Andrew Bolt hits out at 'idiot' Barry O'Farrell

The conservative commentator Andrew Bolt has labelled the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, an "idiot" and lampooned his request for an inquiry into racial vilification laws in NSW as "straight out of the Leninist playbook".

Bolt, who has just returned from leave, delivered the attack in response to news that he and fellow commentator Alan Jones are on a draft list of witnesses set to be called before the inquiry, which will hold hearings in early April.

Mr O'Farrell has asked the NSW parliament's law and justice committee to examine whether anti-discrimination laws dealing with complaints about serious racial vilification constitute "a realistic test" and have kept up with public expectations.

While stressing the importance of free speech, Mr O'Farrell has noted that there has not been a successful criminal prosecution since the laws came into operation in 1989.

"'It nearly spoiled my holiday for all of six hours until I realised what an idiot Barry O'Farrell is," Bolt said on the Nights with Steve Price show on 2GB radio last night, attacking Mr O'Farrell's reason for requesting the inquiry as "a joke" and "insane".

"It is against the spirit of the law," he said. "It is straight out of the Leninist playbook."

Bolt asked why Mr O'Farrell didn't simply "set a quota of how many racists he wants hauled before the courts? Why not just do it as Lenin used to do, as Stalin used to do?"

Later, Bolt suggested Mr O'Farrell may have requested the inquiry to provide a forum for commentators such as himself.

"Maybe he just wants to give me a platform to say how outrageous all these attacks on free speech [are]," Bolt mused. "Maybe he's doing me a favour. Maybe he's not an idiot."

The comments follow Jones's description of the inquiry as "beyond ludicrous".

In December, Jones was ordered by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal to apologise on air for describing Lebanese Muslims as "vermin" and "mongrels" who "simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that's taken them in".

In September 2011, Bolt was found by the federal court to have contravened the federal Racial Discrimination Act in newspaper columns which accused prominent light-skinned Aborigines of choosing to identify as black for personal gain.

The parliamentary inquiry, to be chaired by the Liberal MP David Clarke, will focus on Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which deals with the criminal offence of "serious racial vilification" and requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a prosecution.

Penalties of up to $5500 and six months' jail apply to anyone found guilty of inciting "hatred", "serious contempt" or "severe ridicule" of a person or group by threatening physical harm to them or their property or inciting others to do so on the basis of their race.

Only 27 complaints have been referred by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board for criminal prosecution since 1998, the period for which records are available.

None were prosecuted as the Director of Public Prosecutions did not feel the burden of proof required by the legislation would have been achieved.

The inquiry has been welcomed by the president of the Anti-Discrimination Board, Stepan Kerkyasharian, as "a great opportunity to deal with this matter".

The secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, has also supported the inquiry, arguing that serious racial vilification should be treated differently from actions or material that simply causes offence.

Comment is being sought from Mr O'Farrell.

The story Andrew Bolt hits out at 'idiot' Barry O'Farrell first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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