Abbott planning to change racial vilification law

August 8, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Opposition leader Tony Abbott has claimed that, if elected, his Government will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act under which this causing offence to a person or a group of people on the grounds of race or ethnicity may face prosecution.

Tony Abbott

Michael Danby

Federal Labor MP Michael Danby said: “Tony Abbott’s promise to scrap racial vilification laws is a worry and might give the green light to bigoted groups like the Larouchites and Adelaide Institute. The reason the Australian Jewish community and many others fought for these laws was that racial hatred from these elements was getting out of hand in mid 1990. We don’t want to go back to that darkness. Some people were left uncomfortable with the Andrew Bolt decision. I know Andrew Bolt and he may have been misguided, but he is not a racist. Will this be the kind of Australia we might expect under Tony Abbott where laws are varied to suit mates, whether they be Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart or Andrew Bolt. Tony Abbott may be jeopardizing the many for the few. Free speech is cherished in Australia at the same time as the Australian fair go mentality allows people to feel safe from fear, racial hatred and vilification. This announcement is a mistake borne of Tony Abbott listening too much to Sydney talkback radio. He should be listening to the rest of Australia too. Racial vilification is illegal for good reason. Getting rid of those laws could again unleash bigotry on ethnic communities in this country.

Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry  Peter Wertheim added: “Tony Abbott’s announcement took us by surprise. I understand that the Opposition is planning to replace Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act with criminal sanctions akin to common law offences of incitement and ‘causing fear’.  I have sought a meeting with the Opposition leader and Shadow Attorney General to try to clarify the details of the Opposition’s policy before commenting further”.

Peter Wertheim

NSW Opposition leader, Mr John Robertson and NSW Upper House MP, Mr Walt Secord, who is also NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel Deputy chair have joined together to express their support for anti-racial vilification laws.

Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott has pledged, if elected, his Government will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act under which this causing offence to a person or a group of people on the grounds of race or ethnicity may face prosecution.

John Robertson and Walt Secord

Mr Robertson and Mr Secord said anti-racial vilification laws must remain and expressed their opposition to Federal Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s promise.

Mr Secord said: “There is no place in our society for hate speech and the anti-racial vilification laws must remain to protect the vulnerable.”

“In NSW, we had bi-partisan support for racial vilification laws. In fact, in 1989 the NSW Parliament under then-Liberal Premier Nick Greiner – with bipartisan support from then-Opposition leader Bob Carr – passed Australia’s first anti-racial vilification laws,” Mr Secord said.

“At the time, there was strong support from NSW’s Jewish, Asian and Aboriginal communities for anti-racial vilification laws. It was a welcome law which carried bipartisan support.”

Mr Robertson said: “Tony Abbott’s plan to remove racial vilification laws is nothing short of a disgrace.”

“Mr Abbott’s plan to make intimidating and insulting racially-based statements legal speaks volumes on the Liberal Party’s real attitude to community relations.

Mr Robertson and Mr Secord also called on NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to state his position on the Tony Abbott proposal.

“We would also like the Premier to express his commitment to NSW anti-racial vilification laws and promise that he will not dismantle the current NSW anti-racial vilification laws,” Mr Secord said.