Repeal of Racial Discrimination Act Says “Okay!” to Racism

Brandis and Bolt

In a leap back towards Australia’s glory days of unabashed racism, defender of bigots George Brandis and Tony Abbott intend to repeal sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act that make it unlawful to engage in “offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin.” Given the Abbott government’s slow march against progress that presumably ends with society walking backwards so far that we end up in the ocean and devolve into unicellular organisms, such a development shouldn’t come as a surprise.

On the international stage, repealing the Racial Discrimination Act will send a fantastic message to our overseas friends. Such a move will surely do wonders for the international public opinion that we are a country of dumb, drunk racists. Our massive education industry is already suffering, with international students too scared to study in Australia and the Indian media literally telling the public it is unsafe and recommending they study elsewhere. Not to mention our best mates the United States of America, who we trot alongside wherever they go (Iraq). I wonder what Obama would think about us revoking laws that protect against racism.

Those in favour of the repeal are hiding under a banner named “free speech”. This is yet another example of a government taking a simple slogan literally to disguise their poor and often dangerous policies. How is the slogan “right to bear arms” working out for the US? And more recently and closer to home, how has the phrase “border protection” led to a first world country treating refugees worse than the countries they are fleeing from?

The motivation for this move is obvious; the Liberal government wants to say a warm ‘thank you’ to Andrew Bolt for his hard work campaigning for them for so many years. Brandis has already linked the move to Bolt and his 2010 court case. Repealing the Racial Discrimination Act will allow Bolt to continue his hate speech unimpeded, as only people who can afford a defamation court case against a rich, well-backed public figure will be able to silence the hate. And Bolt’s business model preys on the poor and disenfranchised.

After comments by indigenous academic Marcia Langton on ABC’s Q&A, fragile Bolt felt so “bruised” he couldn’t attend work the following day. He demanded an apology, which both Langton and program host Tony Jones gave shortly afterwards. Interesting that he’s able to dish out attacks on people daily on his blog, yet claims to be too hurt to work when called a “fool” on TV. The hypocrisy is is staggering.

The difference between these words directed at Bolt and Bolt’s own attacks directed at others are this; the former is public opinion based on Bolt’s liberal use of non-facts, his racism, xenophobia and his habit of being a horrible human being, whereas the latter is Bolt’s own opinion based on the colour of people’s skin.

Bolt claimed the apology “did not go far enough“, but on the contrary, I think it went too far. Although Langton never actually called him a racist, Bolt believes that conclusion can be construed from her comments. But considering he was found guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act in 2011 for his blog posts claiming fair skinned Aboriginals had “chosen” to identify as Aboriginal to claim financial benefits, considering a federal court found him likely to have offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated a racial minority, I think calling him a racist is not only fair but true.

I hope for a society somewhere in the future where people neither say, nor even think, racial hate. But until that time, laws are necessary to right past wrongs. In the same way, I hope for a time when women are equally represented in parliament. But till then, affirmative action policies like Emily’s List need to be enacted to break the initial boundaries and allow for such changes to continue naturally in the future. And if such policies aren’t in place (Liberal government) then change won’t happen (95% male cabinet) and the discrimination will continue.

The Racial Discrimination Act exists to not only protect minorities from hate, it also paves the way for a future where such an act won’t be necessary and true equality exists. But as a country we are nowhere near that goal yet, as Bolt has proven, and the act needs to stay. But with a backwards government so intent on hacking down the young saplings of progress, whose victims include science, climate change, education and the poor, what hope does one little anti-racism policy have?

Two Things I Didn’t Know About Indigenous Australians

As a white Australian, I have been exposed to some of (but nowhere near all) the inequalities Aboriginals experience or have experienced in society. From minor differences to truly horrific inequalities. But two facts in particular have stuck with me:

Aboriginals and Australia Day

Obviously there are heaps of reasons why Aboriginals don’t support Australia Day. The whole ‘we took their land, brought disease to their communities, killed many of their ancestors and have treated them as lesser humans ever since’ thing is largely to blame. But something I learned recently really shook me. Many Stolen Children were taken from their families without having their birth dates recorded. They were given new birthdays; 26th January, Australia Day. I found that particularly horrible and offensive. So you can imagine why Aboriginals feel some animosity towards the day.

I learned this fact from Jimblah, whose grandmother was one of the Stolen Generations who had her birthday recorded as 26th Jan. I wasn’t able to find any information or records but it was a difficult thing to search for and, as Jimblah said, it’s not a good look to have that sort of thing associated with our national day.

Calling an Aboriginal an ‘ape’

Following the Adam Goodes saga recently, a lot of white Aussies have come out in support of Eddie McGuire and the nameless 13yo girl, saying that calling Goodes an ape wasn’t racist since he’s a tall guy with a beard. But it is racist, and here’s why. Apart from the usual reasons why calling a black person a monkey or ape is racist (animal, primitive, lesser human, low intelligence etc.) these words have further offensive potency towards Aboriginals because for many years they were animals, at least according to the Australian government. I learned recently that, until 1967, laws that governed Aboriginals were found in the Flora and Fauna act. They were legally thought of as animals. No citizenship, no voting. To this day some laws relating to Aboriginal culture and heritage are still governed by the Flora and Fauna act. Pretty shameful. I first read about this in an article by Charlie Pickering.

Whether through my own ignorance or a failing of the education system, it took me 23 years to discover these facts. Either way I find it pretty disappointing. It seems a lot of truths regarding the mistreatment of Aboriginals are being covered up due to shame, and while I am ashamed, I think a lack of education is holding our country back from truly being Australia Fair.