Barney Zwartz, The Age (Australia), Aug. 9, 2006
VICTORIA’S religious hatred laws make it a crime to say in Melbourne what can freely be said in Sydney, a broadcaster and lawyer has told a rally against them.
Peter Faris, QC, who participates in a weekly radio program, told about 2000 opponents of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act yesterday that the act was not democratic but simply political correctness.
“I’m not a Christian, but Christianity is plenty strong enough to withstand public criticism. Why not Islam?
“When I go on 3AW, I don’t say what I think about Islam, because it’s a crime in this state. If I were in Sydney, I could say it.”
He said he did not run the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on his website because of the act.
The rally on the steps of Parliament heard 14 speakers attack the legislation as curtailing the vital tenet of free speech and call for the repeal of the religious section or the entire act.
Liberty Victoria president Brian Walters, SC, said if freedom of speech had any meaning, it must include freedom to give offence.
Independent MP Russell Savage said it was the worst legislation he had ever seen passed and a grave error.
He said the case in which two Christian pastors were found to have vilified Muslims was “set up by the Equal Opportunity Commission in collusion with the Islamic Council of Victoria”.
One of those pastors, Danny Nalliah, told the rally he chose Australia from 20 countries because he thought he could speak freely and not be bundled into court.
“I have a message to all immigrants,” he said. “If you come to this country, be part of this country — don’t try to change it into the country you came from.”
He read a letter of support from federal Treasurer Peter Costello saying that differing views of religion should not be resolved through civil lawsuits.
Shadow attorney-general Andrew McIntosh denied that the Liberals had reversed their policy to dump the religious section of the legislation. He said the act was fundamentally flawed and needed to be repealed and rewritten to accommodate all groups. “In government, we will work with all groups to ensure everyone is protected,” he said.
Greens candidate Jim Reiher urged Christians at the rally not to use freedom of speech to spread hatred. “You of all people should spread harmony and tolerance,” he said.
Casey deputy mayor Rob Wilson, the subject of a complaint under the act, said the Equal Opportunity Commission worked against him. “They helped write the complaint, then adjudicated it before it went to the tribunal. The EOC needs a complete overhaul,” he said.
THEY SAID IT
“Do you think she has been flown in?” Tony Greig about a Philippines-born woman shown on TV being wed near an Australian cricket ground in 1999. He said the remark was not meant for broadcast.
“Beware of the Jew bearing gifts.” David Hookes, referring to Melbourne Football Club president Joseph Gutnick. Threatened with legal action, Hookes apologised.
“Some dopey, hairy-backed sheila.” Hookes again, describing the South African woman who accused Shane Warne of harassment.
“Black c — .” Australian batsman Darren Lehmann is suspended for five one-day matches for uttering this obscenity after his dismissal by Sri Lanka in a limited-overs match.
“He is what is known in some schools as a f — -ing lazy thick nigger.” Commentator Ron Atkinson on black Chelsea and France star Marcel Desailly in 2004. He thought the microphone was turned off.