Bolt breached discrimination act, judge rules

Updated September 29, 2011 11:05:29

Columnist and political commentator Andrew Bolt breached the Racial Discrimination Act over two articles he wrote in 2009, a judge has ruled.

Bolt was being sued in the Federal Court by nine Aboriginal people including former ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark, academic Professor Larissa Behrendt, activist Pat Eatock, photographer Bindi Cole, author Anita Heiss, health worker Leeanne Enoch, native title expert Graham Atkinson, academic Wayne Atkinson, and lawyer Mark McMillan.

They alleged two articles written by Bolt for his employer, the Herald and Weekly Times, implied light-skinned people who identified as Aboriginal did so for personal gain.

The articles were headlined "It's so hip to be black" and "White fellas in the black".

Bolt's lawyer, Neil Young, had argued the articles represented his client's genuinely held views on matters of public interest.

Audio: Andrew Bolt breached discrimination act (The World Today)

Bolt argued his articles were fair and were within the laws of free speech provisions.

But barrister Ron Merkel SC, appearing for the applicants, said the articles took a "eugenics approach" that was frozen in history.

Today Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg found Bolt had breached the act because the articles were not written in good faith and contained factual errors.

He set out to offend from the word go and in fact he acknowledged that in his evidence.

Activist Pat Eatock

He said the articles would have offended a reasonable member of the Aboriginal community.

Speaking outside court, Bolt described the verdict as "a terrible day for free speech in this country".

"It is particularly a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves," he said.

"I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings."

The Herald and Weekly Times says it is disappointed with the decision.

In a statement the company says it will review the judgment before deciding whether or not to lodge an appeal.

But there was jubilation inside the court as the decision was handed down.

Chief plaintiff Ms Eatock said she was not holding out hope of an apology from Mr Bolt.

"I will never get an apology from Mr Bolt. He made that clear giving his evidence earlier in the year," she said outside court.

"But we will, I hope, get some sort of acknowledgment through the press that what he wrote was just unacceptable, totally unacceptable. He set out to offend from the word go and in fact he acknowledged that in his evidence."

After the verdict, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned against restricting "the sacred principle of free speech".

"Free speech means the right of people to say what you don't like, not just the right of people to say what you do like," he said.


Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, community-and-society, discrimination, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, aboriginal, print-media, information-and-communication, australia, vic, melbourne-3000, darwin-0800

First posted September 28, 2011 10:47:27

Comments (153)

Comments for this story are closed.

  • ABC (Moderator):

    28 Sep 2011 11:52:47am

    Should Australians have a constitutional right to freedom of speech?

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    • Frog in the dunny:

      28 Sep 2011 12:15:38pm

      A Bill of Rights and Responsibilities would go a long way. I hope it would induce poisonous ranters like Bolt to leave the country. I also hope he has earned some gaol time for this any many other transgressions.

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      • Clownfish:

        28 Sep 2011 12:46:40pm

        So, freedom of speech, so long as it agrees with *your* prejudices?

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    • the yank:

      28 Sep 2011 12:19:23pm

      I am not sure it would make much difference. It seems to me that Australians do enjoy that freedom without it being written into a Bill of rights like the USA.

      But if people do feel strongly about the issue they should force their leaders to take notice.

      As for Bolt he seems to have set out to offend a section of the community. Now I can understand that one could argue that should be his right but it surely is a dastardly thing to do.

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    • rumpole2:

      28 Sep 2011 12:19:44pm

      "Should Australians have a constitutional right to freedom of speech?"

      Not if that involves telling lies or spreading hate.

      In Bolt's case he probably did a bit of both, and massively over-generalised
      but I don't think the majority of people are all that interested in what he says, so the damage he did was minimal.

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    • scott:

      28 Sep 2011 12:23:30pm

      Yes, but that does not include the right to make racist comments, ever. Bolt has been found out in a court of law; he has made other eugenics-based comments before however he has been held to account this time.

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    • Brad:

      28 Sep 2011 12:25:02pm

      Not at all surprising, this is what the left do best - restricting discussion, stifling free speech, and squashing dissent. It worked so well behind the iron curtain for 60 years, why not force it upon the west as well?

      I expect the Greens are now preparing their taxpayer funded QCs for a lawsuit against The Australian for daring to question their pie-in-the-sky policies. The proles will learn their place!

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    • Trump:

      28 Sep 2011 12:25:56pm

      Absolutely they should, this is madness.

      This should be appealed vigorously otherwise no one will be able to speak their mind.

      I'm sick to death of this nanny state mentality, and in Bolte's case I think it's been exacerbated by political motivation, stifling freedom of speech using the weakest of reasons.

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    • kali:

      28 Sep 2011 12:28:01pm

      We already have free speech in this country. People (including me and lots of others) exercise it every day here on the Drum and in other places.

      What the Judge found was that Bolt's artilces contained errors and were not written in "good faith" by which I assume he means were designed to offend rather than enlighten.

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    • David T:

      28 Sep 2011 12:28:36pm

      Andrew Bolt apparently didn't think so

      ""a Bill of Rights is actually a bid for power by an unelected elite that has about exactly enough of it right now"" Andrew Bolt Herald Sun online, 5th September, 2007

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    • smithe:

      28 Sep 2011 12:45:18pm

      Should we have a Constitutional right to free speech?


      But "free speech" should never include the unfettered right to vilify or denigrate people on the grounds of their race, sex, sexuality or religious beliefs, which seems to be a bit of a Bolt speciality.

      It's 'freedom of speech', not 'freedom of vilification' that belongs in the Constitution.

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    • Jarrad:

      28 Sep 2011 12:49:25pm

      where does freedom of speech end and freedom of propaganda begin? how about freedom of hate-mongering (i agree with the court's decision, but also acknowledge that a broad reaching freedom of speech law could allow far more offensive content than what Bolt excretes)? it's an interesting question.

      On a happier note, well done to the ABC on presenting summary judgements (and other documents in other articles) in these sorts of stories. A great use of the opportunities the medium of the Internet provides. :)

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    • Lev Lafayette:

      28 Sep 2011 12:52:40pm

      Yes, Australians (and everyone else) should have the right to free speech.

      But they do not have the right of immunity from prosecution when they vilify, when they defame individuals and groups, and when they cause damages by factual errors.

      The right to free speech means that one has responsibility for that speech.

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  • The Claw:

    28 Sep 2011 11:58:09am

    Couldn't happen to a nicer bloke. Please excuse me while I brew up a nice steaming mug of schadenfreude.

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  • Que:

    28 Sep 2011 12:00:23pm

    I feel sorry for Andrew. His comments seemed reasonable to me and he has been attacked by the mass hysteria of the left. I guess they will be toasting to their success while many others lament the fall of this once great country.

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    • Jay:

      28 Sep 2011 12:18:40pm

      How does this cause, and in what way has this great country fallen? Nice use of hyberbole, but unless you can back such a statement with hard facts it's simple drama.

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    • genfie:

      28 Sep 2011 12:20:56pm

      His comments were not reasonable; they were disgusting. And the right of free speech does not give you the right to peddle blatant falsehoods about people for the sole purpose of denigrating them. It's about time Bolt got a slapdown for his behaviour.

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    • Chris:

      28 Sep 2011 12:23:17pm

      Have ever tuned into his "show" on channel ten?

      Andrew Bolt is a disgrace to reporting. As a reporter you are meant to report the truth, facts and display little to no bias. While we all have bias, his unjustifiable labeling of this government is atrocious.

      If it isn't his way it is no way, you can see this quite clearly with the interviews he has on the "Bolt Report".

      No one should be able to question a persons information simple for humiliation purpose.

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    • Evad:

      28 Sep 2011 12:27:19pm

      Spoken like a true Bolt-ite...

      Bolt was found guilty by our judicial system... not by anyone else, and equating that to "the fall of a once great country" is just zealot hyperbole.

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    • Nina:

      28 Sep 2011 12:35:14pm

      Oh boo hoo, a loud-mouthed "journalist" was called out for his offensive suggestions and accusations and all of a sudden Australia is dissolving. Bolt and his supporters should get over themselves and stop being so grandiose about what is essentially a bully being held accountable for his words.

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    • Neil:

      28 Sep 2011 12:36:24pm

      Rights are intrinsically linked to responsibilities - you can't have one without the other, even though many people believe so. Just as we have a right to freedom of speech, we also have a responsibility to be accountable for what we say. A journalist wields additional powers: they are paid to inform the public of the facts, while of course being able to inject their opinion into what they write. But when they are factually incorrect, as Mr Bolt was in this case, they are accountable for that, just as politicians are (or at least should be) when they sprout misleading and inaccurate information for their own good. This is not a "Left vs Right" issue, although I'm sure that Bolt's alignment will ensure that those of the "Right" will see this as an attack on them. It is a mater of common decency. This country has not fallen, as you say. Its just that things have changed around the world - if you can't adjust to that, it is your issue, not something you can blame on politics or anything else. But that's just my opinion - I can say that in this country, and I take responsibility for it too. Perhaps you should do the same.

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    • David:

      28 Sep 2011 12:37:16pm

      The Claw certainly is.
      If someone disagrees with his comments they should argue that. To sue because they are offended is truley disapointing. So what if you are offended? This court case offends me. Can I now take a court case against thoes who initiated this action and the judge? Their writing was carefully consider and deemed offensive to me. Their actions even more so. Freedom of speach should be paramount in a free society.

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    • Solartations:

      28 Sep 2011 12:43:56pm

      I for one herald the part restoration of this "great country" with the verdict which
      addresses what has been a general malaise in the objective reporting of
      mainstream media. Mr Bolt has been found to be unreasonable by the Federal court
      and whilst you are entitled to your opinion Que you are wrong about Mr Bolt's comments
      which are discriminatory and more so plainly wrong! Furthermore I suggest that it is not so
      much the left that is celebrating but Aboriginal people who have been the target for much
      discrimination and abuse at the hands of people like Mr Bolt!

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  • ng:

    28 Sep 2011 12:02:33pm

    Finally. I've had enough of the lies and trash spewed by Bolt and those like him.

    Freedom of any sort is a responsibilty, when you use it attack innocent people then you must have it witheld from you until you learn.

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    • Hermit:

      28 Sep 2011 12:22:02pm

      Lies? What finding was made about any lies? Tell us more!

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    • hannah:

      28 Sep 2011 12:23:31pm

      Interesting, you have the freedom of speech to call Andrew Bolt a liar!
      Maybe he should sue you!

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    • JohnM:

      28 Sep 2011 12:35:15pm

      It was not a question of the people's "innocence".

      I think it was about them being miffed by his questioning of favours seemingly granted to them on the basis of some disadvantage when it seemed that they were not disadvantaged at all. White skinned aboriginals who are highly educated ... what's their disadvantage, compared to a dark skinned poorly-educated aboriginal?

      Or don't you think we should be asking questions like this?

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    • Chris:

      28 Sep 2011 12:46:02pm

      Thinkign like yours results in ioppression. Bolts conviction shows the LAW is wrong.

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    • spud:

      28 Sep 2011 12:46:53pm

      "...when you use it attack innocent people then you must have it witheld from you until you learn."

      With that, I expect you will call on the ABC to immediately cease publishing anything that refers to those who don't follow climate orthodoxy "deniers" or who want border protection "racists" or who think this vilification issue is overdone as "stupid" or "rednecks", or who accuse Bolt et al of spewing "lies and trash"... Oh wait half a mo... Oh yes, I see your point. It is OK for some to make all sorts of grossly offensive and defamatory statements, but not others...

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    • Anna:

      28 Sep 2011 12:48:42pm

      These people could claim that they are Chinese, British or Mongolian with the same success if this would suit them, whatever else blood they have. I do not see that Andrew is lying. But the situation with the freedom of speech in Australia reminds me very much beginning of the Stalin's Era in the Soviet Union. Very scary.

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  • jester:

    28 Sep 2011 12:03:03pm

    oh dear

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  • Johno:

    28 Sep 2011 12:03:44pm

    Give the Judge a medal.

