Is being called ‘Australian’ a racist slur? One UK court says yes
A recent case in a UK magistrates court held calling someone a “stupid fat Australian” constituted racial abuse. PAUL BLEAKLEY argues that calling someone ‘Australian’ shouldn’t be considered a racial slur.
TO The Rt. Hon. Christopher Grayling, MP, on behalf of the Australian people,
My name is Paul Bleakley and I am writing to you in your capacity as Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom, and thereby one of the foremost figures in the British judicial system. An incident has recently come to my attention that has chilled me to the bone, and should pose serious questions for every Australian living in your fine country.
Czech-born Petra Mills was found guilty this week at Macclesfield magistrates’ court of racially aggravated public disorder after a drunken altercation with her native New Zealander neighbour Chelsea O’Reilly.
Her crime? She called Ms O’Reilly a “stupid fat Australian”. The court determined that referring to her neighbour’s nationality (however erroneously) constituted a racial slur and was fined £110 as a result of her abuse.
Lord Chancellor, when did being called an ‘Australian’ become a racial slur? Sure, Petra Mills used it as a part of her drunken tirade. That part of the story is not denied by anyone. But to claim that Ms Mills engaged in racial abuse implies that term ‘Australian’ has negative connotations. I do not know how things stand in Macclesfield, but every Australian living in the United Kingdom would wear the title as a badge of honour (even if it was yelled at them by a drunken nemesis).
Ms Mills claimed, in her defence, that she would not have abused Ms O’Reilly for being Australian as “(she) used to live with an Australian person. She was very nice.” Her lawyer argued that Ms Mills did not hate her neighbour for being Australian: she just hated her because she did not like her as person. I realise that the entire world is developing into a nanny state, but isn’t this verdict the epitome of political correctness gone mad?
Lord Chancellor, we do not find the term ‘Australian’ to be an example of racial abuse. We wear it with pride, regardless of the manner in which it is used. At the least, it is merely a descriptive term. At the best it is the greatest compliment Ms Mills could have given to her Kiwi neighbour, even though that was not her intention.
It is now a legal precedent that the term ‘Australian’ can be considered a racial slur in the United Kingdom. What is next? Will I be arrested and fined if I called someone an ‘English twit’ or a ‘dopey Welshman’? Will it be considered sexist if I call someone a ‘stupid boy’? This is not just a matter of Australian pride, Lord Chancellor. This is a matter of common sense.
I put my hand on heart and proudly claim to be an Australian, the word that is apparently so abhorrent to the Macclesfield magistrates’ court. Do not get me wrong, I do not stand for racism in any form. But this is not racism, and Ms Mills should never have been convicted for using a term that none of us considers a slur.
Lord Chancellor, explain to the Australian people why the British judicial system thinks it is so defamatory to be called an Australian. If you do not, we may have to take serious action. We may have to stop sending over the tapes of Neighbours and Home and Away. Then you will know that we are serious.
Yours in good faith,
The Australian People
To read Paul’s follow up opinion on the comments below see: The trans-Tasman rivalry: Friendly banter or all-out war?