Below is an excerpt from the interview Attorney General George Brandis did with Emma Alberici on Lateline on Tuesday night (25/3/2014). Earlier in the week, Brandis had made headlines with his “people have the right to be bigots, you know” comment. The comment was made in the context of the debate surrounding his proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, which holds the number 1 spot on his to do list.
Clarifying his position, The Lateline interview features a frank and hideous admission from Brandis – Senator Brandis believes people should have the right TO SPREAD UNTRUTHS to further a bigoted political agenda. In fact, the only situation he identifies, where he thinks spreading falsehoods is NOT okay, is in the context of trade or commerce. Here we have the “values” of the Abbott Government, revealed.
EMMA ALBERICI: The central issue in the Bolt judgment was not whether Mr Bolt’s articles were an expression of opinion, but whether the factual allegations on which that opinion was based were accurate. The judge concluded that the case was not about freedom of opinion, it was about freedom to spread untruths. Are you saying that freedom should exist?
SENATOR GEORGE BRANDIS: Yes, I am. Not in all circumstances. For example, in trade or commerce the competition and consumer act by Section 52, says one can’t make misleading or deceptive comments, engage in misleading or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce.
EMMA ALBERICI: But specifically here just so we don’t confuse matters too much, we’re specifically here talking about the Racial Discrimination Act?
SENATOR GEORGE BRANDIS: That’s right. But the reason I gave that example is there are certain areas of policy where there are good reasons why the utterance of falsehood should be against the laws such as…
EMMA ALBERICI: But not, for instance, holocaust denial.
SENATOR GEORGE BRANDIS: Such as where people transact business in trade or commerce. But here in the Bolt case, what we’re talking about is the making of a comment or the utterance of a view about a political question. Now, just think what the implications of that are, Emma. If you can be prohibited from expressing your political opinion about something, merely because you make an error in your argument, what a gross invasion of the capacity of everyday Australians to express their opinions that would be if you could be taken to court merely for saying something that was factually wrong.
Yes, Brandis. God forbid we create a legal penalty to deter or punish people who SPREAD LIES TO FURTHER HARMFUL POLITICAL AGENDAS. What is this – Nazi Germany?
This is the first post I have written about the current Australian Government. The Attorney General is, quite simply, wrong.
Next post: The Proposed Racial Discrimination Law changes, in depth.
P.S. There have been some people, like Ben Collins at Business Insider, who argued after the “bigot” rights comment, that this was not all Brandis said that day in the Senate. Of course this is true – but nothing else he has said since, has mitigated the nature of that comment. Certainly not after what he said above.
Next up, I’ll be examining whether or not “the law will be in a better position to deal with incitement to racial hatred” with the changes the Abbott Government has proposed, as Brandis asserted in the Senate.