Sunday, June 16, 2019

Round the blogging tracks - Matthew's trip to the Middle East, more on Israel Folau

All work and and too little play has made Jim rather a dull chap recently. Both my blogs and my fellow bloggers have been somewhat neglected. It's been a miserable day here in Daceyville,  cold and raining quite heavily, so I thought I should take some time just to browse.

Over on Happy Antipodean, Matthew da Silva reports in detail on his Middle Eastern trip, daily reports with photos. It's quite a long series. Perhaps the best way to navigate is to start at the first day, Abu Dhabi on the outward leg, and then follow through using the side bar. This is easy to do because the posts are all in order.

I have not visited any of the places Matthew mentioned. I found it an interesting series, well illustrated with his photographs, although I learned perhaps more on the vagaries of taxi drivers and street touts than I might have wished! And I got a little lost in the multiple pricing references.

Of the sections, I found Amman, Petra and Istanbul, most interesting, Jerusalem less so, although there were still incidental things of interest. I'm not quite sure why I had this reaction, but the picture I got  was very blurred.

On 20 April 2019 in Problems of employment and free speech - Folau, Ridd and Anderson, I explored in a tentative way the issues raised by Israel Folau's sacking by Rugby Australia because of the way he expressed certain religious views. In a comment, marcellous pointed me to a strange case, Gaynor v Local Court of NSW & Ors [2019] NSWSC 516. The summary reads:
CIVIL PROCEDURE – where plaintiff made application that judge should disqualify himself because of apprehended bias – where plaintiff argued that the judge’s apprehended bias is based on the alleged political views of the judge’s tipstaff – whether the alleged political views of the tipstaff would cause an independent observer to believe that the judge could not or might not bring an independent mind to the task of deciding the case – application dismissed.
I read the case with a degree of bemusement trying to work out what it was all about. Fortunately, marcellous provided a later explanation in Twinks and Tipstaves. I leave it too you to read. It's worth it!

In early June, Winton Bates had a parallel column on the Folau case, Does Israel Folau deserve support from advocates of free speech?  Winton's view was yes, although he was not absolutely convinced by John Stuart Mill’s arguments in On Liberty on the question. Interestingly, ethicist Professor Peter Singer (hardly an advocate for Folau's religious views) also quotes Mill from On Liberty in concluding that the Australian Rugby Union had acted unwisely. In Singer's word, the ARU had "scored an own goal". 

I suspect that Rugby Australia Chief Executive Officer Raelene Castle would now share that view. The case has blurred together issues associated with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, including the question of the extent to which an organisation can impose conditions on free speech as part of an employment contract. From a purely practical perspective, it has cost the ARU a key player in the lead-up to the World Cup and has divided a code with so many Pacific Islander players who share Mr Folau's religious views. It has also cost the ARU a fair bit of cash with more expense to come to defend an unfair dismissal claim.

I do not know how all this will play out, but it has been an unfortunate experience.


Mr Folau is really making things difficult for those of us who are concerned with underlying principles with his latest public forays. This is but one example of the latest reports. If he wishes to be a preacher he is entitled to argue his views. One could say that now he has been sacked, the matter is under legal dispute, he can say what he likes. But I do think that he needs to recognise that there are other views. I think that there is a conflict between the preaching role and his role as an ARU employee. 


Matthew da Silva said...

Thanks for the heads-up Jim. I did the series of posts on the blog during the trip because an old colleague of mine was so encouraging following the first post. Without his help it would never have been written. It might help readers to keep the currency converter web page open while reading so you can work out how much each meal and other things cost in Australian dollars. The post for day seven in Istanbul never got written due to fatigue but I did take notes on my phone for that day, as I did for other days. The phone was essential to keep track of amounts spent and to keep track of times. And there will be some more posts, focusing specifically on food in the Middle East.

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning Matthew. It's quite a feat to have posted while travelling, one that I have rarely managed! it does add to the immediacy of the story. I will read the other posts with interest and pick them up here in due course.

Winton Bates said...

Thanks for drawing attention to Peter Singer’s view. It is interesting that we both refer to the views of JS Mill. Singer cited Mill in support of freedom of speech. I support that view, but I suggested that Mill was too extreme in suggesting that sacking someone for expressing views you disagree with is as bad putting them in jail.

It is good to find myself agreeing with Peter Singer about free speech.I disagree with his radical utilitarianism. However, when I met him at a happiness conference in Bhutan a few years ago, he was not as dogmatic as I had expected him to be. He seemed to be genuinely interested in alternative views.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Winton. Sorry for the slow response. I saw the addition to your post.