Tag: Coalition

For we are young and free speech is illegal?

For we are young and free speech is illegal?

Free speech is being choked out of us by restrictive laws! You can’t say anything anymore! Torch the Racial Discrimination Sections 18c and 18d!

While it may be true that the social consequences of ‘you can’t say that!’ are getting trickier to navigate, the legal restrictions on ‘free speech’ in the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) are actually quite straight forward.

Senator Cory Bernardi is calling on Australians to ‘defend free speech’ with adjustments to RDA section 18c by removing the words ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ from the following:

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

             (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

The practical effect of such a semantic switch would be akin to giving your toddler a brick to smash his toe with, rather than a mallet.

Bernardi claims that the law ‘should not concern itself with feelings’, and perhaps he has a point there–it’s tough enough to apply law to cold hard facts, why should someone’s feelings be considered also?

First of all, because the Racial Discrimination Act is designed to build a social structure that includes and welcomes everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. Where groups are publicly made to feel less than others in community spaces, that destroys any sense of inclusion they may have had. Feelings are at the very core of this law.

Secondly, Bernardi has only picked ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from the list of harms. ‘Humiliation’ is also a feeling, as is ‘intimidation’. To exclude all feelings from the practice of this law would take away any meaning. The only means by which racial vilification could be proved is by non-emotions based evidence: physical assault, statistics, and other symptoms that appear long after insults have bred into negative attitudes.

The truth is, removing two words does very little to change the way this law would work. Someone who is ‘insulted’ may no longer be able to claim this in court, but ‘insulted’ persons often feel ‘humiliated’, the practical applications of the law would not change at all.

Changing this law is an exercise in futile grandstanding, a politician who seeks to whip up support by claiming the political left is choking Australia’s right to free speech. Which would be all well and good, if he had any plan to do something substantial about it.

Note that this is also included:

Note:          Subsection (1) makes certain acts unlawful. Section 46P of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 allows people to make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful acts. However, an unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence. Section 26 says that this Act does not make it an offence to do an act that is unlawful because of this Part, unless Part IV expressly says that the act is an offence.

These acts are unlawful but they are not considered criminal offenses. Charges are not brought by the state against the person, they are civil complaints that are handled by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

This is not the same as being prosecuted in criminal court.

So let’s have a good look at the RDA sections in question, 18c and 18d, and see just how restricted our free speech really is!

Section 18c (a) makes it pretty clear that it is unlawful to do anything (other than in private) that could upset someone if the reason for doing it rests on their being of a certain race/ethnicity/religion/etc.

That seems fair to me. I could agree with repealing this law if it meant that Australians were going to act on common sense and what their mothers taught them. It’s unfortunate that we need laws to teach us not to be dicks to each other. Be nice to each other, unless you’re in a private space.

(2)  For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:

                     (a)  causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or

                     (b)  is done in a public place; or

                     (c)  is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.

“public place ” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.

A public place can be considered as anywhere that you might reasonably have an ‘audience’, whether that’s via public media, social networks, or community spaces. Places where you are likely to be heard or seen by the persons you are speaking against, and where your actions can directly affect them.

This is especially important for journalists, politicians, and other prominent personalities who may have their words taken as fact.

The law is not telling you that you can’t have an opinion. The law isn’t telling you that you can’t voice your opinion to your mates. It clearly states that negative acts that are racially motivated are not accepted in community spaces and media.

While we’re on the subject of voicing opinions, there are some exceptions to 18c:

Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:

                     (a)  in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work;

Artistic work is ‘free speech’ at its best. Art is how we express the state of the social structure, art is how our society will be seen by generations after us. We understand history by Shakespeare, Picasso and Mozart–Australians of the future will experience our society in a similar way.

Art shows us a reflection of what is, and inspires us to change. That is why it’s more acceptable to enact discrimination via artistic means. Art is supposed to challenge us and make us feel, to be confronting.

