Just Words - Stories from 18C

White Bigot Fence

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A low lying fence and a prejudiced neighbour see years of racial slurs rain down on an Aboriginal family. So how does 18C help to end racial abuse for everyday Australians?

In 2SER's last episode of Just Words, we look at a little known 18C case that plays out in the front yards of a suburban street in Western Australia.

Angry White Men

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This is the story of what happens when a free speech advocate attempts to use 18C to restrict what another person can say.

In August 2016, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm was interviewed on the ABC's Insiders where he said offence is always taken, not given and if you don't want to be offended by something that is up to you.

Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny happened to be watching that very interview and decided to test Leyonhjelm's proposition to the fullest.

The result was a colourful 18C case that showed just how the law is working.

Podcast EXTRA - Senator David Leyonhjelm on 18C - 'offence is taken and not given'

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On March 30, a late-night debate in the Senate saw the Government's attempt to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act reach defeat, after an alliance by Labor, Greens, Nick Xenophon's team and Jacqui Lambie, voted down the proposed changes - 31 to 28.

This means that the plan to remove 'offend, insult or humiliate" from section 18C and replace it with the term "harass" will no longer go ahead. Although we do expect to see some changes to the processes of the Human Rights Commission.

Just Words producer Myles Houlbrook-Walk spoke to Senator David Leyonhjelm on March 21, a week prior to the bills defeat.

Podcast EXTRA - Will the reforms to 18C capture Holocaust deniers?

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Just Words spoke to 18C complainant Jeremy Jones, who has used racial hatred laws to fight serious examples of anti-Semitism since the section was introduced over 20 years ago. Jones is concerned that the proposed draft laws will open the flood gates when it comes to racist speech. He says the Coalition Government's plan to remove 'offend, insult and humiliate' and replace it with the term 'harass', as well as to more narrowly define the term 'intimidate' is a sign of 'immoral' leadership. Will the proposed changes to 18C still capture the concept of Holocaust denial? Just Words producer Anthony Dockrill spoke to Jeremy Jones, Director at the Australian Israel and Jewish Affairs Council on Wednesday 22 March, the day after Malcolm Turnbull flagged changes to Australia's race hate laws.

Podcast EXTRA - Changes to 18C

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On March 21, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a potential watering down of the controversial Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Under the proposal the words "offend, insult, humiliate" will be replaced by "harass".

The reforms were debated in the Senate on Tuesday, but little attention has been given to proposed procedural changes to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which will not only apply to 18C complaints but all complaints of discrimination handled by the Commission, including, sex, age, disability and race.

Experts say the changes could make it more difficult for vulnerable members of the community to make complaints of vilification and discrimination.

Just Words host Nic Healey spoke to Luke McNamara, a Professor of Law from the University of New South Wales about the proposed 18C reforms and what the changes could really mean.

Just Words Podcast Extra produced by Emma Lancaster

Prior v QUT

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It's a case that asks more questions than it answers. In 2013, three non-Indigenous students walked into an Indigenous computer lab. What happened next nobody could have predicted. The court documents tell you that the case was Cynthia Prior against the Queensland University of Technology and three students. But the media conducted their own trial, and put the Human Rights Commission on the stand.

A comedian, an activist and a mud crab


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Very few comedians have made an impression on the Aboriginal community in the way King Billy Cokebottle has. From radio to pubs to nightclubs, King Billy was one of Australia's most established and renowned underground comedians. But that all changed when an 18C claim was brought against him.This is the story of a comedian, an activist and a mudcrab, and is one of the few 18C cases to successfully use the exemptions of 18D. 

Identity v Bad Journalism


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The case of Eatock and Bolt is what catapulted 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act into the media spotlight and fanned the flames that reignited the culture wars over this 20 year old piece of legislation.

Despite what you may have read in the headlines, this case is really about some lazy journalism and the idea of where your identity comes from.

Podcast EXTRA- Expert Panel responds to 18C Inquiry Report


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Is your right to offend greater than someone else's right not to be racially vilified?

For over 20 years Australia has had a law that makes it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because of their race.

'Just Words', a 2SER investigative podcast, asked an expert panel to dissect the 18C Inquiry report that was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday February 28th.

Our expert panel was hosted by Nic Healey and includes:

Professor Adrienne Stone - Chair at Melbourne Law School, Melbourne University

Simon Breheny - Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs.

Dr. Linda Tucker - Employment and Discrimination Solicitor for Redfern Legal Centre.

The Committee made 22 recommendations, but they stopped short of calling to axe section 18C, instead putting forward a 'shopping list' of options ranging from leaving the section unchanged to replacing the words "offend", "insult" and "humiliate" with the word "harass".

This puts Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a difficult position as it will now be up to him to decide whether to make any change to the law.

History v Denial


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This is the story of a holocaust denier, a holocaust survivor and the man who made it his mission to put himself in-between the two.

Australia isn't like other countries around the world where holocaust denial is a crime. In fact there were almost no ways to legally challenge holocaust denial until section 18c was introduced in 1994.

Section 18c is a little part of our Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) that makes it unlawful to 'offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate' based on race. Its addition to the RDA meant that once where holocaust denial went unchallenged in Australia,the Jewish community now had legal options.

But with some calling for 18c to be changed or repealed, the Jewish community could be on the brink of losing their most powerful tool in their fight against anti-semitism.



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