Free speech, racial intolerance and the right to offend: Bolt before the court
In Eatock v Bolt,1 decided on September 28 2011, the (in)famous conservative commentator Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (the ‘RDA’) in publishing two articles in 2009.2 In the articles, Bolt discussed the self identification of certain ‘fair-skinned’ Aboriginal people as Indigenous people. He used sarcastic language, and commented that many of them had furthered their careers in identifying as Aboriginal people. For example, the subtitle to the second article was: ‘What’s an Aboriginal artist from the bush to think when he or she sees yet another white man lope off with a prize originally meant to inspire blacks’? He labelled one person ‘a professional Aborigine’. Many of his factual assertions, for example regarding the heritage of the named people and the time at which they began identifying as Aboriginal, were wrong. He did not contact any of the named persons prior to writing about them. He queried why the named persons did not publicly and simultaneously identify with other parts of their ethnic heritage. In conclusion, he suggested that the self identification of such people only as Indigenous impacted detrimentally on racial cohesion in Australia.