(b)  in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest;

If what you are saying is proven fact, you cannot be sued. Even if the fact is hurtful or humiliating, it is not unfair nor unjust to speak it in a public setting. This passage also provides immunity for discriminatory practices used in research on how and why people discriminate, and debates on society and discrimination.

This allows us to openly discuss what discrimination is, and what discriminating attitudes we might feel ourselves as we open our minds to understanding the subjects of those attitudes. Discrimination is a social issue, and not one we should run from.

If you are expressing a view that is unacceptable under 18c, but is for the purposes of learning or is proven fact, you are protected by 18d.

(c)  in making or publishing:

                              (i)  a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or

                             (ii)  a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.

For those of you who were wondering where your right to an opinion went, here it is.

If you honestly, truly, believe in what you’re saying, you might be ignorant but you cannot be sued. This is why politicians like Pauline Hanson, who openly expresses her reservations about multicultural aspects of Australia, are not sued under 18c. She has an opinion that she wholly believes, has built a platform upon it, and though she offends and insults a lot of people over public media–she can’t be sued on ignorance alone.

The first part of (c) allows news outlets to report what occurred, without fear of litigation. If an attack occurred that was carried out by persons of a single race, so long as the account of the event is true and void of opinion-based speculation (unless written in an article stated as opinion) there are no grounds for litigation.

In summary:

Truth, common sense, and respect for others are the core values at the heart of The Racial Discrimination Act (1975) Sections 18c and 18d. The law and these amendments in no way infringe on anyone’s right to speak the truth, only restricting the unfounded fear-mongering hate rhetoric that injures others and damages Australia’s chances at an inclusive society.

If Bernardi wants to preserve ‘free speech’, he needs to do more than try and remove a few words. He needs to help Australia understand what free speech is, and what is appropriate according to the existing law. His changes won’t have any functional effect, just another distraction in Canberra.

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How the #faketradie advert missed the millennial market

Normally, articles that claim there’s some special tactic to engaging millennials make me rather irritable. They’re all over business networks like LinkedIn, guru upon guru offering a magic formula of gimmicks and hashtags that is bound to bring in the next wave of decision makers.

I don’t believe the answer is that elusive, and yet, politicians especially are getting it so incredibly wrong.

Why is political advertising to millennials such a big deal?

As of March 31st 2016, roughly 2,879,760 Australians on the electoral roll were aged thirty or below. Out of the enrolled population of 15,468,329 that’s 18.62%. Almost a fifth of voters in this election are Generation Y or later. The ever-elusive millennial market.

With those sorts of numbers, this demographic may well decide the outcome. And unlike their more traditional parents and grandparents, they are less likely to vote for the party their family does.

Aren’t millennials politically apathetic?

It’s an unfortunate assumption. Millennials are largely swing voters, far more likely to change who they vote for based on past performance, policy, and media representation. This means that awareness of what the politician has done, and is planning to do, is incredibly important in helping millennials make their decision at the ballot box.

Right. So advertising is still important. Isn’t that what the Coalition’s advert was for?

I would assume first that it wasn’t targeted at millennials, or at least–I hope not. But even as we break it down in terms of what millennials look for when confronted with advertising campaigns, there are a number of things that still ring true no matter what generation you’re from.

Advertising in general has entered a stage where audiences are too skeptical and too analytical to accept adverts at face value. Overwhelming streams of advertising messages shoved under our noses every day mean we’ve learned to pick, choose, and decide for ourselves what rings true.

Millennials especially have grown up native to this environment. They’re ready to spot the flaw in your message.

Breaking it down: #FakeTradie is… well, fake.

Two things are truly starting to shine in advertising: humour and authenticity. Spots that entertain will be memorable and shared, while spots that are authentic will allow a connection to the audience by passing ‘authenticity’ filters that digital natives have created to help them deal with the onslaught of advertising messages.

