A Victory in the Battle for Free Speech

15 October 2020

1.9 MINS

by Peter Downie, FamilyVoice Australia.

Last month, Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt ordered Liberal Senator Claire Chandler to attend a “conciliation conference” with a person who claimed to be offended and insulted by a newspaper column she wrote in July.

The senator had pointed out the significant danger to women in contact sports from transgender women who, being born male, were significantly bigger and stronger. She also said:

Women’s sport, women’s toilets and women’s changing rooms are designed for the female sex and should remain that way.”

I believe most Australians would agree. But Sarah Bolt told Senator Chandler that these reasonable words were potentially “prohibited conduct” under Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

Section 17 of this law says a “person must not engage in any conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another person on the basis of an attribute…” (including race, age, sexual orientation, religious or political belief and gender identity).

I’ve lost count of the newspaper columns that offended and insulted my political or religious beliefs! But I didn’t call the thought police.

Two weeks ago I wrote about Bernard Gaynor being hauled before the NSW Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous had the same experience when he was hauled before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner in 2015, merely for distributing a booklet about his church’s teaching on marriage.

Bravo, Senator Chandler, for standing firm!

On September 30 she said:

“I have written to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner to reiterate that I will not be withdrawing, retracting, modifying or apologising for my comments on women’s sport and women’s facilities…

“All Australians should be free to discuss public policy issues and to acknowledge the realities of biological sex without being silenced by anti-discrimination tribunals and unelected bureaucrats…

“The appropriate course of action for the Commissioner to now take is to dismiss this complaint as vexatious, trivial and without substance…”

The Commissioner didn’t do that. Instead she required Senator Chandler to sign a confidentiality agreement that would have prevented her speaking about the complaint process. Senator Chandler refused to sign.

The complainant backed down. He withdrew his complaint. Victory!

On October 1 Senator Chandler wrote:

“I have learnt this afternoon via the media that the anti-discrimination complaint against me has been dropped by the complainant. I am both relieved at this outcome and furious at the abuse of process which has occurred.

“If I had not refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, I would be currently sitting in a conciliation conference on the basis of a spurious complaint which the Commissioner had no legal authority to accept…

“It’s clear that the Anti-Discrimination Act needs to be substantially amended to prevent these tactics being used in the case of frivolous complaints…”

This is a victory for free speech, and I salute Senator Chandler for her courage. But the battle, which FamilyVoice has been waging for two decades, continues.

With your prayers and support, we can keep fighting!

For family, faith and freedom,

Peter Downie,
National Director,
FamilyVoice Australia, Inc.,
Adelaide, SA.

[Photo by John Torcasio on Unsplash]

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