Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MEDIA: The Bolt decision

It must have been an awful feeling for one of Australia’s most loved and hated columnist, a rare moment when he did not enjoy the limelight. But dressed in his dark blue suit and a tie that almost matched the colour of his greying hair, columnist, blogger, TV and radio personality Andrew Bolt was genuinely phased by the judgment of a single Federal Court Judge. For a man who otherwise never shies away from talking about race, Bolt wasn’t amused about being found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act.

Bolt described the judgment as

… a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves. I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on the differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings.

I personally haven’t read all 470 paragraphs and 143 pages of His Honour Justice Brmberg’s judgment. But the word “multiculturalism” certainly isn’t prominent enough for it to feature in the Catchwords on the first page.

Multiculturalism does appear, however, in the 8-page summary of the judgment. In paragraph 15, His Honour remarked:

Whether conduct is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a group of people calls for an objective assessment of the likely reaction of those people. I have concluded that the assessment is to be made by reference to an ordinary and reasonable member of the group of people concerned and the values and circumstances of those people. General community standards are relevant but only to an extent. Tolerance of the views of others may be expected in a multicultural society, including from those persons who are the subject of racially based conduct.

In paragraph 22, His Honour notes:

In reaching those conclusions, I have observed that in seeking to promote tolerance and protect against intolerance in a multicultural society, the Racial Discrimination Act must be taken to include in its objectives tolerance for and acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity. At the core of multiculturalism is the idea that people may identify with and express their racial or ethnic heritage free from pressure not to do so. People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying. Disparagement directed at the legitimacy of the racial identification of a group of people is likely to be destructive of racial tolerance, just as disparagement directed at the real or imagined practices or traits of those people is also destructive of racial tolerance.

Is His Honour really seeking to limit freedom to talk about (let alone criticise) multiculturalism? Read the rest of the summary. Remember, it’s only 8 pages.

As for Bolt suggesting that he has always insisted on the things that unite humanity, do yourself a favour and just read the comments that he allows to appear on his blog whenever he writes about just about any subject.

Words © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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