As a Senator I get all kinds of correspondence from the public, not all of it polite discourse and reasoned debate.
When something I say causes a wave of moral indignation — which seems to occur fairly regularly — I have been known to post a ‘Hurt Feelings Complaint Form’ on my social media.
It’s a joke. The form asks you to explain exactly how your feelings were hurt and then gives explicit instructions about what to do with the complaint form.
However, what is truly preposterous is that there is an official hurt feelings complaint form you can fill out, which is taken completely seriously.
The form is not only backed by the laws enshrined in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, but pored over by a team of taxpayer funded public servants, some of whom are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out exactly what we should and should not be allowed to say.
In fact, according to the Act, it doesn’t even matter if your feelings are actually hurt; all it requires is that it is reasonably likely someone of your racial, ethnic, national or colour group had their feelings hurt.
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Last week, when a journalist from another newspaper directed a number of insults at me on the grounds of being an ‘angry white male’, I decided to take this opportunity to show how ridiculous the Racial Discrimination Act really is. I filled out one of their eight-page complaint forms and sent it to the Commission. I’m now awaiting their response with interest.
We are now in the absurd situation where a journalist is having a law that suppresses free speech, which he supports, used against him by a politician who would like to see it abolished.
But none of this is really about me, the journalist, or the public servants at the Human Rights Commission. Nor is it a joke.
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is a terrible law that has serious consequences.
Questions of Aboriginal and Australian identities are important matters. Unfortunately, following the Andrew Bolt case, we are restrained from speaking frankly about them.
Do you feel welfare should be based solely on need rather than racial identity? A lawyer might advise you to keep your trap shut.
The Racial Discrimination Act is not just a problem for journalists.
Three former students of the Queensland University of Technology were dragged through the courts after they made comments on Facebook objecting to being excluded from a supposedly indigenous-only computer lab.
Three years later, total legal expenses are reported to have amounted to nearly a million dollars.
The whole idea behind the Racial Discrimination Act is that we can’t be allowed to say what we think, are too weak to hear what other people say, and are too helpless to deal with our feelings.
Now that’s what I call offensive.
For Markets and Money
Editor’s Note: David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats.