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  • Time to be more careful about using politically charged language

Time to be more careful about using politically charged language



Modern Australian society is infected with imported terms. The list includes political correctness, identity politics, culture wars, woke and virtue signalling. They are not used in a neutral fashion, but to denigrate the legitimate views and opinions of others.

Main image: Stylised speech bubble (Volodymyr Hryshchenko/Unsplash)

Over the past thirty years their use has grown so much that some of them, like political correctness, have become commonplace. Most are not traditional Australian terminology but, as often happens in a global era, have been imported from the USA. Our language has been corrupted by terms which have grown out of different social conditions and are then applied without thought to quite different Australian circumstances. 

These terms may originally have had a carefully delineated meaning, but they are often used politically in a lazy, shorthand way. They are also often used in a way which serves the political purpose of shutting down conversation and trying to undermine alternative points of view. 

A term currently in great favour among conservatives is identity politics, defined as a political approach wherein people of a particular gender, religion, race, social background or class develop political agendas to advantage themselves by calling attention to their systemic disadvantage.  

Scott Morrison condemns identity politics as a modern disease and a trick to advantage some social groups over others. He may see it as demonstrating the traditional distinction between the two sides of Australian politics (individualism versus collectivism), but so-called 'identity politics' language has been widely used in the past by conservatives as well as progressives. Menzies’ famous appeal to the forgotten people of the middle class could equally be criticised as identity politics just as could the approach of the rural politicians who formed the Country party (now the Nationals) to advocate for those suffering systemic disadvantage because they lived in rural and regional areas.  

The only difference now is that identity politics is being utilised by other groups who perceive they are subject to ingrained social disadvantage, including women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the LGBTQI+ community. 


'We should engage in it openly, using clear language which we all understand not imported terms which, when used in a lazy fashion, only disguise what is going on.'


Political correctness (PC) is a related but older term, defined as an approach chosen to avoid offense to members of particular individuals and groups, on the basis of their race, gender and/or sexuality. Critics condemn so-called political correctness as an unreasonable restriction on their freedom of speech, preventing them using certain language in public. 

The reality is that the use of inclusive language and the avoidance of derogatory terms is both sensible and essential for inclusion and equality in modern society. Offense is real not imaginary and those sensitive to the legitimate feelings of others should keep their language within bounds. 

Political correctness has now been replaced by the term ‘woke’, which is not generally used as a compliment but a put-down just like PC. Woke is defined as an awareness of issues that concern social and racial justice, in particular,which could be seen as a positive. Critics use it to put down someone who is perceived to have an over-awareness of such issues. Another put down is the term ‘virtue signalling’, defined as publicly expressing sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or moral correctness. Whatever its potentially positive meaning it is often used to condemn someone as being hollow or hypocritical when they show compassion for the vulnerable.

Even the Australian military is now accused by ministerial critics for being woke or virtue signalling, meaning allegedly too soft, compassionate and inclusive. 

The politics of language is part of cultural conflict within any society. Whoever wins the language battle is on their way to winning the larger war about the dominance of some individuals and groups over others and the distribution of economic benefits within the society. Consequently language is the bread and butter of spin doctors and the marketing profession. 

These terms are mainly, though not entirely, used to delegitimise the concerns and attitudes of certain individuals and groups, mainly those found on the Left. But the Left can be guilty of the same tendency. The term 'culture wars', for instance, is often used as a wrap-around term to dismiss arguments about particular issues by lazily describing them as predictable conservative responses by so-called 'culture warriors'. The use of the term does not advance rational argument but tries to preclude it.

Such cultural conflict is an inevitable part of any society. But we should engage in it openly, using clear language which we all understand not imported terms which, when used in a lazy fashion, only disguise what is going on. 

Australian debate can do without the loose use of each of these terms. If terms like identity politics, political correctness, wokeness or virtue signalling are used then they should be explained and their appropriateness to Australian conditions defended. The use of them in a brief, offhand way should be called out by the media. This applies both to the media itself and to those they report.

Criticisms and allegations should be made in plain-speaking language rather than using terminology which masks their meaning. The language should be as neutral as possible. Then the matter in dispute, whether refugees, racism, gender, freedom of speech, poverty or vulnerability, can be debated on its merits not by innuendo. 



John WarhurstJohn Warhurst is an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University, the Chair of Concerned Catholics Canberra Goulburn and a delegate to the Plenary Council.

