Racial Discrimination Act

Posted 21st August 2014 by Clare O'Neil in News | 0 Comment

Since the Abbott Government’s release of the exposure draft of the proposal to repeal Section 18C in late March, I have consulted broadly with community leaders and experts on this issue. I also held a local forum to provide an opportunity to further consult with the local community, many of whom expressed their concerns to me about the proposal to substantially weaken Section 18C.

I believe the race hate provisions of the Act have served the diverse community of modern Australia well for almost twenty years. They set a standard for public decency and civility which an overwhelming proportion of Australians from all backgrounds and walks of life support.

The Abbott Government has ignored the way in which the current provisions actually operate in hundreds of cases each year. Section 18C provides a civil remedy for those affected by hate speech. Complaints are handled in the first instance by the Australian Human Rights Commission, not a court, and are dealt with through a process of conciliation. Only a very small number of cases end up in a courtroom.

I believe the current provisions also include ample protection for free speech. Section 18D expressly defends reasonable and good faith contributions in public debate, academic inquiry and the arts. I believe this is appropriate, whilst retaining the current provisions of 18C to help our community deal with racism through a constructive dialogue between those who have engaged in hate speech and those who suffer the consequences.

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