Going, going…reformed. Section 18B,C,D and E

March 25, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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The Government Party Room this morning approved reforms to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (the Act), which will strengthen the Act’sprotections against racism, while at the same time removing provisions which unreasonably limit freedom of speech.

Attorney-General Senator Goerge Brandis has announced that the legislation will repeal section 18C of the Act, as well as sections 18B, 18D, and 18E.

Senator George Brandis

Senator George Brandis

A new section will be inserted into the Act which will preserve the existing protection against intimidation and create a new protection from racial vilification.  This will be the first time that racial vilification is proscribed in Commonwealth legislation sending a clear message that it is unacceptable in the Australian community.

I have always said that freedom of speech and the need to protect people from racial vilification are not inconsistent objectives. Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech.

This is an important reform and a key part of the Government’s freedom agenda. It sends a strong message about the kind of society that we want to live in where freedom of speech is able to flourish and racial vilification and intimidation are not tolerated.

The draft amendments are released for community consultation.  The Government is interested in hearing from all stakeholders on the proposed reforms.  Submissions can be made until 30 April 2014 at s18cconsultation@ag.gov.au.

Exposure Draft

Freedom of speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is amended as follows:

  1. Section 18C is repealed.
  2. Sections 18B, 18D and 18E are also repealed.
  3. The following section is inserted:
    1. “ It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
      1. the act is reasonably likely:
        1. to vilify another person or a group of persons; or
        2. to intimidate another person or a group of persons,


    1.   the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.
  1. For the purposes of this section:
    1. vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons;
    2. intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:
      1. to a person; or
      2. to the property of a person; or
      3. to the members of a group of persons.
  2. Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.
  3. This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus responded quickly: “Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act announced by Senator Brandis today will significantly water down protections against racist hate speech in Australia.

Senator Brandis has confirmed the repeal of Section 18C in the face of widespread opposition from the community, including ethnic groups.

The claims by the Attorney-General that these proposed amendments will “strengthen the Act’s protection against racism” are blatantly untrue.

The new section proposed by Senator Brandis removes the words offend, insult and humiliate and replaces them with the term “vilify”, which is narrowly defined as “to incite hatred against a person or group of persons”, and “intimidate”, which is causing “fear of physical harm” to a person, property or a group.

The amendments also remove the protections for freedom of speech in political communication contained in Section 18D.

The replacement provision to Section 18D is so broadly worded that it totally undermines the limited protections against racism that remain.

Under these changes, if statements are deliberately made for the purpose of racial abuse, they are protected.

The insertion of this narrowly and ineptly drafted new provision in an Act, which has a strong history of consultation and community consensus, is a disgrace.

Sections 18C and 18D were introduced into the Act in response to a number of reports on racial violence, including the National Inquiry into Racist Violence by Race Discrimination Commissioner Irene Moss and the great Australian lawyer Ron Castan QC, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Law Reform Commission’s Report, Multiculturalism and the Law, as well as international treaty obligations, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The recommendations in these reports were shaped into Section 18C and 18D following extensive consultations throughout the community.

In contrast Senator Brandis’ proposed new provision appears to be little more than an appeal to his far-right political interests, drafted in the Liberal Party room.

These sections of the Racial Discrimination Act have served Australians well for almost 20 years.

The Government needs to stand up to racism, not give it the green light.

Racism has no place in modern Australia. Senator Brandis defending the rights of bigots to be heard shows the ideologically blinkered framing of these changes.

Australians should send a message to Senator Brandis and Tony Abbott that these proposed changes should be rejected in their entirety.”


2 Responses to “Going, going…reformed. Section 18B,C,D and E”
  1. nargaret Li says:

    Well, in my opinion. There should not change the limitation of freedom speach!

    Bec of we are western country not in China!. Why change it? is there any alternative method for the policy. If China(old time) can make harmony between all ethinics(Chinese, Musilin, Mongolian, Tibetan, more…) why can not we? since we are small population(25 million). As a good lawyer, You must be strive to make this society better future for our young generation, otherwise why be a lawyer? I wish 30 years ago or 18 years ago , I should study law , instead I am in civil engineering all my life!

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    One gets tired of arguing fr a cause which is badly carried out at levels of communal and inter-communal leadership as to result in a complete failure.

    It is inevitable that we must conclude that the strategies employed by individual and collective organisations concerned with the repeal of the mentioned Sections, were incredibly ineffective.
    The public airing of the reasons for the retention of the respective Acts was mainly limited to the already convinced audience. The extent of the publicity for the “right cause” was limited, legless and, finally brainless. A few articles and comments of partisan web-sites. NO effective larger exposure of the argument gained public coverage by ANY TV major stations, SBS included.

    Unfortunately we are still being “represented” by expired, out of date voice boxes with no suitable, advanced PR skills.
    ALL objections were badly regurgitated phrases, repetition of arguments and, in the main, totally inept attempts ( if any at all) of engaging publicly the main protagonists of the “other” side in open, all revealing, gutsy debates.
    Tim Winton and Sen. Brandis have got away with NEVER being “cornered” by any well informed, “smart” advocate for the retention of the Acts.
    Here on Jwire we have seen time and again nothing but a reprint of the same “original” case for the 18C and now D, E, F and whatever…
    I am not surprised any more, hut, hell, am I disappointed….!!!!

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