Main image: Stylised speech bubble (Volodymyr Hryshchenko/Unsplash)

Topic tags: John Warhurst, PC, woke, identity politics, culture wars, virtue signalling, language



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Existing comments

Would be nice if the person arguing that 'Modern Australian society is infected with imported terms' would use Australian rather American spelling like 'offense'.

jota | 20 May 2021  

You refer several times to the virtue and practice of being reflective. Sure. But in the Spiritual Exercises after the scare tactics of hell (an imaginary state or place) Ignatius asks for a decision, an election. And like a soldier he sees basically two sides. This seems then like an enlistment drive, with only one serious option. His own mysticism seems almost unnoticed and replaced by dogma. So despite mention of India and China did Jesuits embody anything from the spiritualities and meditation practices of the East? Unfortunately the Australian Province seems to have been caught in a Stockholm Syndrome, as bourgeois captives of the adherents they sought to influence. So along with what has been considered a good education students and parents are granted a step up in status and privilege, increasing instead of lessening social inequality. Along with many decent folk, some of the most socially conservative callous politicians have been ex-students of Jesuit colleges. Just some reflections...

Michael D. Breen | 20 May 2021  

'Our language has been corrupted by terms which have grown out of different social conditions and are then applied without thought to quite different Australian circumstances.' along with much of our cultural capital, music, fashions and pronunciation etc. But by using those expressions the central matter is avoided. A local Tory when arguing will counter, "That's a typical left wing thing". Applying what is, in his eyes pejorative label, he escapes facing the heart of the matter. It becomes an ad hominem argument instead of an examination of the matter. Not playing fair!.

Michael D. Breen | 20 May 2021  

A wise contribution to an excellent issue of Eureka Street. Thanks, John.

Joseph Castley | 20 May 2021  

This article doesn't explain why so many people are critical of identity politics. In the olden days, feminists, gays etc. wanted equality: equal pay, decriminalisation of their behaviour etc. They wanted to be part of the mainstream and treated equally. Equality would, among other things, allow people to get on better. To me identity politics is much more about victimhood and power. It says, we have been oppressed by an evil other who must now be overthrown and told to shut up - it's our voices which must be heard and theirs never heard again. That's why it is so divisive. It's the very opposite of inclusive. One of the many things wrong with identity politics besides divisiveness is that in claiming the victim position (which is usually disputable) it too much puts the power to improve your situation in the hands of others - those evil oppressors. Huge amounts of positive change has happened because people worked out which levers to pull, and then worked at it.

Russell | 20 May 2021  

'Criticism and allegations should be made in plain-speaking language rather than using terminology that masks their meaning.' With John Warhurst's injunction here I fully concur. Tags are at best shorthand, in themselves serving only only to indicate their user's stance on particular issues. This said, it's not, however, to say that usages such as 'woke', 'identity politics', 'culture wars' and 'the western literary canon' -now appearing frequently in letters to editors and televised discussions - have no meaning. Behind them lie growing bodies of considered international discourse that defy be dismissal as mere rhetoric or polemic and have significant social, cultural, moral and I daresay spiritual relevance. Alignments and the choosing of them are inevitable features of robust political participation in a healthy democratic society.

John RD | 21 May 2021  

I agree that 'woke' has become a one syllable substitute for the six syllables of 'political correctness'. But it is a term whose origin needs to be known about, so that people understand just how pernicious its appropriation by white people is. Allison Gaines explains: https://medium.com/writers-and-editors-of-color/white-people-keep-misusing-the-word-woke-bd1306811931

Paul Smith | 21 May 2021  

This article is immensely important as so many written commentaries are full of these terminologies that one needs a dictionary beside you when reading certain articles, especially from the right. Perhaps a further paper with all of these terminologies and their meaning listed.

