Wednesday, December 12, 2012
HAVE you ever called the Prime Minister 'Juliar'? Or called a mate a dopey bastard? New laws could put a stop to name calling.
Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) warn the PM herself could be in trouble for calling Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a misogynist if proposed amendments to anti-discrimination laws take effect - although Julia Gillard has the protection of Parliamentary privilege.
What about cricket sledging, or paying out on a mate?
CLA chief executive officer Bill Rowlings has lashed out at the proposed amendments to anti-discrimination laws which make it unlawful to "offend" people.
His attack follows ABC chairman Jim Spigelman's scathing appraisal this week – he said that the laws could breach our international obligations to freedom of speech.
Mr Rowlings highlighted the absurd things that such laws could cover.
"If you said the word (Juliar) to Ms Gillard's face, she might take you to court under proposed anti-discrimination laws, for she would surely find it personally offensive," he said.
Mr Rowlings said calling Mr Abbott a misogynist could create similar problems, as could sledging.
"This anti-discrimination stuff is dangerous. To stay safe, you really have to shut your mouth," he said.
"We probably couldn't compete at the top level of cricket without our notorious sledging. What will a wicketkeeper be able to whisper in the ear of the new Sri Lankan batsman at the crease if (Attorney-General Nicola) Roxon's regime rocks in to play?
"Apart from bagging our enemies, we Australians have all probably bagged our mates even more. What bloke hasn't said to his best friend: 'You dopey bastard'… in future (the mate) will be able to sue for a) disparaging his intelligence level and b) calling the legitimacy of his birth into question."
MORE STORIES: Health workers told they cannot use the word 'mate'
The Gillard Government's proposed amendments will consolidate existing anti-discrimination laws, so current racial vilification laws against offending or insulting people - the laws that Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was taken to court for over his comments on fair-skinned Aboriginal people - would extend to things like age and gender.
On Monday Mr Spigelman declared:
"The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended."
The Australian reports today that Ms Roxon is facing dissent from others within Labor over the amendments. A spokesman told the paper she welcomed further discussion on the issue and said the government was committed to setting the "right balance of rights and freedoms".
"This consultation process is being conducted to receive important feedback like this, which will be closely considered before legislation is introduced into the parliament,'' he said.