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  • David:

    28 Sep 2011 12:03:45pm

    So it's official - Bolt is a racist. Proof positive of karma - you eventually get back what you deserve.

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    • Chris:

      28 Sep 2011 12:47:10pm

      Its now official: Australian law suppresses legitimate speech questioning the distribution of privilege in our society.

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    • Le blogeur gai:

      28 Sep 2011 12:53:15pm

      Amen to that!

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  • Tim:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:07pm

    Great, now we can all rejoice that people who say things we don't like are silenced. And then we can all get really angry when they use the same laws to silence us when we say something about them. Laws to silence dissenting views in an attempt to change society never work for one very good reason; How can you convince someone that your way is better if you can't talk to them. One more thing, the backlash on this will be totally counter productive to the cause of the complianants.

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    • Stuffed Olive:

      28 Sep 2011 12:51:06pm

      You are wrong on all your points. No one has the right to write and publish slanderous lies about anyone and expect to get away with it.

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    • kazann:

      28 Sep 2011 12:52:45pm

      Was it really just a matter of saying something some people didn't like. He could have written a similar article about how and why some people chose to identify with their Aboriginality. Instead he wrote an article, with many proven factual errors, about specific individuals. Maybe he should have been more responsible and checked his facts before he attempted to name and shame. Surely, he in his chosen profession, knows the risks he takes when he writes articles such as this one. Surely he knew there are in place that allow individuals the right to seek justice when there have been factually inaccurate lies or distortions printed about them.

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  • BlackAndWhite:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:11pm

    Ok to call someone a coconut or Migaloo but when it goes to something else, it's in court. We need to all get over name-calling.

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    • Luke:

      28 Sep 2011 12:49:46pm

      It wouldn't be name-calling to label Bolt a convicted racist though. Just a statement of court-proven fact.

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  • Robert:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:14pm

    There is free speech, and there is then the responsibility not to hurt or incite hatred within the community. Noone doubts Bolt's right to express his views, but his are sometimes mis-informed, exagerrated and vicious. He comes from a far right conservative perspective. He needs to show and take responsibility.

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  • Boiled Frog:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:29pm

    Oh Hoorah! Hooray! Cheers all round.

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  • Michael Bird:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:34pm

    Serves him right! Andrew Bolt is a rabid right winger preaching hate and fear and has been getting away with it for too long. And as for Tony Abbott's comments, shame shame shame.

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    • magoo:

      28 Sep 2011 12:43:11pm

      In this case, Andrew Bolt was definitely a white winger. Many on the right would not share his views.

      It does raise the interesting point as mentioned also above; how white can you be and still identify with your indigenous origins? I have certainly known blonde fair skinned and blue-eyed students who were supported by Aboriginal Scholarship Schemes. Some said they were 1/16th aboriginal, others admitted they were second generation immigrants from Italy.

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  • PaulG:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:38pm

    Hooray for free speech in this country. My opinion is that Mr Bolt is conservative racist bigot.

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  • Scotty:

    28 Sep 2011 12:04:55pm

    The day policital correctness and sensitivities defeat freedom of thought and speach, is the day AUstralia ceases to be the best place to live on the planet....

    We may just have arrived.....

    The judiciary in this country appear to do the exact opposite to what the community expects... Perhaps there lay the problem.

    Andrew Bolt may or may not be a goose, but I enjoy his right to say what is on his mind...

    Vale Free Speach, here come the thought police..

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    • scott:

      28 Sep 2011 12:28:14pm

      No, vale unthinking bigotry and disguised fascism, hello Andrew Bolt being held reponsible for what he says.

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    • Nina:

      28 Sep 2011 12:37:11pm

      So he has to apologise to them, big deal. How is that the end of the line for Australia?

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    • Stuffed Olive:

      28 Sep 2011 12:53:34pm

      It does not include the right to write lies about people.

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  • A.J. Smith:

    28 Sep 2011 12:05:53pm

    Well, well Andrew. Seems as though your lazy, sensationalist style of journalism has been laid bare before the public with all to see.

    You have been caught clearly with your Google gathering method of getting info for stories and not talking to those who you are writing about.

    Error ridden, slanted and nothing more than thinly veiled commentry on indigenous Australians.

    Sometimes the courts do come out with some gems that address issues of public interest!

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  • Chipsteroo:

    28 Sep 2011 12:06:15pm

    These corrupt judges should be jailed.

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    • Marrow Master:

      28 Sep 2011 12:36:55pm


      Pronouns - We will keep on hearing about this issue:

      Who are These Corrupt Judges? Names would be useful.

      You cannot be talking about the decision in the article - there was only one judge there.

      I do not like your chances - I suspect such a hearing would be held before a judge. And the Court
      would also ensure your action if filed in accordance with their protocols before the action appears
      on anybody's docket.

      Then again - which ACT and what are the penalties?

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    • Jim:

      28 Sep 2011 12:52:02pm

      On what charge? Judges don't make the law. Parliament makes the law, courts enforce it.

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  • Fred:

    28 Sep 2011 12:06:46pm

    What a joke. Nobody has the right not to be offended.

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    • scott:

      28 Sep 2011 12:30:26pm

      No. But they have the right to take action against prejudice and fascism.

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  • Antonia:

    28 Sep 2011 12:06:51pm

    This is a very sad day for free speech in Australia. I agree with everything Bolt wrote. That aboriginal people live in totally disfunctional 'communities' while white urban aborigines enjoy the perks of being indigenous is disgraceful. Fair enough to identify as indigenous, but it shouldn't be profitable and clearly it is. One of my grandsons has translucent white skin and blue eyes yet technically could have been classed as indigenous if his mother had decided to tick the box. She didn't.

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    • Scott B:

      28 Sep 2011 12:44:46pm

      By condoning his racist views, you have proved yourself to be equally if not more offensive. Bolt deserves to have the book thrown at him, and those who agree with his myopic views do not deserve the right of response. There is free speech and there is inciting hatred under the guise of free speech. Bolt claims the former whilst practicing the latter.

