Leading article Australia

Flying colours

20 February 2016

9:00 AM

20 February 2016

9:00 AM

Five weeks ago, amid the tempestuous climes of mid-January, we threw down the gauntlet for our Prime Minister to prove he has what it takes to not only promote and reward conservative talent within his party, but in doing so, to put an end to the idiotic NSW Liberal Party factional in-fighting.

In the 16 January editorial, headlined ‘Turnbull’s test’, we said:

The upcoming reshuffle is Mr Turnbull’s golden opportunity to mollify conservatives, both within and outside the party. With looming Liberal pre-selection battles in NSW where so-called ‘moderates’ are determined to turf out their more conservative opponents, Mr Turnbull has the opportunity to show leadership via support for conservatives as a whole. We have called before for Hume MP Angus Taylor, an impressive management consultant, agri-businessman, Rhodes scholar and conservative to be elevated at the next reshuffle to a position worthy of his talents. Can the most left wing leader, possibly ever, of the Liberal party harmoniously unite its wet and dry components?

Test passed, Mr Turnbull. With flying colours. Now, for the next one…

Turnbull’s second test

‘Bigots have rights, too’ were probably not Speccie diarist Senator George Brandis’s wisest choice of words. They were, however, among his best, encapsulating not only the unvarnished truth, but more importantly, the devilish conundrum at the heart of any debate about free speech, and the need to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Indeed, the way his outburst was delivered in the heat of the moment, after lengthy provocation from the insufferably sanctimonious and politically-correct Penny Wong, was a bitter-sweet illustration of the very point the Attorney-General was trying to make: words can hurt, words can be misinterpreted, words can upset, but at the end of the day, the ability to utter non-defamatory, non-hate-provoking words without fear of censure or retribution is the cornerstone of genuine liberty and freedom.

Naturally, given the stifling authoritarianism of Labor and the Greens, Mr Brandis’s accurate observation led to his tarring and feathering by the now familiar left-wing social media lynch mob. But for entirely the wrong reason – his choice of the word ‘bigot’.

Around the same time, members of the Jewish and Muslim communities, among others, ramped up their opposition to amending section 18C, also for all the wrong reasons. For the Jewish community, this was an understandable but flawed reaction to Holocaust denialism and ever-growing anti-Semitism. For the Muslim community – not exactly known for their thick skins – opposition to amending 18C was just one more tool in their successful campaign to silence any criticism whatsoever of what is, let’s be frank, a religion and culture in urgent need of criticism.

And of course the indigenous community, still smarting from certain well-known observations that, apparently, are too wicked to ever be repeated by anyone anywhere, piled in, wrongly making the 18C debate all about another talented Speccie diarist, Andrew Bolt. (What is it with these Speccie diarists and their insufferable desire to say whatever it is that is on their minds?)

Finally, under intense pressure from his own colleagues for, er, eating an onion and knighting a prince, a third Speccie diarist, the then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, disappointingly decided to renege on his commitment to abolish, or at least amend, section 18C. Again, this was justified for all the wrong reasons.

Yet now, finally, with the creepy QUT case discussed by Kerryn Pholi and Terry Barnes in last week’s issue, we get to see the wood for the trees. This troubling legal case involving an indigenous administrator, some non-indigenous students, and a computer area reserved by race, is what the 18C debate is really all about, and should have been about all along.

Under the odious 18C, if you ‘identify’ with a given race, and somebody comes along in the heat of the moment and says words that offend or insult you in some way or other, you can threaten to legally destroy their career and lives.

This is not protection from racism. This is insanity.

Mr Turnbull, you passed your first conservative test with flying colours (see above). If you wish to rise above populist mediocrity and be worthy of the title of leader of the Liberal party, seize the day and remove ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from 18C immediately. Senators Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm are raring to go. Both of whom, no surprise, are former Speccie diarists.

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