Edmund Blackadder was always one of the more delightfully offensive characters to grace our TV screens, with a range of poisonous one-liners that ticked politically incorrect boxes as surely as they tickled our funny bones.

Blasphemy. Bigotry. Racism. Cross-dressing. Paedophilia. Chronic stupidity. Incest. Sodomy. No subject was out of bounds. ‘She goes like a privy door when the plague’s in town,’ was one such gem. Or: ‘As the good Lord said: “Love thy neighbour as thyself, unless he’s Turkish, in which case, kill the bastard!”’

This week, Barry O’Farrell announced a parliamentary inquiry into Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which concerns the criminal offence of ‘serious racial vilification’ and requires proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ for a prosecution. At first shout, one might assume the inquiry’s brief is to determine whether parts of Section 20D should be scrapped altogether. (Apart from the sensible provisions of incitement to physical harm or hatred on racial grounds being an offence, it includes the somewhat opaque definition of ‘severe ridicule’ as grounds for prosecution.) But no, Mr O’Farrell wishes to broaden the legislation.

To add a bit of luvvie spice to the proceedings, the Premier announced that the Left’s two great bogeymen — Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt — would be required to attend the hearings. While he’s at it, he may as well invite Mr Bean.

Quite what the two right-wing media personalities are expected to bring to these fatuous proceedings is unclear, other than satisfying the lynch mob in the Fairfax press and on the ABC.

Mr O’Farrell’s justification for broadening these laws is that nobody has yet been prosecuted under them. Come again?

Any move to make it easier to prosecute under this legislation can only come at the expense of the pre-eminent liberal and conservative values of the right to freedom of expression and free speech. With free speech under attack on so many fronts — from Nicola Roxon’s sinister desire to scrap the presumption of innocence on any matters in the workplace that ‘cause offence’, to Stephen Conroy’s yet-to-be revealed plans to curtail the freedom of the press — now is not the time for a conservative government to be playing footsies with the latte Left.

Indeed, in Britain Rowan Atkinson — star of Blackadder and Mr Bean — led a campaign that this week won a resounding victory against Tory legislation that similarly outlawed ‘insulting words or behaviour’.

British Home Secretary Theresa May announced her government would ditch the words from the Public Order Act, on the grounds they ‘chill public debate and depress freedom of speech’.

Under the legislation, a man was arrested for saying to a policeman: ‘Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?’

Sounds like something Edmund Blackadder might have said.

World’s Greatest Treasurer, Part VI

We must beg our readers’ forgiveness for having neglected our duty to chronicle the innovative economic practices of the man dubbed by Euromoney magazine ‘the world’s greatest finance minister’.

Over the Christmas period, perhaps distracted by the festivities, we forgot to praise the widely-lauded ‘correction’ that our national finances demanded, namely a long overdue Return to Deficit.

Perhaps it was because we never actually believed that a surplus could be genuinely contemplated, let alone delivered, by a Treasurer whose every action makes the Whitlam-era Khemlani Loan Shark affair look like prudent economic management, and a government which long ago gave up any pretence of caring where the money to fund their extravagant, touchy-feely promises will actually come from.

Or perhaps it was because we knew that we wouldn’t have to wait long until another gem would come along, and we could bundle them up together.

We weren’t disappointed. The much-touted mining tax, for the second quarter in a row, will again be raising, er, zero dollars. Or at least, we think it might be zero but we’re not sure; Mr Swan and his wonderfully evasive sidekick Penny Wong aren’t ‘allowed’ to tell us, as their lawyers have conveniently discovered that to do so would be illegal. ‘The ATO’s current view is that disclosure of these data would breach the secrecy provisions of the Taxation Administration Act,’ they claim. Phew! The Disingenuous Duo now have a rolled-gold excuse for never again informing the electorate how much any of our taxes may or may not raise. Brilliant!

Sure beats the hell out of trying to cobble together a phony surplus.