Bad news for everyone’s unapologetically racist, highly visible but somehow very silenced uncle: the racial discrimination complaint against Bill Leak has been dropped, due to what complainant Melissa Dinnison said were the The Australian’s attempt to coax her into a likely unsuccessful and potentially-symbolic court case.
Dinnison, a WA Aboriginal woman, told AM this morning that while her intention was to use the complaint as a way of discussing the cartoon’s racial impact with Leak, not as a means to monetary compensation, the cartoonist and his lawyers were not interested in a conciliation process and instead pushed her to undertake legal proceedings.
“So I began to feel that I was being used to push an agenda and I felt that The Australian wanted to coax me into taking this to court because they were confident that they would win,” Dinnison said. “And that a second win against 18C would help to push their agenda, and I guess watering down the Australian Human Rights Commission or even dismantling it completely.”
While conciliation is a valid part of the HRC’s complaint process, Leak has used Dinnison’s withdrawal on these grounds to highlight the apparent frivolity of these laws; he told The Australian that “she never met me, she doesn’t have to justify anything she does, no one asked her any questions and it doesn’t cost her a cent. As a consequence my life has been thrown into utter chaos.”
Leak and The Australian, the real victims here, have clearly tried their best to avoid creating chaos for people they disagree with.
Triggs, Soutphommasane and HRC are fascists about free speech and ignore decades of racial stereotypes in cartoons from around the world. pic.twitter.com/VuL1k0NkJe
— Bill Leak explained (@BLeakEksplayned) October 27, 2016
HRC Tim Soutphommasane is like a dictator (title pun, both Asian) when it comes to free speech and inciting complaints against cartoonists. pic.twitter.com/oiudT3eKHX
— Bill Leak explained (@BLeakEksplayned) October 19, 2016
We just flat out hate Gillian Triggs. pic.twitter.com/Y9Tx8sePlr
— Bill Leak explained (@BLeakEksplayned) November 3, 2016
This news come less than a week after the Turnbull government announced an inquiry into the Racial Discrimination Act, another apparent concession to the right of the Liberal Party. While Turnbull had originally said the the government had no plans to change the laws in late August, he’s apparently softened his stance following the (also unsuccessful case) brought against QUT students.
But as much as people like Leak and Bolt pretend the act is some kind of lefty pinko attack on free speech, we should stress that the law as it stands barely does much as all; Bolt, one of a handful of people to actually be prosecuted and who even then had to meet an absurd number of requirements (mainly making factual errors that contravened 18D’s ‘fair comment’ exemption), was never thrown in jail or had his right to yell at you on TV taken away. He was simply ordered to add the court’s ruling to the offending articles.
This means that most of the attacks have been largely symbolic, apparently against the idea that publishing inflammatory, racist and inaccurate content should have even the slightest of legal consequences. And as today’s news suggests, Leak’s not even interested in conciliating with the communities he’s offended.
Cartoon: Bill Leak/The Australian.