An interesting comparison drawn from the Bolt judgement.
Yesterday marked a line in the sand in Australian journalism. It’s just one line, but a significant one, with the finding of the Federal Court of Australia against Andrew Bolt and the Herald Sun in defending two of four articles written and published by the duo against charges that they breached the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). The fearful thing is, that had these articles been printed in the Northern Territory in 2009, they may have gone untouched, for the RDA had been suspended due to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act (NTERA). How fortunate that they were not.
In his posts, Bolt made a series of allegations that certain high profile people identifying as Indigenous had gained roles in various areas of industry through deceiving their prospective employers as to their Aboriginality. Anita Heiss was one of the plaintiffs and explains in her response to the judgement that there were numerous inaccuracies in the details about her own position posted by Bolt.
According the Australian Human Rights Commission:
The law protects people across Australia from discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, and immigration status.
Note the use of the term ‘descent’, for that is the clincher in the Bolt case. Each of the nine plaintiffs were of fair complexion. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you cannot judge the racial heritage of a person based purely upon their appearance.
Racial discrimination encompasses discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, creed or cultural heritage against an individual. It applies to potential employers, landlords, retailers, places of accommodation, sporting groups and schools and any other institution that would be expected to treat each person with equanimity.
The former Commissioner for ACT Revenue was dismissed from his role in ACT Treasury when he refused to resign. He had been pursuing issues of corruption within ACT Treasury and the misappropriation of funds at the time before one of the subjects of his investigations alleged bullying. The former Commissioner argued that the demand for his dismissal was racial vilification, evidenced by this letter, in which the criminal record of the Commissioner’s family is implicated, without any substantial proof and based upon the advice of “… friends within the Australian Federal Police”. His family has been forced ever since to rely upon a single income as he has fought for his name to be cleared and to be reinstated to his former role.
Word has it that another ACT Treasury official (SES officer) is currently also “on ice” for allegations of bullying. Unlike the former Commissioner, this employee, whilst being directed to work from home, has remained on full pay for the past ten months whilst the issue is investigated. Also unlike the former Commissioner, this individual is not of Indigenous heritage.
The letter written by the former Commissioner’s accuser makes a blanket statement about the criminal records of his family, associating it with ethnically biased language and arguing that his superior should be dismissed from his role. Tell me, ladies and gentlemen, how this differs from the allegation by Bolt that the people involved in the lawsuit against him gained their roles through deception? There is no difference at all.
Deeds that stereotype a group of people, as opposed to an individual, that potentially lead to harm are classed as racial hatred, for which there is a separate act. The statement by the former Commissioner’s accuser that “…Aborigines are compulsive liars and criminals and unsuitable to hold management positions …” points toward a stereotype of an entire race.
One recent commenter on Blak and Black expressed much more severe racial denigration. ‘Paul’ made his disdain for Aborigines abundantly clear, as did his mate Richard Toms immediately before him on the same post. Backed up by other comments by such as ‘PTT’, is it any wonder that Bakchos wonders at the veneer of democracy and accountability in the Australian public service and the ACT Government?
I will give Andrew Bolt one grudging nod of respect: he stood up for what he believed, in full view of the public and was prepared to slog it out. That’s more than can be said for PTT, Paul & Richard Toms. But that’s as much acknowledgement as Bolt gets from me. He argues that he has only ever pushed for the similarities to be noticed, not the differences and yet, it was the very differences that he attacked in the articles that have found him in court. In the words of Kate Grenville, whom I listened to on the radio on my way home from work this evening, Australia has airbrushed much of its history to leave only the nice bits. Your airbrushing, along with that of Keith Windschuttle, has been poorly done, Mr. Bolt.
Andrew, skin colour is the least noticeable thing that makes a person Indigenous. Take that from a someone who spends each day listening to a child of the Stolen Generations, as white as any of the plaintiffs in your court challenge, ripped from the arms of his father for having the impunity to be too white to be black. He lost his father, his entire family. Like so many others, his name was changed and the very process of not belonging to anyone branded him with the very ‘taint’ that our non-Indigenous society was supposedly trying to save him from. That brand has burned so deep that it will never be expunged. He is the child of activists, the grandchild of massacre survivors, a lone soldier in a battle for recognition of all that is and has been inflicted upon him, his family and his people. Indigeneity is within his being as much because of who his parents are as what has been forced upon him without choice by our society and ill informed, prejudiced articles such as yours merely reinforce the sense of self to which our Aboriginal countrymen hold so tightly.
*The ACT Treasury SES Director’s name is known, however, in keeping with Blak and Black’s policy of not outing individuals and to respect his right to privacy whilst undergoing the grievance process, it has not been divulged.
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