Given the many times I have criticized our PM in my posts, I must take the opportunity to praise him when it is appropriate to do so. So a hearty "Well done Malcolm!" for taking up the fight to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Yes, I know, it also happens to be expedient for him. It displays his liberal credentials but is not likely to pass. I guess that is true but it would be uncharitable to look for the negatives in a decision that has not been easy.
He knew any change to 18C would draw both personal and political criticism from not only those in the opposition parties, but from many vocal ethnic minority groups, the media and even members of his on party. That sounds like lose-lose proposition. Indeed his predecessor lost credibility by his unwillingness to pursue the issue.
Maybe, indeed more likely than not, given the current numbers in the senate and even the house of representatives, the critical changes to remove the words "insult, humiliate or offend" will not be passed by parliament.
But for such fundamental questions of principle it does not matter. On the contrary, it provides an opportunity to contrast the differences between the parties, and the cross benchers. Where should a society draw the line between Freedom of speech and the potential for abuse of such a freedom against minorities? Do we want an open society where the laws encourage open debate of all issues and allow social interactions to counter any extreme elements? Or do we want to impose artificial constraints on such freedoms and try to control the very words that citizens can utter ?
It comes down to the fundamental issue of how our society should operate. That is certainly worthy of a debate and much more important than how the economic pie is divided. By taking this stand Malcolm has shown he has the guts to stand up and fight even if he is likely to lose. I for one appreciate his willingness to fight for the type of society I would like. Well done Malcolm!
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