Politicial correctness has officially gone crazy
Wog. Breeder. Bimbo. Spaz. Are these terms a) offensive b) insulting or c) discriminatory?
Perhaps I’m too thick-skinned, but having been name-called on all counts over the years, I’ve just shrugged them off. Whether I felt hurt depended if it was a jestful jibe from a colleague or rudeness from a screaming stranger.
But proposed new anti-discrimination laws drafted by the federal government mean that I might soon have grounds to lodge a discrimination complaint. A Senate Committee is inquiring into the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which combines and updates five existing sets of federal aw covering race, sex, age and disability discrimination.
Firstly, the definition of discrimination has been widened to include “conduct that offends and insults”.
Secondly, all areas of public life - not just the workplace - will be covered, including sporting fields, coffee shops, clubs and pubs.
Those accused of discrimination will have to prove their innocence, once the complainant proves a prima facie case.
Both sides will have to pay their own legal costs, even if they win.
The legislation will cover 17 “protected attributes” - not just age, sex, race and disability, but a string of other characteristics that means Australians will need to watch their language when they gossip in a public place.
Religion is one, along with political opinion - the two topics my grandmother banned at the dinner table. Another is “social origin” (whatever that means, because the legislation deliberately does not define it).
Family responsibilities, pregnancy and potential pregnancy, and marital or relationship status are all protected. So be very cautious about blabbing your opinion about single mothers, large families, childless couples or the latest office romance bust-up. And don’t dare ask a woman if she’s “expecting”.
Then there’s medical history (best not to inquire about someone’s health) and breastfeeding (Kochy be careful!).
Gender identity and sexual orientation have been included in the federal anti-discrimination legislation for the first time.
Then there’s nationality or citizenship (wild displays of patriotism might need hosing down next Australia Day) as well as immigrant status.
That’s an awful lot for people to get offended or insulted about.
Another problem is that employers will be held liable for spats between co-workers.
A small auto-electrician in country Victoria had to pay thousands of dollars to settle a discrimination claim lodged by an apprentice. The bloke liked to boast about his sexual exploits every Monday, so his work mates nicknamed him “Romeo”. This was enough to send him off whining to the state’s anti-discrimination commission, claiming discrimination on the grounds of “lawful sexual activity”.
When I wrote a children’s book of rhymes, Fuzzy Wuzzy Wombat, a few years ago the words included a “crazy crocodile”. The publisher made me change it - because the word “crazy” might offend people with mental issues. (Thank heavens I got to grow up with Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss.)
No one should tolerate violence, bullying, displays of hatred or discrimination against people, especially on the grounds of their age, their racial background, disability or whether they possess a penis.
The problem with the wording of the draft legislation is that it sets the threshhold for discrimination too low.
It will only encourage the thin-skinned, the vexatious and the vengeful to lodge complaints that will have to be defended, perhaps even in court.
And that, in itself, is a form of bullying.
Australia is a peaceful multicultural melting pot, where women have more opportunities than in most parts of the world, where homosexuality is not only accepted but celebrated, and political debate is brutal and bruising. Let’s not spoil it with political correctness gone crazy.
Natasha Bita is News Ltd’s National Social Editor.
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