Kevin Vaughan | 21 May 2021  

Like some who post on this august website, I too am sometimes guilty of defending a non-conformist perspective. However, in the woke - sorry wake! - of conservative onslaught, I employ humour, an older form of defense, to withstand my opponents. (Mea Culpa!) John Warhurst, like Andy Hamilton, has emerged in the run-up to the Synod as a voice of moderation and commonsense, never hurling insults at the Bishops, whose intransigence must at times unsettle his equilibrium, while always treating his readers with respect. It happens, though, that quite a few here disagree with him and, observing as he consistently does, the discipline of not replying, I would like to do so on his behalf. I was educated by European Jesuits in Calcutta, where some were unrepentant imperialists of the kind that placed dogma above reason. These have now, thankfully, gone. The Australians I knew were not at all like them. Men of substantially Irish nationalist sentiment, they blended harmoniously, especially with native Indians. With a largely indigenous clergy, including the largest Jesuit province on the globe, the Indian Church has no reason to regret its past, and although categorically post-colonial, it has never had to 'topple' its statues. (https://www.infoagepub.com/assets/files/samples/Teaching_to_a_Statue_Final_IAP.pdf)

Michael Furtado | 22 May 2021  

Thanks John for a very informative article.I know now what these terms actually mean.Sadly for Australian culture we have simply moved from adopting "English" slang to using "American" slang! As an aside, when teaching in England a couple of decades ago, I had to think in advance about what I was about to say to my 'north of London' classes(Hertfordshire) .They became quite confused at times as I unknowingly used "Australian" slang in my discussions with them. It was quite a lesson for me and them!

Gavin O'Brien | 22 May 2021  

Interesting but one would add that this importing of (loaded) language has not been organic but specifically by political operators acting as US ideological conduits e.g. in media, polling, PR, think tanks etc., for negative fear inducing narratives and disruptive socio-political narratives; when media, MPs and related elites from middle aged and above all look and sound the same (but not compared with Australians following). For example, while the 'left' has no neutral access to media, anything 'left' is presented negatively by these 'labels' being applied, to then be shouted at, by LNP govt. proxies. Concurrently, LNP govts. avoid scrutiny in media, have their policies promoted by 'news' themes and media focus on 'oppositionism'; the LNP has become defined by what they are against vs. what they are for.

Andrew J. Smith | 23 May 2021  

Ahhh... the joy of having freedoms to think how you choose but have to put a lid or filter on what you're saying. The "thought police" are already a force to be reckoned with; they can't read your mind (yet) but are more than happy to pronounce character assessment based on both spoken and written statements from years prior. If you're dumb enough to put anything that may become controversial on the public records it'll be archived and indexed to be dredged up as evidence that you have a history of some sort. Verdicts in these cases are delivered on the basis that you can't change your mind over time, no parole, no rehabilitation. It's not just a matter of identity politics it may become your political identity that just might be hard to shake off. There's rewards for those who choose to be fragile and offended at every turn of phrase; we have a press eager to read meanings behind any statements and a period of time where it's ok to use certain (now deemed derogatory) terms if you're one of the gang but verboten and insensitive if you're considered an outsider against who points can be scored.

ray | 23 May 2021  

It would be interesting to know who those "European Jesuits" were who "placed dogma above reason" (Michael Furtado, 22/5), and how this manifested itself. In Catholic theology, the revelation explicated in dogma (e.g., the Trinity) is not in contest with reason: it transcends reason in virtue of its divine origin, but is also connected with human reason in virtue of Christ, the eternal Logos enfleshed. It's curious to think that any Jesuit priest - European or other - would not have adhered to and conveyed this common understanding.

John RD | 23 May 2021  

John Warhurst may well present with a tone of moderation, though I'd not say one of Catholic common sense in his ACCCR role, where he appears to be in process of becoming a stalking horse for extremist demands for reform that would protestantise and secularise the Catholic Church, and effectively reduce it to an agency of State.

John RD | 24 May 2021  

John touched the tip of the iceberg with this essay. Sitting here on the left side of my glass house and polishing my pots and kettles, it does look like the language of “the right” trying to pigeonhole those with different views. Listen to Bolt, Jones et al for a while to get the drift. The full PC phrase is “political correctness gone mad”, pushed by Ray’s “thought police”. A generic criticism when the critic can’t think of a reasonable argument in response, it implies that doing the right thing is not altogether sane. “Tree huggers” demeans not only the Greens but anyone concerned enough to be an environmental activist. “Latte sipping inner city types” does the same to people with a more liberal (not Liberal) view of the world, as if their concerns are not as valid as the “real Australians” in the suburbs or other parts of the country more in touch with what “really” matters. ScoMo’s “quiet Australians” are somehow more genuine than those not included in that group (presumably people who make noise). It’s all about ignoring the argument, denying the legitimacy of the person making the argument, and preserving the status quo.

