Danby on Discrimination

December 7, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Federal Labor MP Michael Danby has told Parliament that the Racial Discrimination Act legislation which the current government intends to weaken,  should not be changed…a view held by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (09:42): I rise to take on the issue of discrimination in this country. This issue struck a chord with people overnight on my Facebook page. There, people in unprecedented numbers have been looking at the issues I have raised.

MichaelDanby290In 1995, during the Keating prime ministership, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was introduced into Australian legislation. For 11 years under John Howard protection against hate speech remain untouched. This raises the question: why is the current government so intent on repealing the racial discrimination legislation, which was so successful during all the years of the Howard government? The answer, unfortunately, lies in the right turn represented by this government and by their cheerleaders in the Murdoch press. Many right-wingers say that the repeal of section 18C is directly related to the conviction in court of conservative columnist, blogger and broadcaster Andrew Bolt.

A week ago today in my electorate, the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was awarded the Jerusalem prize by the Australian Jewish community. During her passionate address to a packed audience, the former Prime Minister unequivocally condemned Attorney-General Brandis’s plan to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Prime Minister Gillard voiced her support for section 18C and drew attention to the attacks on it in the Murdoch press. She said that, earlier this month, the Weekend Australian had editorialised in favour of weakening racial discrimination laws. She said:

Allow me, please, to read from their editorial—because I cannot make the argument in favour of these laws better than they have in their twisted views.

The editorial said:

“… Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act provided the foundation for a Federal Court finding in 2011 that [Andrew] Bolt’s articles about light-skinned Aborigines amounted to unlawful racial vilification …

… Bolt’s columns did contain some errors of fact and they might well have caused offence—

The Australian argued—

But so what?

Former Prime Minister Gillard said:

…“so what” is nothing less than the preservation of the social fabric of respect and decency that binds all Australians, from all backgrounds, and all walks of life, together.

I could not have said it better than the former Prime Minister, who received a standing ovation for her remarks. It was a warm-hearted moment in my electorate to see so many people coming together in appreciation of the former Prime Minister and her long-standing, passionate and sincere views that were in place despite the lack of political support she had, sometimes even in her own party, on these and other issues.

The issue is not going away until the coalition, and specifically the Attorney-General, gives a guarantee to the Australian people that the Racial Discrimination Act will be left untouched. It was good enough for John Howard; I do not see why it is not good enough for this current government. I hope that wiser heads will prevail. Mr Howard was a wise man. I applaud former Prime Minister Gillard’s rallying cry; her Jerusalem Prize is well deserved.

 

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Danby on Discrimination”
  1. David says:

    Michael has raised the question: why is the current government so intent on repealing the racial discrimination legislation, which was so successful during all the years of the Howard government?

    How has this ambiguous, confusing and ineffective legislation been successful? Quite frankly I think Michael is kidding himself. Take this recent court ruling where a senior citizen, who told a Jewish man “Hitler was right” after their dogs clashed, was found to not have incited hatred – refer http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/senior-citizen-who-told-a-jewish-man-hitler-was-right-after-dog-clash-did-not-incite-hatred-court-rules/story-fni0fee2-1226771303373

    I would suggest that there are good reasons to be visiting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act; however it is fear mongering to suggest that the Liberal Party is planning for a full repeal of this section of the Act – it is far more likely that they will revise the legislation, hopefully for the better.

    From my personal experience dealing with a racial abuser on the internet I have had little grace from the supposed protection that is meant to be afforded by section 18C. I raised a matter with the AHRC over an anti-Semite, who ripped into me and still has a website where I continue to be defamed and insulted; two years later I have made little progress. The police don’t feel as though they have enough ammunition to nail the culprit and our Jewish community leaders have vacillated.

    Michael has touted the fact that Jeremy Jones, the former President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, used section 18C to win a landmark case against Fredrick Toben, Australia’s most notorious and persistent against-the-courts’-will Holocaust denier. All this celebratory talk that the current laws are effectively dealing with anti-semites is delusional. Frederick Toben’s website still exists; Frederick Toben is still politically active.

    This is not an issue with which to win cheap political points. This is an issue which requires proper attention to the concerns and obstacles in the way of producing effective working legislation. I have written to Michael Danby as my member of parliament on this topic and he has not bothered to respond to me. Sadly I feel that Michael is cheapening the debate by turning it into a black and white contest between Labour and Liberal, failing to properly face up to the complex issues involved.

  2. David says:

    I have written to Michael Danby as my member of parliament on this topic and he has not bothered to respond to me. Michael seems to prefer to wage his battle on a party political basis without properly dealing with the issues that are at stake.

    He has raised the question: why is the current government so intent on repealing the racial discrimination legislation, which was so successful during all the years of the Howard government?

    How has this ambiguous, confusing and ineffective legislation been successful? Quite frankly I think Michael is deluding himself. Take this recent court ruling where a senior citizen who told a Jewish man “Hitler was right” after dog clash was found to have not incited hatred – refer
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/senior-citizen-who-told-a-jewish-man-hitler-was-right-after-dog-clash-did-not-incite-hatred-court-rules/story-fni0fee2-1226771303373

    I would suggest that there are good reasons to be visiting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act; it is fear mongering to suggest that the Liberal Party are planning for a full repeal of this section of the Act – it is far more likely that they will revise the legislation, hopefully for the better.

    From my personal experience dealing with a racial abuser on the internet I have had little grace from the supposed protection that is meant to be provided by section 18C. Two years after I raised a matter with the AHRC over an anti-Semite who ripped into me and still has a website where I continue to be defamed and insulted I have made little progress. The police don’t feel as though they have enough ammunition to nail the culprit and our Jewish community leaders have vacillated.

    Michael has touted the fact that Jeremy Jones, the former President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, used section 18C to win a landmark case against Fredrick Toben, Australia’s most notorious and persistent against-the-courts’-will Holocaust denier. All this celebratory talk that the current laws are effectively dealing with anti-semites is delusional. Frederick Toben’s website still exists; Frederick Toben is still politically active.

    This is not an issue with which to win cheap political points. This is an issue which requires proper attention to the concerns and obstacles in the way of producing effective working legislation. Sadly I feel that Michael has cheapened the debate by turning it into a black and white contest between Labour and Liberal, failing to properly and honestly face up to the complex issues involved.

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