88% say “No” to changing the Race Discrimination Act

April 14, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Today’s Nielsen poll showing 88% of respondents disagree with the contention that it should be lawful to offend, insult or humiliate a person on the basis of race is further evidence that changes to the Racial Discrimination Act are unwarranted and unwanted, said Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane.

Dr Tim Soutphommasane

Dr Tim Soutphommasane

“There is a high level of opposition to plans to water-down the Race Discrimination Act,” Dr Soutphommasane said.

“The overwhelming majority of Australians see no need for repealing or amending our racial vilification laws.

“The Nielsen poll results are consistent with the views expressed by multicultural and Indigenous communities, human rights organisations, the legal profession and many other people I have consulted about this issue.

“Racial tolerance is a pillar of Australian public morality. Today’s findings are an emphatic statement of our society’s commitment to civility, decency, and tolerance.

“It is an acknowledgement that race relations should be placed above politics or ideology.”

Since commencing as Race Discrimination Commissioner in August 2013, Dr Soutphommasane has made it clear that current protections against race-based discrimination and vilification should be retained.

In a recent speech, he said the racial vilification laws that have successfully operated in Australia for the past two decades have achieved a number of things.

“Not least, they have influenced the ‘emotional climate of the public culture’, setting the tone for our multicultural society and signalling what is unacceptable behaviour in public.

“They have provided all Australians with a legal means of holding others accountable for public acts of racial vilification that have the effect of degrading them.

“They have bolstered the assurance of security to which every member of a good society is entitled – the sense of confidence that everyone will be treated fairly and justly, that everyone can walk down the street without having to fear abuse or assault.”

NSW Labor has called on the Liberal Party to dump its plans to wind back anti-bigotry and race hate laws with revelations today that the changes are overwhelmingly opposed by the Australian public.

According to today’s Nielsen poll, 88 per cent of Australians disagree that it should be “lawful to offend, insult or humiliate on the basis of race”.

Yet this is what would occur if the Liberal Party goes ahead and repeals Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

A massive majority also disagree with Attorney General George Brandis’ statement that “people have a right to be bigots, you know.”

“The Australian public has spoken to the entire Liberal Party with one voice – do not wind back our racial discrimination laws,” Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Communities Guy Zangari said today.

“It is not just multicultural communities who are upset and fearful about these changes – there is opposition right across the spectrum.

“People cannot understand why the Liberal Government would tamper with laws that are a pillar of our multicultural society – and give the green light to bigotry and hate speech.”

Mr Zangari added that Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister Victor Dominello have been too slow to stand up to their Liberal colleagues in Canberra.

The NSW Government is yet to say whether it will oppose the laws.

This puts it embarrassingly at odds with its own Chair of the Community Relations Commission, Vic Alhadeff.

Mr Alhadeff spoke movingly again the changes at last Thursday’s Premier’s Harmony Dinner – an event at which the Premier was absent.

“Barry O’Farrell seems to be dodging multicultural communities while Minister Victor Dominello continues to waffle instead of take a principled stand,” Mr Zangari said.

“For Mr Dominello to tell communities that he’ll let them know of the NSW Government’s position in due course is a complete cop-out.

“What the Liberal Party is doing is wrong – and Barry O’Farrell and Victor Dominello need to say so loudly and clearly.”

But Minister Dominello has issued his own statement declaring that the NSW State Government’s position would be made known following April 30 when the submissions have been produced.

Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello last night endorsed Premier Barry O’Farrell’s concerns about proposed changes to federal racial discrimination laws and said he had been asked to lead the NSW Government’s response.

Speaking at the same Harmony Dinner, Mr Dominello said he had been asked by the Premier to prepare the NSW Government’s response to the Exposure Draft on the Freedom of Speech (Repeal of s.18C) Bill 2014.

“The Premier has asked me, as the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Multiculturalism, to lead the NSW Government’s submission to the Federal Attorney General

“On 27 March, two days after the Federal Government’s Draft Bill was released, the Premier made a strong and principled statement condemning bigotry and the incitement of hatreds.

At the launch of the Museum of Sydney’s exhibition ‘Celestial City: Sydney’s Chinese Story’ the Premier said:

“Vilification on the grounds of race or religion is always wrong. There is no place for inciting hatreds within our Australian society. Bigotry should never be sanctioned, whether intentionally or not. And we must avoid actions that would undermine these foundations. No government, no organisation, no citizen can afford to be less than vigilant in combatting bigotry, intolerance and hatred.” 

Mr Dominello said the NSW Government’s submission will reflect the concerns the Premier has articulated about racial discrimination laws.

“My preliminary view on the draft Federal Bill is that it needs to do more to protect the vulnerable in our community from being vilified on the grounds of race.

“As I have said publicly, the definition of vilify should include ‘serious contempt’ and ‘severe ridicule’.

“Further, the requirement for acts to be done reasonably and in good faith, elements of the existing section 18D defences, should be retained.

“The details of the NSW Government’s response will be made public following the close of submissions on Wednesday 30 April,” Mr Dominello said.





One Response to “88% say “No” to changing the Race Discrimination Act”
  1. The views of 1400 Interesting Lattay-lappers in Melbourne Central aren’t connected in any way to the views of 25 Million Australians.
    Understand that.

    1400 characters may want 18c to stay.
    14000 may want them to go.


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