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    • The Realist of Erskineville:

      28 Sep 2011 12:53:14pm

      Excuse me? What are you on about? Read the relevant parts of the Racial Discrimination Act, the judgement & the bio's of the litigants and you immediately notice - if you have any sense of the law let alone objective and factual reporting (opinion?) - that Bolt was always out on a limb. Pandering opinion pieces to an audience that isn't at all interested in fact but just require justification for their own prejudices is what's ruining objective argument in Australia, not the law.

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  • Chookman:

    28 Sep 2011 12:07:35pm

    Interesting perspective from Tony Abbott - there is a difference between free speech and defamation. Some members of the fourth estate have been actively trying to create the agenda as opposed to reporting it.

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    • JohnM:

      28 Sep 2011 12:38:34pm

      It wasn't defamation.

      It was people being upset by what someone wrote.

      If this judgement is consistently applied, Bolt could sue a whole bunch of posters to this forum and he'd win. Lucky for these people he's not so small minded.

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  • Liam:

    28 Sep 2011 12:07:50pm

    Much more frightening than Bolt's views are the comments by Tony Abbott - as the potential future leader of this country, his comments do not reflect his opinion about free speach but his support for people like Bolt who have such racist views.

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  • bolted:

    28 Sep 2011 12:08:01pm

    Glad to see the judge making the right finding, Bolt knew full well what an inflammatory piece of crass journalism he was engaging in. For a person who is supposed to write truth he deliberately wrote false information to suit his less than positive agenda. If people identify with a certain worldview i.e. in this case people of aboriginal descent and who are members of a group who follow that worldview then they should not be classified upon an appearance just as bolt himself the son of Dutch immigrants would choose to identify himself with being of Dutch ancestors but not required to wear clogs. its high time there were less false commentators in the newspapers and more factual reporting which could allow the public to weigh up information and make their own decisions rathe rather being served up agenda based journo dribble.

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    • AntiChrist:

      28 Sep 2011 12:47:12pm

      I agree, as you say, that the public should be able to make their own decisions. They can read Bolt's articles and decide that they are crap, if they are so inclined. What they don't need is some judge telling them what they are allowed to read. This was a poor verdict, and a blow to the cause of free speech. As Orwell remarked, the only free speech that matters is the free speech that offends.

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  • Round Objects:

    28 Sep 2011 12:08:08pm

    Breached the act but wrote the truth?

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    • Nick:

      28 Sep 2011 12:35:43pm

      Actually, didn't write the truth and that's why he got pinged. Read the judge's ruling.

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    • CL:

      28 Sep 2011 12:53:27pm

      no not really

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  • David T:

    28 Sep 2011 12:11:16pm

    On the 5th September, 2007 Andrew Bolt said this "a Bill of Rights is actually a bid for power by an unelected elite that has about exactly enough of it right now"

    Funny a Bill of Rights would have given him not guilty status, funny how he opposed the very thing that he's been claiming in this trail, No remorse whatsoever Bolt you got what you deserved.

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  • Mike H:

    28 Sep 2011 12:11:56pm

    "Freedom of Speech" is trotted out by the likes of Abbott and Bolt when they want to put out factually incorrect and unsupportable propaganda.

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  • proper gander:

    28 Sep 2011 12:11:59pm

    Of more interest is Abbott's dog whistling comment quoted in the article!! Rather than show some leadership on how important it is to treat people with respect, how journalists have a responsibility to educate and get their facts right, and how making racist remarks demeans us as a nation, Abbott reminds us about free speech - even the bigots can then be affirmed by the decision.

    Of course, Bolt sails very close to the wind on these issues; his usual fine judgement on these matters slipped on this occasion, an a little schadenfreude certainly helps the day look brighter!!

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  • Reformed Messiah :

    28 Sep 2011 12:12:12pm

    My inlaws love this bloke. They are in their 60s and are functionally illiterate. They refuse to listen when I tell them that a judge has described him as "at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless". They are racist, they don't care, he tells them what they want to hear.
    To me at least the media inquiry should look at banning people found guilty of such offenses from ever being published, in print or electronically. It would clean a lot of miss/diss-information from our media and leave Australians better off for it.

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    • Kaffeeklatch:

      28 Sep 2011 12:33:54pm

      So you are all for censorship then?

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  • Clownfish:

    28 Sep 2011 12:12:28pm

    So it's official - there is no freedom of speech in Australia.

    Goodness me, someone might be 'offended'? How terrible.

    This outcome is a disgrace.

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    • MikeS:

      28 Sep 2011 12:49:13pm

      We have heaps of freedom of speech, what do you think you are doing?! But freedom to vilify? We don't need that and it's nice to see the legal system can deal with it, even if it is slow and inefficient.

      If you don't like our Australian laws, move onto some other country. We don't need people who want to be unAustralian.

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  • grumpy:

    28 Sep 2011 12:12:48pm

    A poor decision which will, hopefully, be overturned on appeal. Free speech is one of the foundations of our democratic society.

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    • scott:

      28 Sep 2011 12:26:59pm

      Which includes the right to take action when someone says something unreasonable, as Bolt did.

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    • Stevo:

      28 Sep 2011 12:29:08pm

      Grumpy, another foundation is the right not to be slandered in the press.

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    • Marrow Master:

      28 Sep 2011 12:40:45pm


      Definition please - What is Free Speech:?

      Overturning a case on appeal? This may not be possible. One usually has to demonstrate that the Judge
      made an error in LAW.

      And of course there is the Natural Justice Issue - is it fair to have a Judge reviewing the work of a Judge?
      As appeals are frequent is guess this has been address many decades ago.

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    • Neil:

      28 Sep 2011 12:40:50pm

      Free speech is one of the OUTCOMES of a democratic country. The foundations are things like respect, community spirit, acceptance of responsibility, a shared desire for a greater good, and a tacit agreement to abide by the rules of the Nation. Free speech is a privilege enjoyed by this country, often without acknowledgement of the requirement to continually earn the right to have it. I don't agree with the majority of Bolt's viewpoints, but he is entitled to them and I respect that. In this case he went too far and that's that. The publicity will only serve to strengthen his following amongst those who already like him, so there's no need to feel too sorry for him.

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    • Chris:

      28 Sep 2011 12:49:16pm

      Free speech is a right only when attacking the unpopular.

