You just have to shake your head at that definition. It doesn't take much to offend some people, so the limits this law would put on free speech are potentially very onerous. The Victorian Attorney-General got it right when he observed that:
Many people may be subjectively offended or insulted by the simple expression or manifestation of views different to their own.
To make such expressions of views in workplaces, schools, clubs and sports prima facie unfavourable treatment and hence discrimination ... appears to substantially erode freedom of expression.
Even the Human Rights Commission is critical of the proposed law:
Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs thinks the broad definition will spark too many lawsuits.And what does this say about liberal society? Liberals go on and on about individual freedom, and yet here we are facing a law which makes it an offence to say something that someone else, subjectively, thinks is offensive.
She said the words offend and insult "have to go".
"There is no need to set the threshold so low," she said. "I would suggest the government consider taking the words 'offensive' and 'insulting' out (of the legislation).
"It does raise a risk of increased litigation".
How do we explain this? I think part of the explanation is this: liberals pursue a freedom which is understood to mean an absence of impediments to self-determined choice. Because this is the liberal "good" it means that liberals focus on a "negative" morality, i.e. a morality of non-interference. The idea is that we all get to pursue our self-determined goals, only if we agree to leave each other to pursue these goals: therefore the good person is the one who shows respect for others and their choices, who is non-discriminatory, who believes in equality, who is tolerant, who is non-judgemental, who isn't prejudiced and so on.
The problem is that there is nothing to stop a negative morality of non-interference being pursued to the point that it itself becomes coercive or even tyrannical. And that is what we are seeing in the proposed Australian anti-discrimination laws.
I'll finish by congratulating the Law Society of South Australia for its submission to the inquiry on the proposed law:
The Law Society of South Australia told the Senate inquiry it "condemned" the new definition.
"The robust expression of opinions, short of incitement to hatred, is a strength of our social and legal system," its submission states.
"It should not be curtailed to protect subjective offence that individuals may feel when their beliefs or attitudes are criticised."