I read the news again but am hating newspaper sites more and more…

Yes, I know I am tragically behind the times, but I really would rather not have videos played to me when all I want is to read the actual item. Thank heavens the paper papers don’t have videos either waiting on my opting to stop them or playing anyway even when I do try to stop them. I note the ABC never force videos on me; one significant reason it is my online news source of choice…

And on ABC we have these two items recently:

The first contains a characteristic glib simulacrum of “common sense” from Senator L, the barely re-elected “Liberal Democrat” libertarian from NSW:

Senator Leyonhjelm has long supported changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

“If you want to take offence that’s your choice, you have a choice of choosing another feeling,” Senator Leyonhjelm said. “Offence is always taken, not given. So if you don’t want to be offended, its up to you, don’t be offended, that’s it. We’re not responsible for the feelings of other people, none of us are.”

Famously during the election period: Federal election 2016: David Leyonhjelm’s free speech hypocrisy. Senator L was offended.

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And fair enough in that case that he would have been, in my opinion. But that (the Chaser team’s rather juvenile prank which offended me too, as it happens) bears no relation to what Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is actually about. Read the material there carefully. In my opinion there is every reason to retain Section 18C. I don’t feel unreasonably constrained by it.

Balancing freedom of speech and freedom from racial vilification

The courts have consistently interpreted sections 18C and 18D as maintaining a balance between freedom of speech and freedom from racial vilification. The courts have held that for conduct to be covered by section 18C, the conduct must involve “profound and serious” effects, not “mere slights”. The courts have also found that section 18C is an appropriate measure to implement Australia’s obligations to prohibit racial hatred under the ICCPR and ICERD.

While many laws restrict freedom of speech, such as laws applying to defamation, advertising and national security, section 18C fills an important gap in legal protections for those affected by racial hatred and vilification.

See also Repealing 18C would leave Jews exposed as Muslims already are by Andrew Jakubowicz.

As we know from previous research, both academic and commercial, most Australians want a balance. They quite like a society where people are civil. They don’t like it when people get viciously racist, nor do they want a society that makes it illegal to express prejudices in a civil way.

So, Australia has a law that makes it unlawful to do certain things. The onus is on the affronted person to protest (surely a key right in freedom of speech) and there is a responsibility of those uttering the offence to justify their words if they are vicious enough – surely an acceptable part of civil debate. Most complaints under Section 18C are reconciled and everyone moves on. A few are not reconciled – usually those attacking Indigenous people and Jews.

We also have a right to political freedom of speech and we love robust wordplay. The law is there to give a space to debate the bounds of decency and the reach of rights to freedom of speech. A society with such laws is remarkably, diametrically different from anything that IS or al-Qaeda would permit. I think that is worth fighting for.

The other story:

A man charged with terrorism offences after raids in Melbourne and central Victoria has told a court he believes the charges are a conspiracy against the “patriot movement”.

Phillip Galea, 31, from Braybrook in Melbourne’s west, has been charged with preparing or planning a terrorist act and collecting or making documents likely to facilitate a terrorist attack…

He said he would fight the charges and believed they were a conspiracy against the patriot movement.

He is due to reappear in court for a committal hearing on August 9.

A member of the True Blue Crew, an anti-immigration group, told the ABC Galea was a member….

Can’t comment on that directly for obvious legal reasons, but I can note last year: Reclaim Australia activist Philip Galea jailed over tasers.

A RIGHT-wing anti-Islam extremist found in the possession of tasers, precursor chemicals and bomb-making manuals has been jailed.

And he now fears reprisal attacks from Muslim inmates, asking a magistrate to pass his concerns to prison guards.

Phillip Galea was found with five tasers, a jar full of mercury and bomb-making guides on his computer when Arson and Explosive Squad detectives searched his Braybrook home yesterday.

Police also uncovered a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook, a manual on how to make explosives and illicit drugs, as well as other material on hard drives relating to the making of explosives.

On his arrest Galea taunted police, telling them: “if you’re looking for the flash-bang you’re too late, I got tipped off on Facebook.”…

Magistrate Klestadt said while every member of the community had a right to express their views, it had to be done within the law and without harm to others.

Charming.

And finally on the Senate elections: Don’t like senators winning with 77 primary votes? Here’s how to fix it.

There’s been a lot of attention over the last few days on the newly elected One Nation senator from Queensland, Malcolm Roberts. His election was a bit of a surprise, whereas we were confident that Pauline Hanson would win her seat, and her two other Senate colleagues were predicted as likely to win since election night.

There’s a lot to pick over about Roberts’ record, but a lot of the focus has been on the fact that he received only 77 primary votes – less than any other successful candidate.

I actually think there is a real problem with our Senate voting system which is exposed by Roberts’ tiny primary vote, but it’s not the one that most media has focused on. This problem isn’t unique to Malcolm Roberts. The reality is most senators, from major and minor parties, receive very few personal votes, and rely almost entirely on voters preferencing according to their party’s ticket to win a seat.

It is remarkable that someone won a seat off only 77 personal primary votes, but I would argue that it isn’t significantly different to the many major party candidates elected on a few thousand votes in large states.

The phenomenon of unpopular candidates winning seats with no public profile is not limited to One Nation – the major parties have a history of gifting Senate seats to party hacks who couldn’t win a seat in the House of Representatives. It doesn’t have to be this way…

Remember Paul Keating’s phrase?  Though the Senate does have its uses.

For the past decade [September 16, 2013], the eight to thirteen Senate seats occupied by minor parties and independents have represented a check on the power of the government of the day.

Such is the frustration of the major parties that this obstacle has produced bipartisan opinion: the Senate was once rechristened the “house of obstruction” by John Howard and “unrepresentative swill by the ever-inventive Paul Keating.

Immediately before securing the balance of power in 1980, the Australian Democrats’ Don Chipp promised to “keep the bastards honest“.  When Bob Brown became the first federal Senator for the Australian Greens he pledged to be “a voice helping guide this parliament towards a more effective Australia”….

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