Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

Freedom of Speech

It saddens me that I find myself agreeing with people I don't like, or that I find myself on the same side of Andrew Bolt, the right wing columnist who has claimed that the stolen generation wasn't, you know, about race.

But, here you go:

Federal Court judge Mordy Bromberg has found right-wing scribe Andrew Bolt and his publisher Herald & Weekly Times guilty of a serious breach of the Racial Discrimination Act in Melbourne this morning.

Before a public gallery packed with supporters of Pat Eatock, who brought the case on behalf of nine fair-skinned members of the Aboriginal community and top Herald Sun brass Phil Gardner and Simon Pristel, Bromberg delivered a blunt assessment of both the racial offence called by Bolt and his professionalism as a journalist.


Outside court, Bolt sparring partner and former ATSIC commissioner Geoff Clark said Bolt was a “serpent” that had his head chopped off. “Let’s hope that he doesn’t grow two heads,” he said.

The wheelchair-bound Pat Eatock slammed Bolt’s journalistic credentials: “The research Mr Bolt claimed to have done all by himself and read thoroughly was absolute nonsense. He would have been kicked out of university in first year …”

Eatock also called on journalists to clean up their act: “We expect truth and honesty from newspapers, whether it’s opinion or not it has to be based on fact, not on fiction.”

After a torturous 10-minute delay, Bolt read out a short statement saying he needed to read the full judgement. He refused to answer questions before the baying media pack.

“This is a terrible day for free speech in this country,” he said. “It is particularly a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves. I argue 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.”

Yorta Yorta elder and popular Melbourne University lecturer Wayne Atkinson said the case was a “big win” for the next generation of Aboriginal people.

“They can now walk tall wherever they go and not be subjected to those sort of constant negative derogatory terms to put people down,” he said. “Our case has been vindicated and we’re very pleased.”

Man, I feel dirty linking this, but here we go. The original articles are here and here--they're nothing short of name checking and personal attacks.

That raises the real problems with the result, here. The case really does feel like more of a defamation case, rather than issue of freedom of speech, and I find it strange that it was taken to the courts in this way, though it could be that this was the result of the action taken by those not named in the articles. Geoff Clarke, for example, isn't a stranger to Bolt, I am sure. However, the main issue that strikes me is the claim of what about 'fair' speech that people have been using to justify the result. I believe it was Bob Brown, leader of the Greens Party, that I heard saying that, but regardless, whoever does say it, the thing to remember is that 'fair' speech has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means that you can be unfair, you can be uneducated, you can be all the unpleasant, negative, and dangerous things that those standing against you believe. That is what makes freedom of speech such an important thing to you and your enemies.

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