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  • lake57:

    28 Sep 2011 12:13:03pm

    How to avoid sounding too pleased is the biggest difficulty posting on this topic.

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  • jo:

    28 Sep 2011 12:13:07pm

    Should Australians have a constitutional right to freedom of speech? Put it this way, if you don't love it, leave it - if you don't like the way an Australian court treats Andrew Bolt you can always move to America. Best of luck with that. This is Australia, this is how we do things in Australia, if you don't like it too bad. Andrew Bolt is guilty, the AUSTRALIAN legal system has found him to be so, I support the AUSTRALIAN legal system and its findings.

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  • Fat Andy:

    28 Sep 2011 12:13:08pm

    Rights come with responsibilities, Bolt you big baby. Abbott seems to have the Australian constitution confused with the USA constitution, which is hardly surprising when you see the rabid Tea Party style politics he has been indulging in recently.

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  • KB:

    28 Sep 2011 12:13:54pm


    "Freedom of any sort is a responsibility" - Wong. Freedom is a right.

    As for your use of the word "attack", that can only be described as a gross overstatement.

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  • Davo67:

    28 Sep 2011 12:13:56pm

    Aboriginal people are quite capable of determining who is and who is not Aboriginal within the Aboriginal community. This is a sad day for right wing social commentators who believe free speech gives you the right to insult people. They'll claim it's political correctness gone crazy when they can't discriminate against an easy target. A slap on the wrist while News Limited turns a blind eye is coming your way Mr Bolt.

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  • LM:

    28 Sep 2011 12:14:58pm

    I to believe some people claim the thin line to aboriginality when they believe it will provide some benefit that would not be available to them otherwise.

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  • MJ:

    28 Sep 2011 12:15:12pm

    I'm Indigenous and to be perfectly honest who cares what one member of our society writes in a news paper.

    Columnists these days are paid to be controversial so they create contraversy.

    Yes I'm offended by it and I also believe that Mr Bolt wrote the article in bad faith.

    So what.

    The right to say what you feel or think is just as sacred in my opinion.

    People dont have to read it or agree with it.

    If he broke the law then he needs to pay his debt to society in whatever manner the court deems correct.

    But to be perfectly honest political correctness prevents much needed discussion by all parties about our social problems.

    We could all be a little more tolerant and respect each others views or just simply let people believe what they like, that is the beauty of the freedom of this country.

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  • Ben:

    28 Sep 2011 12:15:16pm

    Good! Bolt is a complete idiot, he premotes all the bad aspects of humanity.
    Just a plain Dooshbag to be honest.

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  • Matt:

    28 Sep 2011 12:16:11pm

    So he gets the sack now, and we all move on. The World will be a better place.

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    • Que:

      28 Sep 2011 12:46:13pm

      Yes, you wouldn't want free speech would you.

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  • Malcolm:

    28 Sep 2011 12:16:22pm

    Tony Abbott & Andrew Bolt are wrong about free speech, free speech is the right to say what you think with honesty, it is not the right to say or print untruths, misrepresentatations or plain lies. Always easy for the rich and powerful in our society to protect themselves, not so easy the common human being. Time the press and media in Australia are held to account for their honesty and ethics - its not about their opinions or political bias, they are free to have those providing they are honest and up front.

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  • The lone gunmen:

    28 Sep 2011 12:17:14pm

    Another nail in the coffin of free speech in this country. This will emboldened the PM and the Greens to advocate further censorship.

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  • Dave of Bathurst:

    28 Sep 2011 12:18:15pm

    I have read and re-read Mr Bolt's articles that were in question and I cannot for the life of me see anything wrong in what he said. I believe the whole thing is an attempt by the left to be able to label him "racist", now with the backing of the courts. However this will backfire as his popularity will skyrocket as many agree with him.

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  • Michael:

    28 Sep 2011 12:19:37pm

    Best news I've heard in a long time.

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  • timely:

    28 Sep 2011 12:19:37pm

    Australians have a right to be treated justly. It does not need a constitutional sanction for this right. Bolt should have checked his facts before publishing the same. On the flip side it seems ironic that those calling for Bolt's head have often been the loudest proponents of "free speech" or "artistic expression". It is a pity that we don't have a constitutional obligation to be consistent.

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  • Jay:

    28 Sep 2011 12:20:54pm

    Freedom of speech does not constitute freedom to proliferate lies.

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  • Stevo:

    28 Sep 2011 12:21:07pm

    I was talking to African American friend the other day. He told me that Australia is "about 20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to racial vilification and discrimination". It is my opinion that Bolt's article is a classic reinforcement of this. When will we learn that we have to stop judging people by the colour of their skin! The fact he expresses no remorse is an indicator that we still have a long way to go. In fact, wasn't it the 'light skinned' Aboriginal people who suffered most at the hands of the policies leading to the stolen generation and the intergenerational trauma that resulted? No surprises either, that Abbott doesn't have the compassion to see it for what it is.

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  • doug of reality :

    28 Sep 2011 12:21:30pm

    Que You may think Bolt's comments were reasonable but a court of law disagreed.

    A case was made evidence presented by both sides and a judgment made. That is how the law works in a free and open democracy.

    In Australia you are innocent untill proven guilty of a crime Andrew Bolt has been found guilty of a crime.

    It is not an attack by the mass hysteria of the left, it is a court of law as formed by the laws of our democracy.

    Our country is great because we follow the law and democratic process and are not ruled by gangs or mobs demanding rough justice.

    Andrew broke the laws of this country, he is guilty.

    A democracy has rights and responsibilities.
    We have the right to free speech, but we do not have the responsibility not to publicly insult others.

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  • Kerry:

    28 Sep 2011 12:23:11pm

    The court decision re Andrew Bolt is the correct one. The court decision was never about assessing "free speech". Tony Abbott has not understood this. Nor has Andrew Bolt.

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  • kincuri:

    28 Sep 2011 12:23:15pm

    "Free speech means the right of people to say what you don't like, not just the right of people to say what you do like,"

    Yes, Tony, to a point.

    I think everyone would agree that freedom of speech is a basic human right, however, we would also agree that freedom from discrimination is also a basic human right.

