Letter to The Editor
To The Australian
The latest reform proposal for the Racial Discrimination Act of introducing a 'reasonable person' standard (or 'community standards') is not a 'politically incontestable position' to take on section 18C ('Community standards are key to free speech debate', 7/3). Legislators should recall the role of the 'Common Man' played out in Robert Bolt's play 'A Man for All Seasons.'
In that case the 'ordinary man' is shown to be susceptible to coercion and bribery. There is also the problem of 'the failure of the zeitgeist' (the 'spirit of the times'). History shows that whole communities can sometimes get it wrong, including most of their intellectual leaders. Chris Merritt is thus on shaky ground ('Free speech offers Turnbull a free kick at Labor's expense', 7/3) in arguing that 'The great mass of society are decent people.' Christian tradition would warn that they tend to be weak, ignorant and sinful. Repeal of 18C remains the true way to go for freedom of speech on race.
Nigel Jackson, Belgrave, Vic