28 September 2007

The MP's son, Bebo, and homophobic abuse - Part 4

More thoughts. A contributor elsewhere has queried, rhetorically, whether as a result of my analysis we should simply ask politicans "What do you think of people calling other people faggots?" and suggested that the responses would unlikely to be suprising. My response and further comments were as follows: ... I would welcome that question being put to those leaders. That's really my main point, I think that's exactly the line of questioning the media should be directing at both Bill English and John Key. And - given their public comments so far on this issue - I would not assume that the answer would be straightforward. If a patsy response was received, I suggest there are a number of follow up questions that could also be put: 1. How do you reconcile that with your party's statement that it stands for "Speaking honestly, not political correctness"? (What National Stands for, Principle 5). 2. How do you reconcile that with the views of your party's then Spokesperson for the Eradication of Political Correctness comments in June 2005: "[H]ate speech proposals have their source in the bastions of the politically correct. … There are New Zealanders who want to be able to express their views on homosexuality, not just privately, but through the public media. … Under the guise of protecting minorities, we lose one of the most important values in a free society; the right to freely express one’s opinion. The whole point of freedom of speech is that it protects opinions that one sector of society might be deeply opposed to."(Dr Wayne Mapp, 22 June 2005, " The Problem with Political Correctness"). 3. Do you [English] still believe that "diversity" and "respect and care" should not be one of the values identified in school curriculum? (19 August 2005, Evening Standard interview: "National would be very concerned if Labour tries to use values education to impose its own political correctness and social engineering on our kids.") I'm not trying to politicise the present discussion or to make take a partisan approach. Instead, I'm suggesting that the issue raises fundamental questions about political philosophy and policy. In that light, it makes the reluctance to pursue the issue surprising. It makes me wonder whether politicians can avoid tough questions on a fundamental issue simply by playing the "privacy" or "family" card? Or, despite the existence of the Lange-style political figure qualified privilege, by threatening to call in the lawyers?

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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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