The pure bastardry of 18C and its inventors
Morning Mail’s Editor will not comment on this article by Miranda Devine because any words written about the bastards who hatched 18C and the litigant in this case would violate 18C and be defamatory to several people and would require extremely filthy language as descriptors.
Miranda Devine (if you missed it)
It is a travesty that TV host Waleed Aly was honoured with Liberty Victoria’s award for free speech last year. Aly is part of the illiberal, politically correct cultural establishment which continues to defend the most chilling official instrument against free speech that any self-respecting democracy should be ashamed of: Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Get rid of Section 18C once and for all
Even more galling was that Gillian Triggs, president of the Human Rights Commission, darling of the latte Left, was given the Sir Ron Wilson Human Rights Award, after presiding over a racial hatred case under 18C that has trampled the human rights of at least three Queensland university students.
What happened to Alex Wood, 23, and his fellow Queensland University of Technology students could happen to anyone for expressing a mild opinion on Facebook.
You can be dragged through the HRC and the federal court on a patently false complaint and four years later find yourself with crippling legal bills, even though a judge has found you innocent of any wrongdoing.
Last week, Wood, a thoughtful and humble graduate engineer, testified before a parliamentary inquiry which will determine whether 18C imposes unreasonable limits on free speech. By the time he’d finished the case was closed.
“I’m not an aspiring politician or a political activist. I just come to you today as a young bloke that’s gone through an incredibly tough time and I offer a unique perspective on how a small and innocuous statement can lead to drastically changed lives, hundred of thousands of dollars in legal bills and years of court and legal proceedings…”
“I was 19, in my second year of uni, with two of my engineering mates and we were trying to find a computer so we could do our uni work…
“We walked into a computer lab that looked like any other… and about five minutes later a lady came towards us and asked if we were indigenous. We said no, we’re not, and she quite brusquely asked us to leave because they were reserved for indigenous students.
“So we promptly left and about 45 minutes later I found another computer where I posted on a Facebook page… ‘I just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer rooms. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?’”
Unbeknownst to Woods, Cindy Prior, the university indigenous administration officer who had kicked the students out of the computer lab, lodged a racial hatred complaint against the students.
While the complaint percolated through the university and the Human rights Commission for almost two years, the students were told nothing until Wood received a worrying email in his final semester.
“Two months later I was served with a notice to appear at the federal circuit court of Australia as I was personally being sued [by Prior] for over $250,000. At the same time I was offered a confidential settlement of $5000. I was extremely disappointed with my university and the commission who I felt have effectively hung me out to dry.
“At that point in my life it all sort of hit me at once. I was afraid. I felt that uni had been for nothing. I studied quite hard and had a GPA of 6.3 (distinction average) and I thought that was going to go down the drain.
“I thought I was going to lose my job and potentially not get a job after uni. I thought my friends would shun me if they thought I was a racist.
“But most importantly I thought that I had incredibly disappointed my mum and my dad. My mum, who is with me today, and my dad, who passed away in 2006 have always instilled in me a strong… moral [framework and taught me to] treat others fairly and kindly.
“I held my dad in the highest regard. He was quite a virtuous man and at that point I though I had destroyed his legacy.
“So I think being wrongly accused of racism under 18C allowed for a sanctioned attack on my character, on who I am, and my upbringing.
“It permeated every facet of my life.”
Wood was eventually exonerated in the Federal Court, with the judge finding his Facebook post was “rallying against discrimination” and not a breach of section 18C, and all costs awarded against Prior.
But the process is the punishment and now he has $41,000 of legal fees he cannot afford to pay.
“There are no winners in my case at all; 18C to me means hundreds of thousands dollars of legal fees, a lady who’s in financial ruin, myself close to financial ruin, three students who paid $5000 not to be dragged though the court system and Cal Thwaites who sits next to me today who had to change his career [from a teacher of indigenous students to a lawyer] because of the ramifications of being perceived as a racist.
“I honestly believe 18C was extremely close to ruining my life and still has the potential to do so.”
He could have paid $5000 to make the complaint go away. But he says that would have been “wrong”.
“I think the Australian people had a right to know,” he told me after his testimony. “I don’t think it’s the government’s place to police our thoughts. If we bent over and just paid the $5000 it could have just gone unpublicised and we could have just been left with a law that polices what we can and can’t say.”
Alex Wood is a hero of free speech and a credit to his family. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for standing up to the totalitarian edifice of 18C and the HRC which enables it.