… with respect to statements made by the serial trollumnist in published articles from 2009/2010 questioning whether the Aboriginality of certain pale-skinned indigenous people was genuine. [background on the case]
The nine complainants were activist Pat Eatock, former ATSIC member Geoff Clark, artist Bindi Cole, lawyer and academic Larissa Behrendt, author Anita Heiss, health worker Leeanne Enoch, native title expert Graham Atkinson, political scientist and academic Wayne Atkinson and lawyer and academic Mark McMillan.
Anita Heiss published this statement in response: My statement on today’s win in the Federal Court!
The defence argued that Bolt’s comments were exempt under the Act because Bolt was expressing genuinely held views on matters of public interest. This argument was not accepted by Justice Mordecai Bromberg as explained in the judgement:
7. Section 18D exempts from being unlawful, conduct which has been done reasonably and in good faith for particular specified purposes, including the making of a fair comment in a newspaper. It is a provision which, broadly speaking, seeks to balance the objectives of section 18C with the need to protect justifiable freedom of expression.
23. I have not been satisfied that the offensive conduct that I have found occurred, is exempted from unlawfulness by section 18D. The reasons for that conclusion have to do with the manner in which the articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language.
According to Anita Heiss’ statement, at least part of Bolt’s defence included a claim that he used a photo of her mother’s wedding day to judge whether she (and therefore Heiss) was “Aboriginal” enough by his standards, which apart from being an appallingly crass method by any yardstick would also have actually been impossible, given that he wrote the articles in 2009 but Heiss didn’t share that photo on her blog until February of 2011. Wow, talk about pants on fire. What a waste of neurons he is.
Evidence tendered for the complainants also showed that in every case they had been identified by the household and community around them as indigenous people since early childhood and raised always as indigenous people, so that their identification was not simply something they “chose” as adults. Bolt’s concept that anybody could or should just “choose” to cast off their non-White racial/cultural identity simply because some White people think that they could and therefore should just aim to “pass” as White was not ruled upon by the Federal Court, but I will hereby pronounce that in the Court of Hoyden Opinion this is gratuitously insensitive and offensive identity-policing.
There are predictably howls about how this judgement is an assault upon free speech. Should a perceived right to freedom of speech extend to being exempt from any consequences for writing blatant untruths about people? After all, those who use their speech to commit fraud are not exempt from prosecution due to their right to free speech; why should liars be able to hide behind such a shield?