Signing objections to Section 18 changes

November 28, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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A group representing multicultural communities in NSW has met at the NSW Parliament to sign a single document expressing objection to changes to the Race Discrimination Act.

 

Back row L-R: Patrick Voon (President, Chinese Australian Forum); Peter  Wertheim (Executive Director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry);  Vache H. Karamenian (Executive Director, Armenian National Committee of Australia) Front Row L-R: George Vellis (Immediate Past President, Australian  Hellenic Council), Joumana Harris (President, Muslim Womens  Association), Randa Kattan (CEO, Arab Council Australia), John  Petropolous (President, Australian Hellenic Council)

Back row L-R: Patrick Voon (President, Chinese Australian Forum); Peter
Wertheim (Executive Director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry);
Vache H. Karamenian (Executive Director, Armenian National Committee of
Australia)
Front Row L-R: George Vellis (Immediate Past President, Australian
Hellenic Council), Joumana Harris (President, Muslim Womens
Association), Randa Kattan (CEO, Arab Council Australia), John
Petropolous (President, Australian Hellenic Council)

 

 

This is the document previously published in J-Wire….

 

RACISM IS NOT FREE SPEECH

We have read with growing concern that the Federal government has plans to remove or water down the protections against racial vilification which presently extend to Australians of all backgrounds under the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). This would be a step backwards for Australia. We oppose absolutely any such change.

The proposal to change the RDA is being put forward in the name of free speech. Vilifying entire groups of people because of their race has nothing to do with free speech. To be vilified because of one’s ethnicity or national origin hurts one’s ability to participate fully in society.

Belonging to a racially vilified group can undermine and ultimately destroy the sense of safety and security with which one goes about one’s daily life. And, paradoxically for free speech advocates, racial vilification can have a silencing effect on those who are vilified. Racial vilification deprives its targets of equal treatment and a fair go. This is what makes it un-Australian. Australia should not contemplate going down the path of licensing racial vilification.

Freedom of speech is fundamental to our liberal democratic society. But any right to free speech has its limits. For example, we have well-established laws against defamation, misleading advertising and the transmission of offensive material through the post. Freedom does not mean the license of individuals to do just as they please because that would ultimately result in the destruction of freedom. The RDA strikes a careful balance between freedom of expression and freedom from racial vilification.

We urge the Attorney-General to consult with us and other stakeholder communities before any Bill is introduced into the Parliament.

Authorised by:

  •   Les Malezer and Kirstie Parker, Co-chairs, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  •   Randa Kattan, CEO, Arab Council Australia
  •   John Petropolous, President, Australian Hellenic Council
  •   Peter Wertheim, Executive Director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry
  •   Patrick Voon, President, Chinese Australian Forum
  •   Dr Thang Ha, Vietnamese Community in Australia
  •   Samir Dandan, President, Lebanese Muslim Association
  •   Vache H. Karamenian, Executive Director, Armenian National Council of Australia
  •   Maha Krayem Abdo, Executive Officer, United Muslim Women Association
  •   Priscilla Brice-Weller, CEO, All Together Now

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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 encourage social cohesion. Failure to do so can have very serious if not catastrophic consequences for our society. A change to the RDA would send a signal that racism is acceptable.

 

 

Comments

One Response to “Signing objections to Section 18 changes”
  1. Michael says:

    You are no doubt well intentioned, but profoundly mistaken. A robust democracy necessitates the right to express views that others may find irritating or even offensive, and you in turn have an equal right to counter those views. Both sides’ rights must be protected. If someone oversteps the mark, they can be criticised in open forums where they face up to the scrutiny of the community.

    It is an outrageous inhibition to prohibit any view you may not find acceptable. There is no “right” to not be offended – there never was and never will be.

    The existing legislation is echoing the practices of Nazi Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union and today’s North Korea. How people whose ancestors have been victims of such views can now support them, is unfathomable, inexcusable and intellectually dishonest.

    This dishonesty, carried out behind the protective veil of ‘vilification’ will be fought at every point until it is defeated. It is as dishonest as the former PM playing the misogyny card to silence critics of her incompetence in the role.
    Freedom of speech is an inalienable right which leftist activists seek to curtail. They will fail.

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