The year was 1994 and even The Greens had problems with and could see the kinks in 18c, speaking about it in terms of the “thought police”
“….It may appear the insidious nature of the law has been revealed only by recent cases. That’s wrong. It was controversial when first introduced. A speech worth reading from the time was from West Australian Greens senator Christabel Chamarette. She said the broad scope of the law would “create a crime of words tak(ing) the legislation across a certain threshold into the realm of thought police”.
That’s stronger than most criticism raised by 18C’s critics today. How far the Greens have fallen.
Having students from Queensland University of Technology being hauled in front of the Federal Circuit Court has turned the law into a point of ridicule. Thankfully, sanity prevailed when the court threw the complaint out.
Dragging Bill Leak to answer to the Australian Human Rights Commission for his cartoons is equally absurd. As has now been demonstrated, the problem with the law is not just the ridiculously low bar it sets on free speech by making it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person (though it is a serious problem) but that the poorly written law effectively declares someone in violation of 18C, and then requires them to prove their innocence that their offensive act was done in good faith, under section 18D.
Worse, by doing so, just about anyone can make a complaint and pursue it through the AHRC. At every stage, people have to lawyer up, and if they don’t seek resolution, they then face a public debate about the lawfulness of their expressions.
That’s the problem.
At its introduction, the government said 18C wouldn’t restrict public debate. It clearly now is.
A sensible place to start with an inquiry into reform would be the inquiries that originally led to 18C’s introduction….” Greens thought section 18C was a bad law
Tim Wilson was formerly Australia’s human rights commissioner and is now federal Liberal member for Goldstein.