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Crispin Hull / Immigration and Defamation

In today's Opinion Piece, Crispin Hull takes a close look at the current impact of high immigration, and of the implications of the Christian Porter defamation case.

Another week and another embarrassment for the cabal of economists and commentators who for decades have asserted that high immigration is essential for Australia’s prosperity.

This week the national accounts showed that the Australian economy grew by 1.8 per cent in the March quarter to fully recover from 2020s steep recession and back to its pre-pandemic levels.

And with the borders shut, this is with about 600,000 fewer people to spread the wealth among. We are doing better without immigration, and we should not resume pre-pandemic levels when the border is re-opened.

Journalists must stop the innate bias of reporting that lower immigration and lower population growth or falling population are “Bad Things”. They should be reported as “Good Things”.

And the falling property prices which will follow after an initial blip should also be reported as a “Good Thing” making housing “more affordable”.

Also can we stop the rot about the burdens of an ageing population.

Ask any parent in their 30s and 40s with kids as to who is the bigger burden, the kids or their 65-plus parents. Invariably, the answer will be the former.

Given the costs, especially education, of supporting children we should be more concerned about a younger age profile not an older one. Given so few people are in manual labour which precludes working much beyond 65, the aged are not a burden. Many work well in to their 80s.

Also, it is a same hypocritical cabal that wants to stop legislated increases in superannuation contributions. If they were really worried about the ageing population, they would be calling for higher superannuation, not lower.

These economists should do their professional duty and call it as it is and not side with big property and big retail who profit from high immigration.

Business, politicians and the cabal who support them should just say, “We want high immigration to line our pockets; to do our donors’ bidding; or to swagger more self-importantly on the world stage.” But they should not pretend that it is any good for the economy, environment or the well-being of the existing population.

Journalists and commentators from the centre and left who have long and correctly supported multiculturalism should now also get a dose of reality. From 1945 to about 1975 immigration gave us a multicultural society and was economically beneficial. But we do not need more immigration to keep the advantages of a multicultural society. We have already got those advantages. All we need is acknowledgement, recognition and respect for a diversity of cultures.

If they are really worried about race and immigration, they should look at it from an indigenous perspective. High immigration is just a continuation of the invasion.


In a way it is shame the Christian Porter case against the ABC was settled. A court’s ruling on this act of political communication and whether the Constitution protected it would have been illuminating.

However, Porter was in a fairly desperate position for two reasons, and faced with that, it is entirely understandable that he took a somewhat face-saving resolution.

First, he was not named in the article. It just referred to a Cabinet Minister. The law says that to get defamation damages Porter would have to show that the publication carrying the defamatory imputation that rape occurred was about him.

That might have been difficult. If he could sue, so could every male Cabinet Minister unless he could show that something in the publication pointed to him – as distinct from Canberra bubble rumour.

Second is the constitutional defence.

This is based on the fact that the Constitution establishes a system of representative democracy that implies voters must be well informed and that state and federal defamation law must not be an unreasonable impediment to the flow of information to the voter.

The ABC reported that the Prime Minister had been sent a detailed account that a member of his Cabinet raped a woman 30 years ago.

Question: in a representative democracy should voters be apprised of this fact. And if so, is it just too bad that every male member of the Cabinet is under suspicion?

Question: should a media organisation fearful of state defamation laws say to itself, “We cannot prove that every male member of Cabinet committed rape, nor could we name and prove the allegation against one male Cabinet member, so therefore we cannot publish the fact that this letter went to the PM?” If that were the case, the voter would never get to know critical information which could inform their vote.

The High Court has held that a publisher must act reasonably. It has held that putting the allegations to the impugned person and publishing their side of the story is usually an essential part of reasonableness.

But in this case that would be impossible because it would mean that the publisher would be identifying the impugned person.

A court might well hold that therefore it would be reasonable to publish without putting the allegations to any Cabinet member.

Porter would have been told of these risks and the consequences of losing the case. That would result in a heavy costs order and more importantly the practical and political consequence of many voters wrongly concluding on the basis of that loss alone that Porter had committed the rape.

Further, the court had ruled that Porter’s Counsel could no longer continue representing him because of a conflict of interest.

Small wonder he discontinued with only a small concession by the ABC that some readers might have drawn the wrong conclusion and that it could not be proven on the civil or criminal standard that Porter had done the things alleged .

But the ABC stood by the importance of reporting the fact that the information had been sent to the PM.

Where does this leave us? Back to Square One. What has the Prime Minister done, if anything, about the information? Upon that, voters might well judge him, his government and those who serve in it.


The article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Australian media on 5 June 2021.

www.crispinhull.com.au

Crispin Hull BA, LLB (Hons) | Property Convenor  |  ANU School of Legal Practice Lawyer of the Supreme Court of the ACT, on the Register of Practitioners kept by the High Court of Australia


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