Brett | 24 May 2021  

Anyone with the commonsense, whether Catholic or otherwise, that JohnRD so values, would understand my intention to read as 'dogmatic'. Older Belgian Jesuits, serving as missionaries to the Bengal Province, were ill-equipped to handle cultural transitions from colonial India to an Indigenous Jesuit Province. Since John RD appears not to appreciate the cultural challenges inherent in this, I fear I will have to spell it out for him in ways that may not mollify him. Too old to be retired to what had in their absence become the Jesuits most modernist global Province, boasting the likes of their then Superior General, Jean-Baptiste Janssens and the Belgian Primate, Cardinal Suenens - widely regarded as the 'movimento' behind Vatican II - they were caught between two stools, of Europeans and Anglo-Indians beating a quick retreat from India and Indian clergy, primarily from the Jesuit Province of Goa, taking over. At a time when little attention was paid to the pastoral needs of elderly missionary priests, without proximity to their families and engulfed, like John & Roy often are, by changing cultural norms that they found alien, some were plainly racist, defending Belgian-led atrocities in the Congo that astounded the majority of Indians.

Michael Furtado | 24 May 2021  

If we follow the logic of this article, we should only use words that were invented in Australia (or perhaps just NSW, or perhaps just Sydney, or perhaps just Concord). Maybe we can't avoid using terms invented elsewhere because we are part of a global community.

Marita | 25 May 2021  

Professor Warhurst is correct in saying terms like “virtue signalling” are “often used to condemn someone as being hollow or hypocritical when they show compassion for the vulnerable.” However, the problem is that the extreme-left exploit the “vulnerable” but always dress up their agendas in clothes of compassion and tolerance. The pretentious are attracted by the clothing. Last year, the Victorian government proposed a Covid-19 Bill that allowed arrest without warrant and imprisonment without trial overturning the 800-year-old Magna Carta right of Habeas Corpus. Yet there was hardly a murmur from those who have for decades clothed themselves as champions of human rights. If one is only outraged by the wrongdoing of opponents, the parable of the Mote and the Beam suggests hollowness and hypocrisy. But the moderate Left’s impotency is truly disheartening. The moderates meekly surrendered to the radicals on their Saint Crispin’s day battle in the 1960s. Few of them can boast, “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.” As former editor of the radical magazine “Ramparts”, Sol Stern, put it: “Under assault from Ramparts and the rest of the youthful New Left, these liberals lost their nerve…The liberal failure of nerve that Ramparts helped engender lives on.”

Ross Howard | 25 May 2021  

Gee Whiz, Ross Howard! There's a global pandemic on that cuts its swathe across politics; or hadn't you noticed?

Michael Furtado | 27 May 2021  

"Time to be more careful about using politically charged language". Couldn't agree more, taking it one day at a time - so, yeah no - going forward.

john frawley | 27 May 2021  

Ross, you forgot to mention the Prime Minister's recent thought bubble about charging and gaoling returning travellers. Surely another cause for outrage. Fortunately that particular bubble was pricked very quickly. Oh, sorry, I forgot. That idea came from "the right".

Brett | 27 May 2021  

In terms of age alone, Biden isn’t so old that he can’t run for re-election. Mahathir Mohamad was pushing 93 when he became prime minister a sixth time. But, Biden should take this as his only term and, without fear of blighting his prospects (although he might scuttle those of his party), schedule a televised national roundtable on the question of amending the 2nd Amendment with him, a champion from the National Rifle Association, and the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate at podia and in the searchlight, in front of a panel of impartially chosen citizens to ask questions after the main speeches, and an assisting panel of credentialled experts to provide true technical and statistical information when called upon and without being in the debate. The Amendment is a Gordian Knot but is Biden an Alexander? Are the Democrats and Republicans virtue signallers?

roy chen yee | 28 May 2021  

It gives me a wry smile to see an article about modern language (mis)use and follow up remarks which refer to (ancient, 1215) Magna Carta and Americas Second Ammendment (1791) as if those who penned and ratified those documents could possibly know what the future had in store. Recently, in the case of citizens to be fined or arrested if returning from India it was cited this impinged Magna Carta which guaranteed the citizens right to return home by land or sea; it doesn't say anything about flying. Similarly, the knowledgeable forefathers ratifying the Second Ammendment and citizens right to bear arms could not possibly concieve automatic assult rifles in a time of flintlock muskets and muzzle loading rifles. It will be argued by some (ad nauseam) that the new technology trends must be included as if it was also considered by those revered wise guys but we just can't know. When it suits the appeal we want to be a human, a citizen and then a marginalized minority member. Perhaps the peerage system of yore can be re-introduced such that persons can buy titles of their desired persona and prefix/suffix their name with their chosen classification of self-entitlement. How today's vibe and awareness issues will be interpreted into the future remains to be seen.

