More community voices add their support to no change for 18c
The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council and the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission support the defeat of changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
“The Senate did the right thing by Australian multiculturalism and social cohesion in rejecting the proposed amendments to 18C of the Racial Hatred Act last night”, Dr Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), said today.
“While we are still studying the changes to the complaints handling procedures in the Human Rights Commission passed today, we have long supported reforms designed to streamline and improve the complaints process – especially provisions to quickly terminate vexatious and unmeritorious claims.
“We note that the Joint Parliamentary Committee suggested improvements to the processes of complaint handling but prudently did not recommend specific changes to 18C”, he added. “We welcome the Government’s role in the legislative outcome which should provide a consensual basis going forward. While justifiably maintaining 18C, the legislative changes provide widely agreed-upon process reforms rectifying the problems that have been acknowledged by both critics and supporters of the law in the handling of a small number of cases.”
Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s Director of Community and International Affairs, who was personally involved as a named complainant in a number of successful complaints under 18C, argued “we have a basic right to live our lives free of racial intimidation, abuse and harassment, and Australia benefits when we can each contribute to our society to the maximum of our abilities. Maintaining 18C signals that this is recognised by our political leaders.”
Jones concluded, “The existing legislation maintains the correct balance between two essential freedoms – freedom of speech and freedom from racist bullying”.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the ADC said: “The vote by the senate not to replace the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act with “harass and intimidate” is a victory for the majority of Australians who made the compelling case that it was vital to retain 18C in its present form. As survey after survey clearly showed, a broad coalition of community organisations and individuals believed and vigorously argued that any attempt to water down and weaken protections against racial hate speech was wrong, and this vote speaks for those people, and for the victims of racism, who deeply understand that effective legal mechanisms, such as 18C, are an essential tool in building and maintaining a cohesive, strongly inclusive, multicultural society such as ours.”