Calum Thwaites ... had hoped to be sent to teach in remote schools in the far north of Australia on his graduation from the Queensland University of Technology. But this is no longer an option.
“I am sure that some students and parents would go straight to Google and put in my name and read that I’ve been accused of racism in this big 18C case,” the 24-year-old told The Australian yesterday.Mr Thwaites ... and two other students, Alex Wood and Jackson Powell, are at the centre of a case brought under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act by an oversensitive Cindy Prior, a former QUT staffer in the unsigned indigenous-only Oodgeroo Unit… Mr Wood and two other students were asked by Ms Prior to leave the unit because it was a “black space”, and off-limits to non-indigenous students. Mr Wood, who had gone to access unused computers and left quietly when Ms Prior questioned him about whether he was Aboriginal, wrote soon after on Facebook: “Just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?”[Mr Thwaites] said a bogus account had been set up in his name by someone as a student prank, and posted on Facebook a comment with the offensive word “niggers”.He reported the misrepresentation to Facebook and QUT as soon as it was raised with him. A third student, Jackson Powell, wrote sarcastically: “I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is.”The three are being sued for about $250,000 by Ms Prior who wants
The case has restarted public debate about how 18C restricts free speech and is misused for financial shakedowns when people complain their feelings have been hurt.
Mr Thwaites said: “I hear a lot of commentators saying that section 18C is OK because there are safeguards, but they don’t understand the legal process — it can take years, tens of thousands of dollars and cause untold reputational damage and stress to get to a point where you’re found to have done nothing wrong. And while that’s going on, people who know nothing of the case call you a racist.”
Anthony Morris, (photo right) the barrister representing two of the students:
''There is much to commend the view that a provision such as section 18C has no place in a liberal democracy…
A law creating liability based on an objective assessment of the likely emotional response of an indeterminate person or group of persons — a hypothetical emotional response that is at the same time subjective yet reasonable — cannot be a good law… But ... [there] are two additional problems…The first is ... even when the [Australian Human Rights Commission] bothers to go through the motions of a pretended attempt to conciliate a complaint, the exercise involves little more than asking complainants what they want, and then asking respondents whether they are willing to pay up. Despicable ![Second,] just to be sued for a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act creates an indelible mark against any citizen, whether individual or corporate…Again, this is illustrated by the experience of one of my clients in the QUT case. An impecunious student from a family whose household income barely reaches five figures, he sought the assistance of a local community-based legal service.This was refused because of a policy not to assist respondents in racial discrimination cases — that is, regardless of any question of guilt or innocence — for “political and funding” reasons. The same organisation is perfectly comfortable to assist people accused of murder, rape, even child molestation. But merely having been accused of racism was enough to disqualify this student. So initially he had to represent himself, and he would probably still be doing so if I had not become aware of his plight and agreed to act pro bono.One might think a costs order would ultimately provide some relief, at least for the out-of-pocket expenses of a person wrongfully sued under section 18C. But most claimants are themselves indigent, making any costs order practically worthless.There is a simple solution to each of these problems. All it requires is a legislative amendment stipulating that a person may not begin court proceedings for an infringement of the Racial Discrimination Act unless the AHRC has certified that it has conducted reasonable inquiries into the complaint; as a result of its inquiries the AHRC is satisfied the claim is (at least) arguable; the AHRC has made reasonable endeavours to conciliate the complaint; and the claimant has acted reasonably with respect to the AHRC’s attempts at conciliation…More important, to ensure the AHRC does its job conscientiously ... the legislation should hold the AHRC liable for the costs if there is a successful application for judicial review or proceedings are brought in reliance on a certificate that the AHRC issued recklessly…
Speaking for myself, I should prefer to see section 18C erased from the statute books. But with such amendments as I have suggested, it would cease to be the grievous instrument of oppression that it presently is.''
The Way I See It.......when it comes to the dictator running the Human Rights Commission acting as ''witch-hunter-in-chief'' in the Bill Leak cartoon case,there are grave reasons to doubt it could even do the job Morris describes.
NOTE: The Leftist race discrimination commissioner is hopeless biased and has confirmed that the semi-judicial Human Rights Commission is acting both as policeman and judge.
Tim Soutphommasane (right) has encouraged people to lodge complaints with the commission about Bill Leak’s cartoon last week depicting an Aboriginal policeman returning a delinquent Aboriginal youth to his equally delinquent Aboriginal father. A TRUTHFUL Exposure of the REALITY of the aboriginal lifestyle.
The problem is that the commissioner has prejudged those complaints: Leak, according to Soutphommasane’s disgusting public statements, is guilty and people should feel free to complain.Those complaints will all go to Soutphommasane’s organisation, where every official knows that one of those at the top has already made up his mind. DISGUSTING !!That means any attempt by the commission to deal with complaints about Leak’s cartoon is now vulnerable to challenge for a perception of bias.
The Human Rights Commission is now a menace to two of our most important human rights - to free speech and a fair trial.
It must go.