ray | 28 May 2021  

Ray: ‘….impinged Magna Carta….could not possibly conceive automatic assault rifles in a time of flintlock muskets and muzzle loading rifles.’ It’s a tricky business as to which ‘human rights’ you want inserted into a locked constitution. The UK has gotten along fine without a locked constitution and any specification of ‘human rights’ and Australia can too. After all, no State Constitution is locked and Queensland did get rid of its Upper House but so what? Life there is as good as anywhere else in the country. There are no human rights, only natural rights, and what those are are for citizens to contest under the sponsorship of their various philosophical organisations in the ordinary realm of changeable political and parliamentary outcomes. Turning fallible men and women on the highest court of the land into philosopher-gods is inherently dangerous, as the burden of what is a faulty interpretation of the 2nd Amendment (another equally viable interpretation being available) shows. But 1776 was a disjunction and schism and schism, like the Reformation, begets more sin. Meanwhile, Canada, a product of conjunctive evolution, similarly to Australia, placidly lives alongside their hyperventilating neighbour. Constitutionalised personal rights are a dangerous virtue signalling.

roy chen yee | 31 May 2021  

Not to perpetuate a stereotype of the kind that 'open-your-mouth-and-put-a-foot-in-it', Mein Herr Prinz Phillip, was prone to make, but last night l'il ole brown-skinned moi had another dream. There, bursting into my post-recitation-of-the-Rosary slumbers was LeRoy, dressed up, to all intents and purposes, as a cross between the Widow Twankee and Lady Bracknell. Magnificent pantomime dame s/he was, expatiating to all and sundry, while pausing only, not for dramatic affect, but to wipe off the mouth-froth: 'If its sin, Ah do declare that Ah'm agin it! And, regardless of source, Ah'll take a gun and shoot it'. Praise God for the Campaign Against Schism that Roy so assiduously conducts in these columns! It may not work, but it sure as Hell entertains.

Michael Furtado | 01 June 2021  

Ahhh, roy... after your suggestion the UK is doing just fine I'd have to rely on the wisdom of Spike Milligan and the Goon show skit "what time is it Eccles?" where Eccles is equipped with a piece of paper with 8 o'clock written on it so he knows what the time is. His logic is he doesn't tell people the time unless it's 8 o'clock but he'll know when it's 8 o'clock because he has it written on a piece of paper. Certain documents are similar, perhaps Constitutions too, probably correct when they were first written but we can't always grasp their purpose or the agenda of those fallible people who concieved it nor its timeliness when it gets dragged out to be waved around. Interesting that you cite Canada's placid similarities to Australia, with the recent exhumation of more than 200 indigenous children at Kamloops school; is it more important to cherish notions of what should be or document carefully what has been? Placid, huh? Still waters run deep...

ray | 01 June 2021  

Ray: ‘Kamloops’ The UK doesn’t have the elaborate constitutionalised protections of China, but neither does it have Xinjiang. Kamloops, Myall Lakes, etc. show that paper is only as effective as the integrity of the flesh for which it was written. Is your right as a nightshift worker to cross the street safely at 3 am in Townsville governed by freedom of movement or by the Aboriginal child driving a stolen car at high speed? What is your pretty ‘human’ rights ‘manifesto’ going to say to protect your limbs from being wrenched from your torso?

roy chen yee | 02 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘It may not work, but it sure as Hell entertains.’ The DNA behind any schismatic urge to walk away from the other is that of the original schism between Lucifer and God. That’s why the Church prefers not to excommunicate (except in self-defence) but to posit the theory that it is schism which excommunicates itself from the main, not the main which excommunicates schism. The history of fallen creation shows that if there is a ‘Campaign against Schism’, it hasn’t worked very well and, no doubt, Hell finds that entertaining, that is, if being entertained means being in the weird psychological situation of enjoying two contradictory sensations. Scripture gives us one example of this weird psychology, that of the thief who enjoyed participating in the jeers against Christ and the Good Thief while simultaneously feeling whatever it is that being crucified makes you feel. The US is independent of Westminster by force, Australia, Canada and others independent of Westminster by the Statute of Westminster. Same end, but by the different means of schism, and a kind of civil and conjunctive or continual revelation.

