Over the last two days, I have listened to Ray Hadley rant about postings made on Facebook by Ben Dignam about a fallen NSW Police Officer. While I absolutely do not support the comments made by Dignam, I support him being able to express his opinion.
Ray Hadley on the other hand doesn’t support Dignam’s right to express an opinion given that he is calling on Dignam to be charged for “inciting hatred against Police” or for using a carriage service to “menace, harass or offend.”
Fortunately for Dignam, as far as I am aware there is no such offence as “inciting hatred against Police” in Australia. There are similar words used in various anti-discrimination acts used to describe vilification (such as that faced by Andrew Bolt some time ago), but these only apply to racial and homosexual discrimination.
As for using the offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend – Dignam’s comments about the officer, while abhorrent and maybe offensive were certainly not menacing or harassing. They were not directed at a particular person, but instead against Police generally. There was no implicit threat, just a statement about how he felt. Courts have been reluctant to convict someone for using a carriage service offensively and it is likely that any charges wouldn’t stick.
Hadley should also ensure that he knows what he is talking about before he broadcasts it to the public at large. Yesterday, he said that the NSW Police couldn’t take action against Dignam but called on the federal police to do so. This is entirely correct. NSW Police can and do charge people for offences under federal legislation and for a sitiuation such as this, they would be the appropriate authority to take action.
Hadley should also be rebuffed for his “bully boy” tactics towards Dignam’s mother – which could be described as menacing. Screaming down a telephone in an abusive manner would most certainly met the definition of menacing, but then again when it brings in the cash nobody is going to stand in his way.
Finally, when Dignam came on air today to apologise to the slain officer’s family, Hadley cut him off when he attempted to explain his own run in with Thirroul/Wollongong Police. Hadley might like to think that all of the 14,000 serving officers in this state are clean, but I hate to tell him there are a small minority which are not.