The Coalition’s advert isn’t (supposed to be) funny. To resonate with millennial audiences especially, it must then be honest, straight-forward, only make claims that can be tested and proven, and the tone of the message must be one that is positive if it really wants to drive a call to action.

Millennials do not respond well to scare campaigns. Typical political adverts that seek to discredit the opposition are largely ignored the way their parents ignored them trying to get their siblings in trouble. You’ll say anything if you want someone else to look bad.

They’re also more likely to fact-check before forming an opinion. Not only that, where they find discrepancies in the claims, they will speak up. The internet has given digital natives a platform for revealing truths that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The largest issue with what has been dubbed the #FakeTradie advert is that from the set, to the script, to the appearance of a man claiming to be a tradesman outraged by Labor’s policies, nothing felt authentic enough for the message to come through.

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They used an actor though. That’s what actors do! They act!

Actually, that was an incorrect assumption. The alleged ‘actor’ is a metalworker in Sydney–a real tradesman! Unfortunately, he’s become the face of a campaign that tried so hard to be relatable it became a mockery of itself.

Builders across Australia were quick to point out the safety hazards visible on set, the lack of dirt on his clothes, and even the ceramic mug which ‘would be hard to get on a real building site’. All of these clues took away from the sense of the actor being a true tradie (even though he is!), and increasingly the impression was left of a government trying to put words in tradie’s mouths.

And the words were…

For anyone who wasn’t put off by the visuals in the advert, the script offered a whole new layer of fake. It was like watching an alien try to mimic human contact for the first time.

That Malcolm Turnbull and his party are largely made up of wealthy white Australians that attended private schools and wouldn’t know how to catch a real tram is no secret–the game is up! We know!

The Coalition’s attempts relating to, and ‘understanding middle class Australians’, have been nothing short of horrific. From catching public transport with a mob of cameras to prove how ‘normal’ he is, to claiming that children should be able to ask their parents for loans into the housing market, Turnbull has proven time and time again the disconnect between himself and the average Australian.

Which honestly wouldn’t be so terrible if he just accepted it, and stopped trying to force something he clearly isn’t.

If he stood up tomorrow and said, ‘Average Australians, I really have no idea what your life is like, so these advisors here are going to help me make decisions on what is best for you.’ I would applaud that. I would applaud a Prime Minister who stood up and admitted that he didn’t understand something but was making a move to try.

Admittedly… only if those said advisors were people who did understand what life is like down here.

Phrases like ‘stick with the current mob for a while’ are so bizarre and almost stereotypical to what foreigners believe Australians sound like that once again, the Coalition’s advert does little more than underline the vast disconnect between their lives and ours.

Those were not the words of an authentic tradie. The advert failed the authenticity filter, and earned itself a spot in #auspol ridicule, even gaining its own hashtag: #faketradie.

What could have been done better?

Aside from everything, and taking the Coalition’s policies out of the equation (this article is about millennials and political advertising, not a political view point. The Coalition is not the only party to get this wrong!), a few basic steps could have been taken to improve the authenticity of the advert.

Rather than putting scripted words into a perfect set, interviews ‘on the street’ with tradesmen at work would have gone down much better. Close up shot of a tradesman, still grubby, busy building site in the far view (far enough away that everyone is safe!). Voicing opinions in their own words, just as they would to their mates.

More clarity on the tradesman’s issues with the Labor party would definitely have improved the message, rather than vague phrases like ‘go to war’ that are designed to wind people up without explanation. Millennials especially want to know facts.

How is Labor going to war on our banks? How does the Liberal/National Party plan to do things differently?

Political advertising needs to shift, and fast, if it wants to capture new voters as they enroll.

Attack-based advertisments are (thank goodness) going to lose effectiveness as the younger generations systematically ignore or research the truth of them.

Political adverts will need to adapt the way that other advertising has adapted in response to regulations on false claims, by either entertaining the audience or by connecting in a meaningful and honest way.

Oh. And by advertising the actual policies with facts and figures, so we know what we’re voting for. That… would be rather nice, I think.

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