18C: Coalition to Advance Multiculturalism disappointed
The Coalition to Advance Multiculturalism has expressed disappointment that the report released following the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Right’s inquiry in to freedom of speech lacks a firm recommendation calling for the retention of Section 18C in its current form.
The retention of Section 18C in its current wording is a position supported by the overwhelming majority of the faith, ethnic and Indigenous communities of Australia, and reflected in the overwhelming majority of submissions received by the inquiry.
In a statement the organisation said: “The Coalition draws some comfort from the fact that there has been no specific recommendation calling for the amendment of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Additionally, the Committee appears to have provided recommendations in respect of the processes of the Australian Human Rights Commission, which is essential to invest the Commission with public trust.
Having said that, while the Committee has confined itself only to listing a range of ‘options’ – the amendment, repeal, or retention of 18C – it has in the process provided the misleading impression that these options share equal validity.
We will oppose any such response to amend or repeal Section 18C on the part of any member of parliament, with all the energy and resources at our disposal. Australia’s multiracial character is set in stone. Australia’s social cohesion therefore depends on a multicultural framework which promotes trust between all Australians. Section 18C strengthens this multicultural framework. At its essence, Section 18C reinforces the prevailing communal standard that racial and religious abuse is a pernicious force which divides and weakens our society, while striking an appropriate balance with our freedom of expression.
Racial and religious vilification violates the dignity of Australians, inhibits their ability to participate in Australian communal life, and severely damages the social fabric which is the indispensable bedrock on which are built our freedoms and civil liberties.
Any political party or member of parliament that puts freedom of speech above freedom from racial abuse or vilification does not have the concerns of the people of Australia at heart, especially the overwhelming majority of faith, ethnic and Indigenous communities.
We are pleased to report to the 100 signatories of our submission that the work of our Coalition has had an impact, with our submission and testimony being cited multiple times in the report.
There is still work for us to do. Now more than ever we must continue to advocate for robust legislation and institutions that afford effective protection from racial and religious vilification, and increase public understanding of the Racial Discrimination Act.”