Rookie WA Labor Senator Joe Bullock has indicated he would support lifting the ban on offending, insulting or humiliating people on racial grounds – if given the opportunity.
In comments that put him at odds with the Labor leadership, Senator Bullock used his maiden speech to Parliament yesterday to indicate support for changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tony Abbott abandoned proposed changes to 18C, saying it was complicating the Government’s relationship with the Muslim community.
But Family First Senator Bob Day has vowed to revive the plan in a private member’s bill.
Senator Bullock, a socially conservative former union leader whose political rise was at the expense of left wing gay ALP senator Louise Pratt, indicated he would support Senator Day’s bill if given a free vote by the ALP.
“Given that Senator Day seems likely to raise issues to which tolerance will be a relevant consideration, I’m going to yield to the temptation and set out some views,” he said.
“I don’t need to be tolerant to support the right of people to express views with which I agree. On the contrary, tolerance is displayed in upholding the right of people to express views with which I disagree.
“A tolerant society is one prepared to uphold the precious right of free speech, provided such speech does not intimidate or incite others to injury of others.”
He said tolerance was a misunderstood concept in some quarters.
“The politically correct place tolerance on a pedestal among virtues but hold that it requires that all sincerely-held views, provided they are not politically incorrect, be held to be equally valid with respect to the holder of them,” he said.
“This isn’t tolerance but more a flawed doctrine of moral equivalence. To be tolerant of your views I don’t need to pretend that you are just as right as I am but rather to accept that you have a perfect right to hold a view which I believe to be wrong even if I find your view offensive.”