The Australian and Cartoonist Bill Leak fight back against Aussie HRC

bill-leak-cartoon

In Australia,?The Australian and their cartoonist Bill Leak are under investigation for the cartoon shown above.

The same thing happened here in New Zealand. The publisher was Whale Oil Beef Hooked and the cartoonist was Boomslang. Fortunately?our Human Rights Commission is a toothless organisation and I simply ignored their bleating and that of the complainants.

The Australian and Bill Leak are fighting back against the Human Rights Commission.

Lawyers for cartoonist Bill Leak and The Australian have accused the Human Rights Commission of outright bias and warned of legal action to restrain the federal body and its head, Gillian Triggs, from investigating a drawing.

The newspaper yesterday ?issued its formal legal response to the commission after?The ?Australian and Leak were put on notice that they were being ?investigated for alleged ?racial hatred under the Racial Discrimination Act? for a cartoon ?depicting the neglect of indig?enous children by their parents.

The lawyers for Leak and the newspaper state that, if necessary, they will produce evidence to ?establish the August 4 cartoon was drawn in good faith and did not breach section 18C, and that indigenous people would ?testify they were not ?offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated? by it.

Their letter states they will rely on evidence from ?sociologists and criminologists, as well as ?witnesses having direct daily ?exposure to the problems associated with juvenile crime and ?recidivism in remote Aboriginal communities, to establish that the point made by Leak?s cartoon is both a ?genuine? matter of concern and a legitimate issue of ?public ?interest???.

Jodie Ball, the delegate for commission president Professor Triggs, advised the newspaper this month that an investigation under section 18C had been triggered by complainant Melissa Dinnison, who says she has ??experienced ?racial hatred? and been discriminated against as a result of the ?cartoon.

In Leak?s and the newspaper?s reply yesterday to Professor Triggs, who has faced resignation calls this week after falsely claiming to a Senate committee that journalists at Melbourne?s The ?Saturday Paper fabricated her quotes, the commission is charged with ?playing politics? with the welfare of children.

There appears to have been some?solicitation of complaints, not unlike the same issue here. Following that a manipulation of processes to suit a public agenda, again not unlike Susan Devoy manufacturing an issue and outrage to support a public campaign by her office.

Solicitor Justin Quill and barrister Tony Morris QC, lawyers for The Australian and Leak, call on the commission to bow out of the investigation immediately and appoint an external lawyer to run it because of the conduct of the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane.

LETTER: Read the formal legal response in full

Their written response highlights comments Dr Soutphommasane made in Fairfax Media and on social media in early ?August in which he invited and ?encouraged complaints against Leak?s cartoon.

He appeared to confirm the ?accuracy of the comments during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday when he rejected suggestions that he had acted inappropriately or had prejudged the cartoon.

The legal letter states that as Professor Triggs sat beside Dr Soutphommasane and ?made no attempt to distance herself from his statements?, the commission was compromised by their ?conduct.

?That Dr Soutphommasane prejudged the factual and legal basis for a complaint against our clients is bad enough ? but the fact that he positively invited and ?encouraged, even urged, the making of such complaints is utterly ?indefensible,? the letter says. ?There can be no doubt that a disinterested observer, with knowledge of the relevant circumstances, could only entertain the most extreme misgivings regarding the (commission?s) capacity to deal with Miss Dinnison?s complaint impartially and free from any taint of prejudgement.

?It follows that, at the very least, a reasonable apprehension of bias arises.

?Accordingly, our clients ?require that the (commission) take no further part in any inquiry into, or any attempt to conciliate, Miss Dinnison?s complaint.?

The legal response adds that if the commission continues with the complaint despite what was described as a ?pervasive conflict of interest?, the newspaper and Leak would immediately take ?injunctive action. The commission was criticised for sitting on the August 4 complaint for two months before disclosing it, a delay described as ?unacceptable?.

The response states: ?It is a matter of public record by her own admission that (commission) president Professor Triggs orchestrated the timing of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (report) for political reasons.?

The response flags a potential High Court argument by stating that ?if section 18C makes Mr Leak?s cartoon unlawful, then (18C) is not appropriately adapted and compatible with the implied constitutional right to free speech?. ?Our clients are also entitled to know the grounds on which Miss Dinnison claims to have been ?discriminated against because of her race?, and to have ?experienced racial hatred?,? it says. ?Is she, herself ? or does she identify as being ? Aboriginal or indigenous? Does she live in a ?remote community like that ?depicted in the cartoon?

It adds: ?Accordingly, our ?clients will require a full and fair opportunity to challenge, including by way of cross examination, any evidence which may be ?offered ? in support of what our clients regard as an outrageous slur on their personal judgment, their moral probity and their journalistic ethics.?

That is fairly robust language. For a time Andrew Bolt was a man alone as the persecution of people?simply for speaking their mind was centred on him. Now another outlet and this time a cartoonist are the victims of what essentially constitutes a piece of legislation that seriously impinges on free speech rights.

 

-The Australian

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