Thursday, October 20, 2011

Australian state imposes $12K fine for insulting politician

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Michael O’Brien (Gaming Minister, Victoria, Australia)
Michael O’Brien

Looks like Australia is also in need of some decent free speech laws:

STATE Parliament is set to pass new legislation making it a criminal offence to "insult" Gaming Minister Michael O'Brien.

Fines of up to $11,945 will be given to anyone found guilty of upsetting the minister and his staff under the extraordinary new offence.

The Baillieu Government is seeking changes to the Gaming Regulation Act which it says are "reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of the minister and authorised persons". If passed, the ruling will become law.

The amendment proposed to the Act will make it an offence to "assault, obstruct, hinder, threaten, abuse, insult or intimidate" the minister or authorised persons exercising "due diligence" in monitoring gambling systems such as pokies.

Naturally, his opponents are rightfully having a bit of a field day with this:

State Labor has seized on the extraordinary amendment, with Opposition gaming spokesman Martin Pakula branding the minister "Windscreens O'Brien - because this proves he's got a glass jaw".

"Is the minister so precious that he now needs legislation to protect him from insults?" he said.

"I thought I better make these comments before the Bill passes in case I breach the new rules and insult Mr O'Brien."

The idea that individuals should be given special protections against receiving offense simply because of their positions is a ludicrous relic of ancient systems that held their officials up to podiums of quasi-sanctity. The world has progressed well beyond such an archaic and prohibitive notion. Maybe the Victorian Gaming Minister and his group should do the same.

(via The Agitator)