An Open Letter To the Hon Linda Burney MP Regarding Her Racist, Sexist, Ageist Comment
The Hon Linda Burney MP
Member for Barton
14 November 2016
Dear Ms Burney,
I’m writing to you in regard to a statement you made to reporters last Thursday 8th November 2016.
You made this claim:
"It astounds me that the people that are advocating for the removal of 18C are basically white men of a certain age that have never experienced racial discrimination in their life."
Ms Burney, as a middle aged white man advocating for the repeal of Section 18C I was flabbergasted by your statement, but mostly offended because I have faced discrimination and racial abuse.
The nature of your statement prompted me to lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission under Section 18C.
This law states that it is unlawful for a person to do a public act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people and it is done because of their race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.
Your statement was directed squarely at men with white skin, a great number of whom that statement came to attention.
Since my complaint was picked up and reported in a number of news publications, you’ve responded that you will seek refuge under Section 18D of the Act which says you can make your statement if you genuinely believe it.
In your case, however, 18D does not apply and can be so proven.
Your belief that the “…people…advocating for the removal of 18C are…white men of a certain age that have never experienced racial discrimination in their life,” is blatantly untrue.
In my own case, I’ve been targeted as a ‘wog’, ‘dago’, ’spaghetti-muncher’, ‘greazeball’, ‘bloody Itie’, among other race-based terms of hatred - those are just the printable ones.
I faced challenges with a surname that was a lightning rod for racists.
As an aspirational cartoonist at age 16, with a standout wog name in the late 1970s and early ’80s I seriously considered signing my cartoons with an Anglo nickname.
I credit cartoonist Larry Pickering for recommending me for my work, not my name, amongst a number of other young cartoonists to replace him when he retired from cartooning in 1980.
I want 18C repealed on the basis it is a shackle on my own free speech and that of many Australians.
My work was the target of a serial complainant in 2009 using the 18C sledgehammer.
My crime was to draw attention to the welfare of indigenous children. The serial activist wanted to stifle the truth, demanding shakedown money, as is so often the case.
The only reason my own case was prevented from going to a lengthy, expensive Federal Court battle was because the newspaper did not have the inclination to defend the case and chose to buckle to the demands of the complainant after a drawn out HRC conciliation process over 2 years.
So much for the exemption provisions of 18D.
I would draw the cartoon again in a heartbeat given the same circumstances. The Editor has since said he would publish it again.
Simply, if the easily-targeted, often innocent defendant doesn’t have the money to pay expensive lawyers, they are crucified by the legal system, regardless of the 18D exemption.
I’m not, by far, the only middle-aged white man who’s faced discrimination in my lifetime and wants the removal of 18C.
Since I lodged my complaint against you with the Australian Human Rights Commission, I have been inundated by messages, emails and social media posts by many mixed race and white Australians of all ages and sexes who have faced discrimination but want 18C repealed.
High profile non-white opponents of 18C have publicly spoken out in support of repealing this section of law, before and since your statement.
Singapore-born Liberal MP Ian Goodenough, who came to Australia aged nine, chairs the federal parliament’s free-speech inquiry and has publicly rejected your claim that only white men of a certain age who have never faced discrimination in their life want to change race-hate laws.
Indigenous leader Warren Mundine, a member of the Bundjalung people, a former National President of the ALP and the head of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, has pushed for an overhaul of 18C which he says has “overstepped the line.”
His position was made public before your statement
Mr Mundine said 18C does not contribute to racial harmony, but instead is acting as a force for social division.
He is quoted as saying, “It (18C) is going to stop freedom of speech and I believe it has to be reformed”, calling for “immediate action.”
Ms Burney, I’m prepared to accept that maybe you were unaware both non-whites and whites who have faced discrimination have publicly declared they want 18C removed.
Or, perhaps knowing this to be the case, you simply went too far whilst addressing the media, in which case the 18D defence can't apply.
Considering this, I would like to offer you an opportunity to resolve this matter.
My complaint seeks an apology and compensation of $10,000.
If on reflection you want to acknowledge that your statement was based on a wrongful generalisation, make a public apology I will surrender my personal compensation claim, by donating it to a charity whose work is directed to the improvement of conditions for aboriginal children and I shall withdraw my complaint.
This is an opportunity for you to make amends and do some good as a result of this sorry affair.
As I am sure you are aware, indigenous children in remote communities are most at risk, as has been documented for over a decade by Productivity Commission Reports.
Those Reports have stated that these children are up to eleven times more likely to be physically and sexually abused than non-indigenous kids. Surely this is a situation that the parliament of Australia should be discussing and in which you should be a leading advocate.
I urge you to stop focusing on stifling information and debate of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and start to focus on real Human Rights abuses of indigenous children.
Section 18C damages indigenous kids, denies them a future because this law prevents the truth being told. That was the lesson I took from my own 18C experience.
Should you be prepared to discuss this with me, I am offering you an open invitation to discuss this privately or publicly.
I look forward to your reply.