roy chen yee | 02 June 2021  

Fear not, O Ray of Sunshine, in these dismal days of Roy's white-outing! You hit the proverbial nail in referring to Eccles: its surely where Roy gets his ecclesiology from! And as for the UK being bereft of its Myall Lakes, splendid Roy, ask any historian of Ireland's Pale, the clearances of the Scottish Hi'lands and the British massacre of Sikh women and children at Jallianwala Bagh, to name but a few of them.

Michael Furtado | 03 June 2021  

Oh dear, roy. First up, its not my pretty Human Rights 'manifesto', its everybody's (like it or not). QHRC Section 19 and Int Section 12 purely means that public entities cannot act in a way that would unduly restrict freedom of movement. It does not force governments to do things to promote the freedom of movement or misuse of vehicles. It does not mean public transport should be free and doesn't extend itself to road safety guarantees or personal risk. The rights don't restrict police powers to "move on", arrest or detain suspects. Your 3AM Townsville scenario has more to do with right vehicle ownership security than human rights. Ask yourself: Where are your car keys right now? Second, I am not a proponent for adoption of human rights as an argument for any course of action. I am a firm believer in the old coroner's findings of "Death by Misadventure" instead of the current trend to find someone to blame for a bad outcome. By the way, if your car keys or spares were in a handbag or on a hook in the hallway you're a prime contribution to car theft by juveniles; most are stolen with keys, some by visitors. Go figure...

ray | 03 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘And as for the UK being bereft of its Myall Lakes, splendid Roy, ask any historian of Ireland's Pale, the clearances of the Scottish Hi'lands and the British massacre of Sikh women and children at Jallianwala Bagh, to name but a few of them.’ The question is not whether the UK was ever bereft of a Myall Lakes (because if there should be anyone with a Whig interpretation of history, it should be a progressive – or Progressive - such as you) but why China with its elaborate constitutionalised personal protections is having its Myall Lakes in Xinjiang now, when Chinese academicians and authorities keen to prove China’s uniqueness in the world in its foreign policy battles with others can be taken to know all about Pale, Highlands and Bagh.

roy chen yee | 04 June 2021  

Ray: ‘….QHRC Section 19 and Int Section 12….’ (www.qhrc.qld.gov.au/your-rights/human-rights-law/freedom-of-movement) Why do you need a law which tells people how to suck eggs? It’s always been the common law that unless you are expressly forbidden from doing something, you are free to do it. Section 19 says you are free to do stuff unless you’re not for some good reason. Well, duh. All your reasons not to do things belong in the Crimes Act or some specialised legislation to do with companies, public health, national security or whatever. International Covenant 12 is necessary because not every country has evolved sense and there are some benighted ones out there. ‘Your 3AM Townsville scenario….’ Human rights legislation imposes duties on everybody. If it says you have a right to move freely in safety, it means everybody, Ku Klux Klan, Aboriginal kids on meth, everybody is obliged not to endanger that outcome. Otherwise, why the ‘human right’? ‘I am a firm believer in the old coroner's findings of "Death by Misadventure" instead of the current trend to find someone to blame for a bad outcome.’ If the kid was rich, you wouldn’t sue the parents? Again, normal law probably has that covered.

roy chen yee | 04 June 2021  

roy, I repeat: I am not a proponent for adoption of human rights as an argument for any course of action. UDHR and QHRC are purely reference benchmarks that may be achieved or strived for, they are international and state "Law" but mainly used to argue aspirational issues or conflict with other legal or procedural instruments. The intent is governments have a universally accepted/understood target, the provisions serve as a "yardstick" and point of reference by which countries' or institutions commitments to human rights are judged. I deplore your expression "suck eggs" because it minimizes (most, if not all) the crucial elements of the fabric of society; human rights are infringed every day, everywhere; ipso facto, your notion that "everybody knows that.." is either disproved or the rights significantly ignored such that the Bill is necessary. Having it written down avoids the situation that persons plead ignorance and provides some accountability, where practical. Individuals are not signatory or accountable to human rights laws. I don't see that I need to explain what legal avenues I might take for some hypothetical road incident, irrespective of some imaginary kid's family's financial circumstances...maybe they'll settle out of court?

