Offend me. Please!

Offend me, please! Unlike so many thoughtful, democratically minded commentators, I welcome the proposed new ‘Take Your Offence to Court’ legislation that Attorney General Nicola Roxon is trying to shepherd through Parliament in 2013. Finally, I will be able to take action – not just rant impotently – against those whose actions or words offend my democratic sensibilities.

I’ll start with Ms Roxon herself, of course, for introducing the legislation. Without this new law, I would be reduced to whinging in front of current affairs TV programs. With the law at my beck and call, I can stride into the High Court in high dudgeon and demand justice: that is, the payment of a high price to satisfy my indignation – my profound offence – at the harm done to the democracy in which I live.

I am hoping the legislation will have retrospective reach so I can chase Communications Minister Stephen Conroy over two major pieces of offence: the Government monopoly – at the price of cost-efficient outcome -ANDshielded from public scrutiny, NBN Co; and the brazen trampling of due process in the matter of the Australia Network tender for political gain, again at the price of cost-efficient outcome.

It will not surprise anyone that, on behalf of our democracy, I also took offence at the amount of money wasted since 2008 – we’re talking billions of dollars – on an overblown and panic-driven GFC-beating stimulus package which was not only imprudent, but allowed a vast amount of rorting by cunning operators. They’re next …

I also hope this legislation will encourage Ms Roxon to team up with Mr Conroy and create new legislation that calls for media operators to be put through a ‘fit and proper’ test. I want this to come to pass and be passed in Parliament, because it will inevitably generate calls for a similar test to be applied to politicians, who are more rightfully deserving of such scrutiny, since they make the laws. I hanker for the tests to begin, starting with Ms Roxon and Mr Conroy themselves, of course.

Once so tested, our Parliament will be thinned out somewhat, I daresay; those that pass the fit and proper test to remain seated will no doubt stand for re-election. Of course, there really will be a new paradigm in such a future Parliament: all members who rise to their feet will have to remember not to offend those on the other side. Nor democracy itself. Nor me.

[First published (shorter version) in Letters to the Editor, The Australian, Friday, December 28, 2012.]

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