    These two agreements overlap one another to a degree, so a line must be drawn at some point between what is okay to say publicly, and what is inappropriate in the eyes of society.

    Bolt crossed this line and made a ridiculous, racially based, and unfounded accusation and the court is absolutely justified in its findings.

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  • QQQ:

    28 Sep 2011 12:23:35pm

    This was not about the mere penalising of free expression of opinion, this was more - penalising "factual errors" or lies presented as truth. These were actual errors or lies that slurred an ethnic minority no less. If such action is illegal, then I am glad.

    Considering the ruling was made on the understanding Bolt was spreading falsehoods, I believe it was the correct decision.

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  • tshandy:

    28 Sep 2011 12:23:46pm

    I'm sure that Mr Bolt, as a firm supporter of the rule of law, has now learned the error of his ways. Doubtless this will make him a changed man. I'm looking forward to the new Andrew Bolt.

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  • Trev:

    28 Sep 2011 12:24:50pm

    As much as I rank Bolt as a shock jock in print and largely a man completely devoid of principles due to his attack dog style, this is a travesty. What he wrote was 100% correct and his urging for everyone to be treated the same is the cornerstone of how this country should progress. People wanting to be treated differently should get over themselves.

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  • Logical:

    28 Sep 2011 12:25:02pm

    There are some serious questions about the skewing of the meaning of `discrimination' by the Federal Court. This is a travesty of justice and it won't be the end of the matter. Bolt is a breath of fresh air in what is otherwise a very `thick' atmosphere of political correctness.

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  • Justn Fair:

    28 Sep 2011 12:25:04pm

    It is about time this hate machine was identified for what he is.

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  • Ken:

    28 Sep 2011 12:25:56pm

    What absolute tripe. Another victory for political correctness over common sense.

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  • Garry:

    28 Sep 2011 12:26:37pm

    I just read the article and he isnt saying anything most Australians think and know to be the truth. Unfortunately we are now over sensitive to this hype and fear grips most people from saying what thyey think out loud. I say if the show fits- wear it and dont whinge. Those he talks about made their choice. They need to face whatever comes - good or bad.

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  • Grizzle:

    28 Sep 2011 12:26:43pm

    We do have freedon of speech. The dumb thing is that Bolt could have said what he said and chosen less inciting language and it would have never been an issue (a legal issue). As my mum said - not what you say but how you say it!! Be less provocative Mr Bolt and you might be taken seriously (sell less papers though)

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  • classer:

    28 Sep 2011 12:27:39pm

    'Political correcness' as a worthwhile value simply means that, when we put forward an opinion that is justified to hold, we do so with politeness and in a spirit of generosity. That is a 'sacred right' for the opinion holder and the object of his/her criticism.

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  • CY:

    28 Sep 2011 12:28:10pm

    A big win for the politically correct and a huge loss for free speech. I guess that next on the agenda will be a bit of public book burning quickly followed by a mass rally or two...

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  • scipd:

    28 Sep 2011 12:28:58pm

    ...political correctness or not - Bolt likes being the victim and that's what bullies are... all that has happened is that the bully has on this minuscule occasion been held to account and punished. I note the wry smile on his face. He will not change his polluting ways.

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  • Ken:

    28 Sep 2011 12:29:16pm

    To answer the question posed, we should have a constitutional right to free speech, just as we should have the right to bear arms, but don't hold your breath waiting for either. Bad law like the racial discrimination act and its state equivalents are effectively a gag, applied by a nanny state.

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  • Geeg63:

    28 Sep 2011 12:29:40pm

    No right to free speech to come at the expense of our society's right to be free from discriminatory or defamatory opinions. It infuriates me when people suggest that the right to free speech takes precedence over simple respect.

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  • JohnM:

    28 Sep 2011 12:29:43pm

    I don't know about you but I am "offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed" in this judgement.

    It is a sad day for free speech. No longer can one criticise anyone because you might upset them. Nor apparently can one make any mistakes about facts whatsoever.

    Mordecai Bromberg has a lot to answer for.

    And I don't care if this comment makes him feel "offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated" because apparently he doesn't care about free discussion in Australian society.

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  • Greg:

    28 Sep 2011 12:30:06pm

    The question is inflammatory and irrelevant to the issue at hand. Everyone knows that such "rights" are not absolute, and should not be. Lines will always have to be drawn. I'm more interested that the great champion of free speech apparently found it necessary to mislead the court as he tried to wriggle out of responsibility for what he had done -- or at least that is how I read Anita Heiss's point about how and when he accessed her mother's photograph. And "Que", he has not been "attacked by the mass hysteria of the left." He was sued by certain individuals who felt they had been vilified, and his case was decided in court. Due process has been followed. I doubt that he will be much punished, but he thoroughly deserves his humiliation.

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  • Anon:

    28 Sep 2011 12:31:21pm

    If people were less ignorant, 'Journalists' like Bolt wouldn't survive and we wouldn't have this problem. Society can be self regulating in this sense and then people's freedom wont feel infringed every time one of these issues gets exaggerated to the point where it's wasting court time and taxpayer's money.

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  • Kerry:

    28 Sep 2011 12:32:52pm

    Well it hard to know for sure what is motivating Andrew Bolt. But from my perspective he seems to be arguing his agenda from a position of righteousness. The righteous will never admit to wrongdoing minor or major because in their minds they are doing good. As an aside, I think that explains a lot of Tony Abbott's double speak on many issues too. He righteously covets the PM's keys and will say anything to get them.

    I doubt the finding against Mr Bolt will give him pause to think and will not motivate News Corp to vet more fully its publication of what he writes. But then I think Bolt and News Corps editorial policy are one and the same. Perhaps if Mr Bolt and News Corp did more research and fact gathering rather than relying on innuendo and accusation the writing might just be unable to argued against in court or before tribunals.

    As another aside how many times does News Corp and its prominent journalists, through it various print publications need to face tribunals, courts or come to pre-hearing settlements or be forced to publish retractions? All this does not matter because once the dung is flung a little sticks anyway. Bolt and News Corp win even when they lose.

