John Howard doesn’t understand the nature of free speech

John Howard has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to protect free speech.

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This section prohibits speech that offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates on the basis of race.

Last night on Q and A, Rowan Dean, editor of The Spectator Australia,  made a succinct and telling point when he said that free speech is about ideas not about incitement to violence or by implication offence, insult, humiliation or intimidation. Repealing section 18 C will allow all of these.

When John Howard was Prime Minister, he did not repeal Section 18C nor did his political fellow traveller Tony Abbott repeal it when he was PM, but when their mate, Andrew Bolt, was prosecuted, suddenly Section 18 C was a very bad idea and Malcolm Turnbull should repeal it.

That is the only argument that Howard has been able to produce for changing Section 18 C: the prosecution of right wing apologist Andrew Bolt.

This is special pleading of the highest order. It is also the political right wing of the Liberal party making life difficult for the current Prime Minister.

The successful prosecution of Andrew Bolt under Section 18 C is, contrary to the arguments of John Howard, exactly the reason why the legislation should stay in place.

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