Section 18C supporters’ club

April 3, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has welcomed political figures and various community organisation who seek to preserve the rights of those who need to culturally defend themselves.

Peter Wertheim

Peter Wertheim

The executive director of the ECAJ Peter Wertheim said: “The ECAJ welcomes the statements by the Premiers of NSW and Victoria, the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the NSW Community Relations Commission and from across civil society reaffirming the need to preserve effective legal remedies by which the targets of racial vilification can defend themselves.

We all accept that freedom of expression is fundamental to a free society and indispensable for human progress. Like all freedoms, it has limits.  Those limits are exceeded when harm is caused to others.  Liberty does not mean the licence of individuals to do just as they please, because that would mean the absence of law and of order, and ultimately the destruction of liberty.

The harms of racial vilification have been extensively documented by official inquiries and academic research in numerous countries over many decades. These harms are profound in their effects, which are sometimes objectively measurable and go far beyond mere slights and hurt feelings.

To be vilified because of one’s ethnicity or national origin, which are factors which one cannot change, is to be portrayed as less than fully human. This can impact negatively on one’s relationships with neighbours, work-mates, friends, acquaintances and others with whom one needs to interact.

Belonging to a group which is racially vilified in public can undermine and ultimately destroy the sense of safety and security with which one goes about one’s daily life.  Also, paradoxically for free speech advocates, racial vilification can have an intimidating silencing effect on those who are vilified.  It deprives its targets of equal treatment and a fair go.  It also disempowers those vilified and has the effect of excluding them from society, either wholly or in part.

Historically, in other countries and to a limited degree in Australia particularly in relation to the Indigenous population, racial vilification has been aimed at desensitising the general population against the humanity, dignity and human rights of members of the targeted group. This has been a precursor to discrimination, persecution, violence and, ultimately, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Threats of physical harm and incitement of third parties to hatred are only two of the many forms of racial vilification that exist.  Governments have a fundamental responsibility to protect the freedom and dignity of the individual by giving the targets of all forms of racial vilification a legal and peaceful means to defend themselves rather than be forced to suffer in silence or to dignify their tormentors with a response.

The cultural diversity of Australia’s people is a great source of our nation’s strength.  It also imposes an obligation on government to protect and foster social cohesion.  Failure to do so can have very serious if not catastrophic consequences for our society, the economy, law and order and security.”

 

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