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October 05th 2010 print

John Izzard

The trial of Andrew Bolt

The nine “Aboriginal” complainants want Andrew Bolt silenced on this issue, and of course that means any other writer, journalist and commentator who enjoys freedom of expression and thought in this country— and that is OUR right.

[Greg] Lehman agreed that the Aborigines would have perceived Kemp at first as one of themselves. “The old fellas didn’t recognise an Other. They didn’t see a Black or a White. They lived in a world where Homo Sapiens was all created out of the tail of a Kangaroo.” A guiding dictum of Lehman’s was a remark by a Cherokee Indian: There is no such thing as a non-indigenous person. “The basis of my belief in identity is that that there was never in this land any distinction between black and white.”

In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare (page 196) 

 

With his ghost of a grey beard and his father’s complexion Lehman was, he agreed, an improbable-looking Aborigine. His father was descended from Bavarians from the Black Forest; his mother from a convicted Irish axe-murderer called Chugg. But Lehman identified with his paternal grandmother called Molly Kennedy who had lived in the hamlet of North Motton in Tasmania’s north-west. “I’m so lucky” he said, to be living in a landscape that my family has inhabited for 2,000 generations.

In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare (page 197)

 

“What about this?” and I pointed to the rest of the tree. “What about your German roots? What about your Irish roots?”

“That’s mongrel”, he said.

I looked away, frustrated by my inability to understand.

In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare (page 199)

The trial of Andrew Bolt begins on December 13 with Justice Finkelstein of the Federal Court presiding. Bolt has been charged under the Racial Discrimination Act for two articles he wrote last year. [See here and here] One of the articles was headed “MEET the white face of a new black race— the political Aborigine”. Like Nicholas Shakespeare, who “looked away, frustrated by my [his] inability to understand”, Bolt has been charged for telling his readers of his inability to understand what is going on when the mind is apparently expected to defy what the eye sees— and questions that conflict. 

Many Australians have also questioned (to themselves or to those who they feel confident in trusting their politically incorrect thoughts) the apparent enigma of people with obvious European features claiming to be Aboriginal. But only Andrew Bolt has had the courage to go public with his doubts and to have questioned the notion that certain “indigenous Australians” have the right to select from a smorgasbord of ethnic ancestors, and expect the public to accept this proposition without asking serious questions.

It is a bit like the science of human-induced climate change—we all are expected to follow the line that the “science” of picking your ethnic background is “settled”. Well fortunately, thanks to Andrew Bolt the issue isn’t settled, and the Federal Court is now having to answer this question. Like the Oscar Wilde trial though, the nine “Aboriginal claimants” might regret that they have taken the legal advice from Joel Zyngier of Holding Redlich. If they don’t win, what is the standing of “designer ethnicity”? 

Of course the good judge will not be deciding on the issue of “my right to select my own race”, a right denied all other non-indigenous Australians. What the good judge will have to decide is whether Australians have the right to discuss the issues involved. Freedom of speech, that pesky little right that so frustrates the likes of the Human Rights Commission in Australia, and their equivalents around the world, is the issue for Justice Finkelstein to decide. 

The nine “Aboriginal” complainants want Andrew Bolt silenced on this issue, and of course that means any other writer, journalist and commentator who enjoys freedom of expression and thought in this country— and that is OUR right. 

One of the first people that Andrew Bolt apparently “offended” in his article “MEET the white face of a new black race— the political Aborigine” was Bindi Cole. Bolt wrote

Meet, say, acclaimed St Kilda artist Bindi Cole, who was raised by her English-Jewish mother yet calls herself “Aboriginal but white”.

She rarely saw her part-Aboriginal father, and could in truth join any one of several ethnic groups, but chose Aboriginal, insisting a racial identity you could only guess from her features.

She also chose, incidentally, the one identity open to her that has political and career clout. 

Strangely, in his fight for truth, justice and the Australian way, Andrew Bolt has attracted a couple of interesting supporters—sort of. In a piece for Crikey (September 23), Margaret Simons wrote: 

Freedom of speech brings with it the presumption that we will be offended by some of what we see and hear. There is no right, in modern media-driven society, not to be offended. 

When the Racial Discrimination Act was amended in the mid-1990s to include racial vilification, the legislation was controversial and the government had trouble getting it through — hence, no criminal penalties, and exemptions that you can drive a truck through. 

The Act makes it unlawful for a person to "do an act" in public that is likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people" on the basis of their race.

But the exemptions cover anything done in good faith in an artistic work, in academic debates and "fair comment on any event or matter of public interest, if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment". Which would seem to me to give Bolt plenty of room to move. 

Unfortunately, many politically active Aboriginal “claimants” do not recognise “the right to offend”. They will find offence at just about anything that doesn’t fit in with their own agendas. And they will use the power and force of white-fella’s laws to squash anyone who speaks their mind by challenging those agendas. Being “offended” by others, including fellow Aborigines, and payback rights, features highly in their culture. 

Another supporter of Andrew Bolt — sort of — is Luke Walladge, who, in a piece on the ABC’s The Drum last month, announced that even though he thought Andrew Bolt was “a total flogger” and a “offensive, myopic, aggressively ignorant buffoon, and whose disingenuity, casuistry, strawmen [?] remarks and simple bias as to render them useless for anything other that lining a parrot cage” — thought that: 

I love the fact that Andrew Bolt has the right to be so obnoxious, so ridiculous and so laughably nonsensical. Because his right to be a flogger means that I have the right to call him an offensive, myopic, aggressively ignorant buffoon whose popularity I have yet to find a decent explanation for. And I’ll be damned if I support any attempt to silence either of us. 

So all of you conservative followers of Andrew Bolt, and believers in the right to freedom of speech — what about a little bit of support for Andrew. We can’t leave it all to Margaret Simons and Luke Walladge! 

And remember: 

“The basis of my belief in identity is that there was never in this land any distinction between black and white.” 

Greg Lehman, Aboriginal academic: from In Tasmania, Nicholas Shakespeare