Senator says Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws pave ‘road to tyranny’

Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson has written an opinion piece for The Australian published today, entitled Silencing dissent – now that’s a road to tyranny.

The article is a response an anti-discrimination complaint made against his Tasmanian colleague, Senator Claire Chandler, who has been called before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission after complaints were filed over her recent article arguing against trans women’s inclusion in sports.

In the piece for the Hobart Mercury, Senator Chandler spoke against ‘cancel culture’, and shared her view that transgender women should not be allowed to participate in women’s sport, access change rooms or women’s toilets. Speaking in the Senate the politician said being called before the commission was an example of free speech being eroded in Australia.

Senator Paterson agreed with Senator Chandler’s sentiment in today’s opinion piece for The Australian.

The anti-discrimination complaint against Tasmanian Liberal senator Claire Chandler is the latest example of the threat to free speech posed by Australia’s state and federal anti-discrimination laws, and the bodies tasked with enforcing them,” Senator Paterson wrote.

Ironically, the complaint under section 17 of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act was prompted by an opinion piece authored by Chandler in defence of free speech, and a subsequent email exchange with a constituent about it.”

Senator Paterson argues that section 17 is Australia’s “most restrictive anti-free speech law.”

It prohibits “any conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another person” on the basis of 14 different protected characteristics, including race, age, gender and sexuality. It is section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act on steroids,” Senator Paterson continues.

“It’s the same law used to pursue Tasmania’s Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous during the same-sex marriage debate for producing a pamphlet that explained the church’s traditional view of marriage.”

Veteran Tasmanian LGBTIQ+ activist Rodney Croome has responded to Senator Paterson’s article, publishing his letter to The Australian‘s editor on Twitter.

“By seeking to restrain the powerful from humiliating and intimidating the vulnerable, section 17 of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act is one of Australia’s most important laws against tyranny.”

“Section 17 has repeatedly proven its utility, resolving many complaints of humiliation, most of which have been from people with disability. Because section 17 has fostered a more inclusive Tasmania, it has twice been upheld by State Parliament.”

Croome also highlights the section has been upheld by the Tasmanian Supreme Court, which ruled the policy is not a breach of freedom of speech or religion.

“But regardless of all this, Victorian Senator, James Paterson, continues to demonise section 17, along with section 18c of the Race Discrimination Act, ignoring the protection they give historically-stigmatised Australians from the unchecked power of pundits, prelates and politicians,” Croome said.

Senator Paterson has repeatedly made headlines for his statements arguing against the protection or equal rights of LGBTIQ+ Australians, pitching an alternative marriage bill during the height of the marriage equality debate, criticising Labor for pledging to support LGBTIQ+ businesses, and collaborating with the Australian Christian Lobby for a discussion on freedom of speech and faith.

OIP Staff

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