have ‘freedom of speech’ without some safeguards, yet you seem to be advocating against them. How else is that meant to be interpreted, but a tacit approval of people being free to lie and say hurtful things with no facts to back them up? Should we scrap libel and defamation laws while we’re at it? If I may borrow a phrase that the ‘No’ campaign is very fond of using (incorrectly): it’s a slippery slope.

    • You really are just a group of simple creatures, aren’t you?

    • Ah, Greg, that bastion of civil debate, “I know you are, but what am I?”

      I’m pretty sure you just proved my point for me. Thank you, sir.

    • You are good for a laugh if nothing else Felix

  8. An important social issue: for 0.5% of the population likely to want it.

  9. Regardless of what this deceptive lying agenda ridden Government brings in I will NOT bow down to their authoritarian laws, We all need to give Turnbull, Shortern and the Treacherous Greens a well deserved kick up the backside!

  10. Can’t quite imagine Voltaire saying “I may disagree with what you say , but would fight to the death to defend your right to say it , unless ,of course , it hurt someone’s feelings.”Each new brazen incursion of Political Correctness is another nail in the coffin of democracy.

  11. A lesson leftards never learn. Even when they are killed once the radicals take over, along with us “bigoted” dissenters.

  12. There is a difference between the ability to speak freely and the ability to vilify.


    • Words like gay little fairy and normal tells me what is biggoted Ken Bain.

    • Yep. Sorry I read fairy tale books too. OH MY GOD IM A BIGGOT AND SO ARE ALL THOSE OTHERS THAT GREW UP IN THE REAL WORLD. 60s when this bullshit wasn’t around and everyone ACTUALLY HAD A LIFE

    • One thing that gives me hope is the fact that people of your generation are starting to die out and, statistically, won’t be here for much longer.

    • Your comment is the more vicious one , Owen Cole , and yet no-one is suggesting that you be punished for it.Did you miss that quote of H.L.Mencken?This world will be a better place when the mindless intolerance of Political Correctness dies out. Let’s just hope it doesn’t wipe us all out first , which it certainly has the potential to do.

    • A Gay little fat fairy called George Brandis

    • And yet, I just stated a fact. I didn’t call someone a gay little fairy, or imply that LGBTI people aren’t normal. I also managed to only use capitalization and punctuation where it was relevant, but I feel thats a moot point.

      Also, HAHA political correctness is intolerance. I’m not sure what you’re drinking, but it appears to be “thinking words mean the opposite of what they actually mean” juice.

  14. Just what constitutes “Australian People?” I cannot think of any subject where we could have a free debate. We are made p of older people, migrants, religious believes ( not radicals), people with their own agendas plus many who don’t give a s**t about any particular subject. I do not agree with SSM but will accept it if voted on.

  15. There are no positive in the SSM.
    But only future veneral dicises, which will decimate our population.

    • I don’t know what a veneral dicises is, but you should get your brain checked.

    • Sorry it should have been (Venereal diseases) you should expand your mind and refrain from putting the penis in the sewage.
      Enyone that does that has an unclean spirit.
      “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”
      “Repent” is a word of love.

    • A) Why do you care what I do with my penis?
      B) Why do you assume I put my penis in sewage?
      C) I assume you mean enyone, and no, they don’t have an unclean spirit, just an unclean penis.
      D) I don’t have to resist the devil as it doesn’t exist.
      E) Repent is a word not of love but of religious indoctrination, societal conditioning and oppression.

    • 1) i do care because venereal diseases are born from uncleanness of sexual beaviour. Remember HIV it was only a homosexual virus now it is a disease of all of humanity.
      2) Sudomy is another word for homosexuality.
      It is useless to explain to you the meaning of the above subjects.

  16. Fight segregation with segregation


    ONE – SSM is not a ‘right’ as defined by the UN and European HRC.

    TWO – Gay couples already have the same rights as hetero couples. This all occured in 2008 after the parliament passed 58 changes in reference to an AHRC report

    THREE – Gay couples DO have the same NOK rights as hetero couples. This is covered in the Guardianship act. There is no discrimination based on marital status or sexuality. A gay de facto partner is treated the same way as a hetero married partner. THIS IS THE LAW. No partner can be removed from the bedside ‘because they are gay’. The mere suggestion of this is completely preposterous.
    page 22…
    page 13

    FOUR – Changing the definition of marriage will do so for EVERYONE, FOREVER – this is MILLIONS of Australian couples. There are 47,000 gay couples (1% of couples) according to the 2016 Census.

    FIVE – Changing the definition of marriage in the marriage act will make parenting genderless.

    SIX – Marriage is related to procreation for millions of australian couples. Whilst of course the link is not 100%, marriage and children are intimately linked – legally, socially, biologically and ethically. Children has a whole section in the current marriage act. Gay couples need the relevant legislation to define how they have children as they cannot have them naturally. Redefining marriage and parenting will certainly have flow on effects to reproduction law and create even more children missing a mum or a dad intentionally, from birth. Commercial surrogacy is currently illegal – this will change. Mums and dads are important!

    SEVEN – Unfortunately there are several peer reviewed scientific papers showing that children of same sex couples are worse off. 400 concerned doctors (in one week) signed a petition to the AMA stating so, and detailing such extensive evidence that the AMA knowingly ignored in the name of political correctness.

    EIGHT – Single parents exist because of death or divorce. These are both tragedies for all involved. There is no act of parliament that can prevent such tragedy. Denying the rights of children to be born with a mum and dad however is different. It is a choice. Gay couples already have kids and many are great parents but children do suffer from missing a mum or a dad. They yearn for the lost parent. Children have a right to be born with a mum and a dad.

    NINE – The 2004 amendment to the Marriage act simply confirmed the common law meaning of man-woman. Marriage has been man-woman since Hyde v Hyde & Woodmansee in 1866. No gay couples got married before, during or after this amendment. No plebiscite was needed as it received bipartisan support. Both the APH and AHRC confirmed these meanings.

    TEN – There have been several problems postSSM overseas. Parents unable to opt out of ‘safe schools’ indoctrination. Bakers, Celebrants, Photographers being sued or even losing their businesses. People have requested three parents be on a child’s birth certifiicate in NSW.

    We already have same sex relationship recognition in every state in the country.







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