Australian politician files human rights complaint after newspaper calls him ‘angry white man’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 10:25pm

Australia’s racial discrimination act makes it clear that insulting someone because of the colour of their skin is against Australian law. David Leyonhjelm, a libertarian senator, has recently campaigned to repeal that clause, claiming that such a law damages the Australian tradition of freedom of speech.

That is, until journalist Mark Kenny penned a newspaper article calling Leyonhjelm’s view on the law indicative of the senator’s “angry-white-male certitude”. The commentary, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 8, prompted Leyonhjelm to use the very law he’s trying to repeal in order to file a human rights complaint against Kenny.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Leyonhjelm said “the comments are reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend or insult some white males”.

“My colour was one of the reasons the comments were made,” he added.

Apparently, he believes that his complaint is completely absurd – and that’s all the more reason for going through with it.

“If I’m going to succeed in having it repealed, I need to change minds,” he said. “If I’m going to change minds, I have to show [the] absurdity of the law.”

One of Leyonhjelm’s biggest complaints about the law’s current language is that it applies to any comments that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on the basis of race. According to him, offence is always taken, not given, and therefore cannot be blamed on the person responsible for making potentially offensive comments.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott had previously made moves to repeal the law, but backed down when he faced opposition from lawmakers. He most recently suggested that perhaps just the words “offend” and “insult” should be repealed.