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Note to the Senate Enquiry into Nanny Roxon’s new Anti-Free-Speech Bill

Note to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
Re: Exposure Draft, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012

December 21, 2012

Dear Senators,

The signs in this Bill that point to an underlying sickness in the once robust and rational body of human rights law include:

– enshrining a fake and sickly new “right” not to be offended, and using this fraudulent thing to infringe on the true and fundamental rights of free expression, free conscience, freedom of religious practice.

– enshrining subjective, highly questionable new “attributes” like political opinion and sexual proclivity to be protected alongside the objective, unquestioned attributes of race, sex, age etc, and so debasing the objective attributes.

– treating the right to freedom of religious practice with condescension bordering on contempt, such that the required recognition of religious freedom is categorised as “exceptions” – and only tentative exceptions at that, to be reconsidered after 3 years.

– using “human rights” law to bully the moral judgements of those with whom the current Greens-Labor Government disagrees: in particular, as the explanatory notes indicate, enshrining the ‘rightness’ of same-sex relationships with force of law – even in the midst of a public debate which shows clear division on the ‘rightness’ of such relationships.

– ignoring centuries of wisdom in the administration of justice by reversing the onus of proof, such that a respondent accused of a bad attitude is presumed guilty of that bad attitude and, disturbingly, has to “prove” a more acceptable mental state…

So the obvious problems with this Bill are only symptoms of an underlying conceptual disease. It is the disease that needs treating, a plague of dodgy human rights assertions which has clouded our understanding of intrinsic and fundamental human rights. A wise committee would take this opportunity to hack away the undergrowth and strangle vines that have come to obscure the original structure. Such a committee would recommend, in rejecting this bloated Bill:

1. That human rights and anti-discrimination law be pared back to its foundations, its undisputed role in protecting the rights fundamental to any human life – freedom of thought and communication, of free association, of moral conscience, and of existential belief.

2. That we reaffirm that authentic human rights laws exist to protect individuals from the coercive power of the State, nothing more, and such laws need to stick to their limited brief.

3. Therefore, the slogan on the cover page of this Bill declaring the State’s interest in the “fulfilment” of citizens reveals an ominous sense of self-importance on the part of the drafters of the Bill – a Nanny mentality with all the intrusive “niceness” of 1984. With respect, get lost. Part of the State’s valid duty to “respect and protect” our intrinsic human rights (the other components of the slogan) involves not trying to coercively “fulfil” our relationships as citizens: that is our private business, no business of the State.

4. That “vilification” laws be abolished, as they exist primarily to enforce “approved” attitudes of the governing elite on behalf of “approved” victim groups – and at present that means they exist primarily to intimidate conservative opinion, as I can testify. “Vilification” can already be dealt with, where needed, by our laws against defamation and against incitement to violence. A free society depends on the freedom of citizens to argue their case, even if they get angry and get rude and offend each other. It is not the role of Government to teach us good manners – especially given the hypocrisy of a Government that viciously and unjustly vilifies as “misogynist” its political opponents, without any risk of being taken before the Human Rights Commission.

I do not think there is any hope for this patient; the disease has metastasised too far for surgery. We can only hope that an incoming Coalition Government will do the merciful thing and add this Bill to its list of “dead, buried, cremated” errors of legislative judgement, and let a humbler human rights structure rise from its ashes – one committed only to the core freedoms that allow free citizens to live their lives free of State interference.

Yours sincerely,

Dr David van Gend

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