No major party has promised to protect freedom of speech
The Human Rights Commission’s name has become distinctly Orwellian following revelations of its failure to respect the human rights of seven Queensland university students.
FamilyVoice national research officer Ros Phillips says she is deeply disturbed by the hypocrisy associated with the Queensland case, based on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. 18C makes it an offence to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone on the ground of their race.
“Media reports indicate that an indigenous woman has claimed she was offended by Facebook comments after ejecting students from a Queensland University of Technology computer lab reserved for indigenous students in May 2013,” Mrs Phillips said. “There was no sign on the lab to indicate this limitation. It had vacant computers, while other computer labs were full. The indigenous woman is seeking $250,000 in damages because she has not worked since the incident.
“One of the ejected students posted on Facebook: ‘Just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation!’”
Ros Phillips said the Human Rights Commission had allegedly failed to inform the students of the complaint against them until shortly before a Commission hearing, leaving them unable to prepare or access adequate legal advice. The total costs associated with the case have soared to over $1 million, and the students fear they have been unfairly branded as guilty of “racial hatred”, potentially destroying their future career prospects.
“This whole sorry saga could have been avoided if the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ not been included in section 18C,” Ros Phillips said.
“Question 10 of the FamilyVoice federal election survey asked parties and candidates if they would vote to remove these words. No major party agreed, even though in 2013 the Coalition had promised to repeal the whole subclause. The only party with a current senator who responded to the survey and agreed to remove ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ was Family First.”
“Whatever happened to free speech in this country?”
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