The man likely to be Australia's next Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has used a lunchtime speech to the conservative think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs to call for Australia's racial vilification laws to be wound back
Section 18C makes race hate speech unlawful, but not illegal.
Abbott's calls come in the same week that Facebook has been in the firing-line over hosting the controversial "Aboriginal Memes" page.
Abbott claims: "The price of free speech ... is that offense will be given, facts will be misrepresented and lies will be told. Truth, after all, only emerges from such a process"
According to a recent Galaxy poll, commissioned by the IPA
, 82% of Australians, support the freedom to say anything regardless of offense.
Abbott's new policy call comes in the wake of the troubled Gillard Government's consideration of a new body to regulate the media, and a successful prosecution of right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt for ‘offending, assaulting, humiliating and/or intimidating' fair skin Aborigines (Previously
Commentators have dubbed these "The Freedom Wars
Andrew Jakubowicz from the University of Technology, Sydney, claims Abbott's changes will open Australia to even more critique by the United Nations Human Rights Committee
. Also weighing in are Australia's race discrimination commissioner
, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry
, and Green Left Weekly
. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has accused Tony Abbott of ''dog whistling
Nationalist site Ironbark
says the laws "crush public opposition to the Establishment's policies of Multiculturalism and Asianisation"
The so-called 'Abo Memes' page uses derogatory words and images of Aboriginal people, most probably mirroring an earlier page at Encyclopedia Dramatica (previously
US-based Facebook claims that it will only remove hate pages targeting individuals, not groups. Facebook says
: "While obviously distasteful and not any views that Facebook would support, the content does not violate our terms."
However the page has been retitled, removed
several times despite concerns its content may breach hate speech laws
Indigenous leaders have blasted both Abbott's calls
and the meme page
The page's alleged creator, allegedly a 16-year-old boy, claims "these stereotypical jokes may be racist but they're nearly 100% factual."
The page had apparently more than 4,000 likes (up from 600 when the news broke), while a digital petition
to have it removed has almost 19,990 signatures.
Others disgaree with Facebook's decision
. (Bonus: Article quotes Metafilter's OwnTM jscalzi
Also this week the Advertising Standards Board has decided that corporations must police their Facebook pages or be held responsible
for, among other things, "sexism racism and other forms of discrimination or vilification".
Australia also has religious vilification laws
. There is, of course, no explicit right to free speech in Australia.