A First Nations barrister says when debating legislation, people need to look at the entire act and not just individual provisions.

The comments come amid ongoing debate over changes to section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Under those provisions, it is an offence to insult, humiliate or offend on the basis of race. Prominent Victorian commentator Andrew Bolt fell foul of the law in 2011, after he was found to have breached the legislation over a series of articles he published alleging prominent Aboriginal leaders only identified as black to access special benefits.

Bolt lost the case because the judge, Justice Bromberg, found he did not act in good faith, and the articles were littered with errors.

Since the finding, conservative commentators and politicians have argued for changes to the act, with Liberal senator Cory Bernardi tabling amendments to have to the words “insult” and “offend” removed from 18c to protect free speech.

In the latest development, cartoonist for The Australian newspaper Bill Leak will appear before the Human Rights Commission, over a complaint that he breached section 18c.

Wannyi and Kalkadoon barrister, Joshua Creamer said that there are exemptions within the act which Mr Leak can rely on.


Section 18d also affords a complete defence provided a person is found to have acted in good faith.

(IMAGE: Bill Leak, The Australian)