ray | 05 June 2021  

Ray: ‘UDHR and QHRC are purely reference benchmarks….” What for in the case of QHRC? Do you have laws which say you can ride a bicycle even if you’re over 80? Laws generally are not premised on positive liberty because humans beings have an infinity of behaviours which they may practise, and no state can keep up with what these might be. Any law you know of allowing meat to be eaten on Fridays? A law should exist when the need for one is demonstrated. There is a need to say when there is no freedom of movement, eg., through your state governor’s garden. ‘human rights are infringed every day….’ Well, there are no domestic anti-genocide laws because it’s difficult for one Aussie and a few chums to wipe out an entire ethnic group within Australian boundaries but people being people, sometimes new categories of naughtinesses emerge, so we have laws against slavery so you don’t import your luckless ethnic relative from one of those benighted countries for which a UDHR is necessary do kitchen duty for nothing, or against freelance soldiery overseas because you want to add drama to your pitiful life. Common sense, ‘suck eggs’, same thing.

roy chen yee | 06 June 2021  

roy, your statement "Laws generally are not premised on positive liberty... and no state can keep up with what these might be" reflects my original amusement at Magna Carta and 2nd Ammendment being referenced as valid as if still wholly timely. Both documents were concieved in times of slavery or confinement of freedom(s), race-based reservations and classes of citizenship. Times change, people and attitudes change... since 2018 Saudi women can now drive a car but are still restricted in daily movement choices and can't get a passport or leave the country without male permission. Closer to home, terms of a Federal issued work visa (e.g.: backpacker) may proclude living or working in a CBD for a period but QHRC 19 allows for a person lawfully in the state to live where the person chooses; Commonwealth law prevails. Freedom of movement is dealt with in the Australian Constitution (1901) section 92. Your continued argumentative reliance on "common sense" and "eggs" is shown lacking. Through Constitutional freedom protections in 92 renegade primary producers of fruit, vegetables, eggs and animal products drove across State lines in search of more lucrative and less regulated markets. So why isn't it common sense to get a cheap dishwasher?

ray | 07 June 2021  

Ray: Your continued argumentative reliance on "common sense" and "eggs" is shown lacking.’ For saying ‘Why do you need a law which tells people how to suck eggs? It’s always been the common law that unless you are expressly forbidden from doing something, you are free to do it’? Why are you bringing up Saudi Arabia as an example? There, either antiquated positive law forbids women from doing some things or antiquated unwritten custom does, both of which can be overruled by normal parliamentary law but SA being a different kettle of fish from here, being comprised of backward men (and probably not a few reactionary women), maybe constitutionalised personal protections are needed over there. But, your Section 92 point is? It doesn’t stop the Victorian Government from setting up a customs post between Melbourne and Geelong to make Geelong-manufactured dishwashers more expensive in Melbourne. State boundaries are not the only lines in the sand people cross every day.

roy chen yee | 08 June 2021  

roy, I think you misunderstand the concept of "suck eggs" ; it is equally antique from the 1700's "teaching your grandmother to suck eggs". It doesn't mean common sense... it is describing the hubris of a novice telling an expert something (trivial?) they already know better than the novice; it implies insulting the intelligence. The raison d'etre of government is to provide security within its territories and maintain a relationship with other governments which should be best achieved by commonality of ideals both within and external. It becomes imperative that people adhere to laws and equally that these laws are clearly understood by everybody. Societies aren't wholly comprised of knowledgeable grandmas; would you equally dismiss Moses at Sinai coming back with the Commandments as a waste of time "...oh, everbody knows that!"?Apparently, even God is a proponent for making laws in stone; equally apparent is people disregard laws. Why I referred to 92 of the Constitution is that in 1901 the state trade and person movement protections were then achieved by each state rail system was different gauges, bulk road freight was not even conceivable, no trucks. Times change, laws may not...despite being needed. That'll do, roy, that'll do.

ray | 09 June 2021  

Ray: 'That'll do....' If you say so, but it ain't so. PS: The Ten Commandments have a negative effect, unlike QHRC 19.

roy chen yee | 10 June 2021  

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