Time To Axe Destructive Anti-Discrimination Laws

Written by:
12 July 2018
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Originally Appeared In

The recent case of a Sydney barber demonstrates the pressing need to dismantle the growing anti-discrimination regime that threatens our livelihood and our freedom.

The barber at the heart of this latest controversy is a young man by the name of Sam Rahim. Sam is married to Ronda, and he has two very cute little boys named Kiyan and Boston. He owns and operates the Hunters Hill Barbershop.

According to Sam, last year a woman walked into his barbershop with her daughter. She requested that Sam cut her daughter’s hair. Sam refused, and says he cited the fact that he was only trained to cut men’s hair. He recommended a hairdresser across the road. Apparently not satisfied with Sam’s explanation, the woman stormed out of his shop and subsequently made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act.

I met Sam in April this year. I had read reports about his case, and I was visiting Sydney to attend the 2018 Friedman Conference. I decided to use the opportunity to visit his barbershop and talk with him about the complaint that had been made against him and how he was coping with it all.

The thing that struck me about him is how kind he is. Sam is an unassuming, softly spoken, young man who obviously cares about his clients and his business.There is a caricature that appears in your mind when you think of someone who has been accused of sex discrimination. Sam is about as far from that as you can imagine. I was left with the impression that he’s just a normal bloke, working hard to run his business, provide for his family, and get on with his life.

But following his encounter with Australia’s anti-discrimination laws, Sam is lucky his life hasn’t been ruined.

Think about that statement for a second.

Once the anti-discrimination machine was in operation the expectation was disaster.

Sam was lucky that the matter didn’t proceed to a full trial, and was instead resolved in a private settlement. He was lucky that he had the good sense to raise money using the crowd-funding website GoFundMe. And he was lucky that hundreds of people from around the country saw fit to donate their hard-earned money in order to help pay his legal fees.

But without these crucial elements he told me he could have lost everything.

The destruction caused by anti-discrimination laws is too often ignored because of the professed good intentions behind them. We’re told that laws such as the Sex Discrimination Act are required to ensure harmony and equality. But it’s hard to see how those ends have been achieved in this case.

And perhaps more concerning is that the way these so-called good intentions are used to justify laws in a case like this. In fact, anti-discrimination laws are wrong in principle because they force people to provide services against their will. This is a form of involuntary servitude.

Not only is this regime wrong in principle, it also detracts from the chaotic but ultimately fulfilling role that inestimably complex human relationships can have on human welfare.

What social malaise has gripped Australia that we seem incapable of meaningfully engaging with one another? Testing boundaries, resolving conflicts and forgiving one another are vital components of human existence. But a legal system that governs ever larger portions of our lives threatens to cause the underdevelopment of the skills that are required for human interface. Too often the modern default is to turn to the state for a sterile and simplistic resolution to the difficult problems thrown up by social interaction.

Despite the existence of the Human Rights Commission and the mountains of oppressive anti-discrimination law that body administers, there is so much cause for hope.

While this case has had an extraordinary impact on Sam and his family, it has also opened the eyes of thousands of people who may never have known that this country was home to such authoritarian laws. And those people are part of a growing discussion about the kind of place they want to live.

Just this week, a post went up on the Hunters Hill Barbershop Facebook page:

“As we are all on the topic, let’s have an open discussion. Should a barber be allowed to say no to females wanting a cut at any barber shop? (I’m not specifically talking about my barber shop, this is just a general question) also should barber shops be considered for an exemption from the anti- discrimination act (law) as positive discrimination (e.g like female only gyms) What are your thoughts?”

The responses exemplify the Australia I love. They are sensible, well-reasoned, supportive, funny, and warm. And they’re overwhelmingly in favour of freedom.

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