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  • Old Bear:

    28 Sep 2011 12:33:01pm

    It is a shining victory for those maligned! The only sad thing is that it takes a long court case and two expensive legal teams to partly rectify the damage Bolt and his ilk do, and do repeatedly, to others' reputations with
    a casual twenty minutes at their keyboards or a few foul-mouthed comments on the shock-waves. Freedom of speech is not freedom to defame and misrepresent, but try telling that to those who employ the Bolts of this world purely because they are going to be professionally offensive. That Abbott thinks free speech is freedom to misrepresent, libel and denigrate just for the hell of it, should surprise no one. At times he makes Bolt look downright amateurish.

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  • TomC:

    28 Sep 2011 12:33:14pm

    Andrew Bolt is a racist - no surprise there. And something for free - his followers are almost exclusively Coalition voters. Hence Abbott's squeeling.

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  • Air-nomad:

    28 Sep 2011 12:33:21pm

    CLEARLY he's never been in the shoes of an Indigenous Australia. I have white skin yet my family is black? why does it matter? some ignorant people need to know the ugly history of Australia-- One many of my people cannot forget, but for the sake of moving forward we're willing to shape Australia as a nation BUT then I come across something like this, it makes me sad and angry- why can't people just accept our history! it happened.. and may I add, there is no such thing as being a FULL Aboriginal, each and every one of us have another background, looks dont matter- OUR culture, our identity and our people are our main focus. - we all have the same goal, it's to build our country and to help those that are suffering in remote areas.

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  • 3rd Eye:

    28 Sep 2011 12:33:35pm

    I wasn't present during the trial and unlike Mr Abbott I leave it to the judge to make judgements on abuse of free speech.
    It's a pity politicians aren't under more scrutiny when it comes to manipulating the Australian people with misinformation and propaganda, which in the end is their tool for fulfilling their individual obsessions for power.
    Politicians should be particularly careful in their comments on outcomes of court cases.
    I'm getting bored with this stirring up the rednecks in Australian society Tony.

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  • matthew:

    28 Sep 2011 12:34:39pm

    I am astounded the majority of Australians vote want to vote for Abbott who publicly defends these condened liberal shockjocks. I have never felt so badly done by as an Australian to see a politician so publicly declare his support for such malpractice. I live outside Australia but I watch Australian news everyday. I am so worried where Australian politics is going. This right wing pull which Rudd would never have permitted is killing our Country.

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  • Fact finder:

    28 Sep 2011 12:34:47pm

    Finally Bolt gets found out for his lack of truth in reporting. Watch out Jones.

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  • Strahan:

    28 Sep 2011 12:34:53pm

    What a crock....... So much for this 'free country'.

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  • cj:

    28 Sep 2011 12:35:01pm

    I have no sympathy for this arrogant moron, being a white australian whos grandfather was one of the stolen generation someone who had 8 children 17 grandchildren and has never taken one single red cent from any government, even when he was entitled, he earned it in a way that bludgers like bolt wouldnt understand! By doing an honest days hard work getting his hands dirty! I resent the very title of the story let alone the absolute tripe that no doubt would be in it. I wouldnt waste my time reading anything that redneck greedy morons such as bolt or any of his ilk has to say! Life is too short!!! Maybe he should try a days hard work sometime and keep his misinformed rascist opinions to himself, the saddest thing about people like him is they are too stupid and too selfish to even understand the effect that the crap that comes out of they're mouths has!!!

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  • Ryan P:

    28 Sep 2011 12:35:15pm

    So freedom of speech is now be used to justify racism, is it?

    Perhaps its a good thing there is no such thing in Australia.

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  • Joal:

    28 Sep 2011 12:35:56pm

    All of you jokers who are complaining about the judgment need to learn that there always have been limitations on freedom of speech, for good reasons. If you really think that the judgment is incorrect, you're going to have to justify why you think those limitations shouldn't apply here, rather than just parrot the line that 'freedom of speech is dead today.' Please try and demonstrate that you don't just believe everything Bolt says without an ounce of critical thought.

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  • Gary Coe:

    28 Sep 2011 12:35:59pm

    Like all Freedoms & Privileges, Freedom of Speech comes with responsibility. This should serve as a timely reminder to all those who think that they can peddle whatever garbage they like while hiding behind a large corporation.

    As for the subject matter itself, Identity is something decided by the individual. The amount of Melanin in someones skin is as much a determinant of their racial and cultural identity as a suit on a gutter-rag Journalist is a determinant of professionalism and education.

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  • Rita:

    28 Sep 2011 12:36:34pm

    I am disgusted by that witchhunt! DISGUSTED !!

    Vale freedom of speech, welcome true discrimination!

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  • J.G. Cole:

    28 Sep 2011 12:36:37pm

    Are some of these Bolt apologists, some of these first amendment militia, suggesting that there are no consequences of exercising the right of free speech???

    Good Lord!!

    This is a victory for common sense, for account and responsibility.

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  • Evad:

    28 Sep 2011 12:38:22pm

    Those bleating voices lamenting the loss of "Free Speech" should read the judgement.

    "I have not found Mr Bolt and the Herald & Weekly Times to have contravened section 18C, simply because the newspaper articles dealt with subject matter of that kind. I have found a contravention of the Racial Discrimination Act because of the manner in which that subject matter was dealt with. "

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  • DSteel:

    28 Sep 2011 12:39:20pm

    Finally somebody has put this whining,offensive loudmouth bully in his place,even though it wont be the end of it as he will have to respond with the inevitable "death of free speech" or "leftist/communist/socialist/greenie/insert name anyone who disagrees with him here conspiracy"or a number of other of his inane mutterings.

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  • free speaker:

    28 Sep 2011 12:39:23pm

    As an ex-soldier I held tight to the motto that," I probably don't like what you have to say but I will defend to my dying breath your right to say it". Free speech is our God given right especially when what we are saying is true. As long as he wasn't calling for violence onto anybody what is the problem? What would happen if some how that Magistrate were to have his freedom of speech taken away everytime he hands down a verdict on a criminal simply because his oppinion may offend that person. I aggree that this is a terrible day for free speech and the future of our country. We may as well just let the minority groups take over now and that magistrate should be stripped of his position.

