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Tas hate speech decision hailed

– Supreme Court says pamphlet breaks hate speech laws

– Judge rules that Tasmanian laws against hate speech and offensive language do not unduly impinge freedom of religion and speech, and are constitutional


In a landmark decision released this morning, a Tasmanian Supreme Court justice, Michael Brett, rejected an appeal by Launceston man, James Durston, accused of anti-LGBTI hate speech.

Justice Brett also found that those sections of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act that prohibit incitement to hatred and offensive language do not unduly impinge on freedom of religion or free speech and are valid under the Australian Constitution.

Robert Williams, the Hobart man who lodged the original anti-discrimination complaint against Mr Durston, said the decision showed Tasmania is leading the way on social inclusion.

“This decision reinforces my pride in being Tasmanian because Tasmania is leading the nation when it comes to protecting citizens from hate speech.”

“The protection offered by our laws and our courts promotes inclusion, mature political debate, and respect between all citizens regardless of who we are.”

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said the decision shows Tasmanian law strikes the right balance between upholding free speech and preventing hate speech.

“Today’s decision is very important because it puts the bed the long-term question, raised in almost all previous Tasmanian hate speech cases, about whether the state’s hate-speech laws breach freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and whether they are constitutional.”

“Justice Brett has put forward a careful, rigorous and unassailable argument that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are not unfettered rights, and that the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act strikes the right balance between these rights and right of citizens to live free from hate and vilification.”

“I urge state and federal governments heed this decision and back away from any attempts to water down laws that have helped make Tasmania a more inclusive and cohesive society.”

The hate-speech provisions of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act under which Mr Williams’ claim was made (Section 19, incitement to hatred; section 17, offensive conduct), are the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive, and several attempts have been made to weaken them.

Last year the Tasmanian Government sought to water down these sections by allowing hate speech in the name of religion. That move was blocked in the Upper House.

A concurrent move by some Upper House members to water down Section 17 in the name of free speech also failed.

There is also concern that the Federal Government may seek to override these sections under the “religious freedom” legislation being flagged by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

Today’s decision was the latest installment of a drawn out case which began in 2013 when Mr Williams lodged an anti-discrimination claim against Mr Durston for distributing anti-LGBTI pamphlets.

The claim was upheld by the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in 2015 and appealed to the Supreme Court by Mr Durston. For a report on the Tribunal’s decision go to…


For a copy of Justice Brett’s decision go to http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/tas/TASSC//2018/48.html

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  1. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    October 5, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Following from above, characterizing opponents as people fundamentally moved by instincts of psychiatrically irrational fear (phobia) and hate is a classic dismmissive slur and method of destroying enemies. The latter-day Soviet state used psychiatry to get rid of political opponents. The use of psychiatric jargon is nothing more than a derogatory label, but it sounds so authoritative even though it is an abuse of psychiatry and real scientific practice.

    ‘Hate Speech’ is a classic propaganda keyword that neatly avoids the need to intellectually engage in real debate, by turning opposition into heresy….by definition rather than argument. It isn’t just shabby so much as a reflection of how far democratic discourse has fallen into the grip of marketspeek, cliches and keyword prompts.

  2. Christopher Nagle

    October 5, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    I am as passionately agin negative stereotyping of anyone and the villificatory ‘hate-speech’ that comes with it, like ‘bigot’, or ‘racist’, or ‘homo/transphobe’, which are so often used to humiliate and put down opinions and people ‘we don’t like’.

    The trouble is that one person’s idea of ‘hate speech’ is another’s ‘reasonable opinion’ and who prevails is really a function of existing power within the social administration of the status quo.

    And of course ‘hate’ is so easy to conflate into any opinion that contradicts the received wisdom of the day. The word ‘hate’ itself is such an overwhelming pejorative packed with ideological assumptionism, in the same way that supporting civil rights in the southern states of the US, makes you a ‘nigger lover’, which suggests not a principled political stand so much as an unnatural and indecent passion.

    It is exactly the same kind of dirty ideological tactic. And giving it legal force simply invites ideological abuse and intimidation of opposition to its agenda. There is no requirement to ‘hate’ people whose political agenda deserves to be regarded as a tendentious and opportunistic bluff, crib and fudge. And to pretend that such suggestion might bring about ‘hatred’ in third parties is bound to be a subjective and speculative exercise of ‘prejudices’.

    Courts become subject to having to exercise these highly ideological and values laden calls, which ultimately policises the courts in the way we are seeing now in the US, as the traditional liberal ascendency loses its judicial place to ‘conservatives’, like judge Kavannagh. And in the process, the legitimacy and confidence in the judiciary is eroded to the point where appointments are openly ‘political’. Nobody believes in judicial impartiality and disinterestedness any more. The ideological divides are now too large to be bridged, as the post WW2 political and social consensus continues to disintegrate.

    That hasn’t happened in Australia yet, because liberal jurists still control the system, and even ‘right wing’ politicians hesitate to go down the US road. But when that changes, it will become as obvious here as it is has long been in the US, when a government here appoints an obviously non liberal judge to the High Court, who is known to think, for instance, that the Mabo judgement was ideological white liberal baloney….or that that offensive ‘hatespeaker’ Andrew Bolt, had it right…

    Watch this space.

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