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  • Mixed marriage:

    28 Sep 2011 12:43:15pm

    By extension of this decision, the high court must now undo all laws and budgets that distinguish the races. Aborigines would then be treated as equals, no more no less. Ironic that it now sounds racist to make such a suggestion! The other irony is the wide publicity given to Bolt's articles, which would otherwise be forgotten. A pyrrhic victory, Andrew? Written by the white father of 3 beautiful, self reliant, coloured Australian children.

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  • Cath:

    28 Sep 2011 12:43:57pm

    This is a joke. If everyone took offence to what others say about them then the courts would be backed up for years. This is a journo doing his job even it does ruffle feathers - clearly there is truth in it.

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  • Chris:

    28 Sep 2011 12:44:08pm

    I saw his posts when they were fresh. It was obviously a risky line that might offend the politically correct. Nevertheless it was a legitimate, non-abusive questioning of the criteria for privileged employment of indigenous people.

    Bolt being found guilty is a condemnation of Australia's law, not of Bolt's speech.

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  • Mike:

    28 Sep 2011 12:44:31pm

    Those who consider this a blow to freedom of speech should consider reading the judgement. Nobody has the right to publish misleading, factually incorrect material; that's how people get sued for defamation. It's a shame this rather important distinction is lost on both Mr Bolt and Mr Abbott.

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  • Alpo:

    28 Sep 2011 12:45:28pm

    The LAW applies equally to everyone, no exceptions. If Bolt doesn't like the LAW, he may start a campaign now to repel it, and get Tony Abbott on board. Otherwise just learn the lesson and be a better citizen next time. The latter would be simpler, but I bet that Bolt will choose the former....

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  • Easter Bunny:

    28 Sep 2011 12:46:49pm

    Given Tony Abbott's short sighted comment about the decision and the confidence everyone has that he will be our next PM, I feel very very concerned for the victims of such racial slurs and for any future minorities that happen to get in the way of the hate media.

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  • Not Limited By News:

    28 Sep 2011 12:49:12pm

    Those who are saying this is an attack of free speech are a joke.

    Freedom of Speech comes with RESPONSIBILITY, and Bolt clearly decided to forgo his responsibilities to truth and balance in his original articles for the sake of insulting and demeaning other people.

    He has been found guilty because of this lack of responsibility, and hopefully he and News Limited will be punished appropriately.

    It's not a bad day for free speech; it's confirmation that our laws will help it to actually work as as it was intended by those who fought, argued, published, and even died for the ability to speak freely.

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  • Scott B:

    28 Sep 2011 12:49:37pm

    This is not an attack on freedom of speech. In this case, and others similar, people use the term ''free speech'' to trot out their own brands of racism, homophobia or other derogatory nuances. Bolt's actions here are not free speech, they are unlawful as they denigrate a section of the community. I am positive those who claim free speech today will scream blue murder if they are on the receiving end of derogatory or racist claims or innuendo. There is no one rule for you and one rule for everyone else.

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  • Sunny - the real one:

    28 Sep 2011 12:49:53pm

    Freedom of speech? Absolutely!

    Abusing it like seemingly invincible shock-jocks are prone to does carry consequences, though.

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  • Galligator:

    28 Sep 2011 12:50:31pm

    This is not an issue about free speech, its about racist bigots like Bolt inciting racial hatred and writing unfair, unbalanced and INACCURATE articles. Bolt, you are an ant of a man and you're ideals belong in the 1950's.

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  • Sheilah:

    28 Sep 2011 12:50:39pm

    I'm a fair skinned Aborigine and I would not find Bolt's comments at all offensive. I agree with them.

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  • John Dillinger:

    28 Sep 2011 12:51:09pm

    Yes we should have freedom of speech and we do have that, but it comes with the responsibilities of honesty and integrity two things Bolt lacks, there are many things Bolt could be described as - journalist and political commentator are not 2 of them.

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  • FreeNotFree:

    28 Sep 2011 12:51:30pm

    I think the Federal Court got it spot on .... Freedom of Speech and Expression does not, and should not, give anyone free licence to villify. If you want to say something, by all means say it ... but you had better be able to prove that you can back it up if challenged.

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  • jellybee:

    28 Sep 2011 12:52:44pm

    Personal gain? Andrew Bolt and Abbott sure know a lot about that.

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  • Mike:

    28 Sep 2011 12:53:06pm

    Nice to see the thought police are out in force in the courts. Bolt was write on the money with this piece. I'll be interested to see if there's anything done about all the people calling the female Aboriginal MP a "coconut" in WA. Somehow I doubt it.

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  • Dallas Jones:

    28 Sep 2011 12:53:45pm

    Its not freedom of speech, its freedom from untruths.
    What would people say if I said something like "Andrew Bolt is (fill in your own lie in this spot)", should I have the freedom to say this even if its unture. NO!!
    Bolt may believe what he says but too bolster it he used untruths as evidence. That is what he has been found guilty off.

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    28 Sep 2011 12:53:52pm

    M.J., you're right and fair-minded. Well said.

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  • Pablito:

    28 Sep 2011 12:54:01pm

    My respect and support for Tony Abbott just increased exponentially. And my support for Bolt has just increased from 0% to about 50%.

    Sad day for modern Australia. Our laws and judiciary need an overhaul.

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  • Tony G:

    28 Sep 2011 12:54:07pm

    Can someone answer a question for me.

    What does constitute aboriginality?

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  • WackyLeaks:

    28 Sep 2011 12:54:40pm

    "Should Australians have a constitutional right to freedom of speech?"

    Are you crazy? They could just say ANYTHING that way....

    They should have a constitutional right to express politically correct speech.

    I mean, what next?

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  • Dennis Prcik:

    28 Sep 2011 12:55:40pm

    Andrew Bolt deserves to be congratulated for the way he exposes the daily socialist lies that have been the hallmark of the Gillard government from day one. Andrew, vast majority of people of this land are of the same opinion as yours and that is all that matters. Keep telling the truth Andrew, the communists of this country scream with pain every time they listen to you at 6.30 on Sunday. Dont give up!

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