THE 190 ethnic communities of NSW have urged the Abbott government to back down on its proposed reforms to remove the offence provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act.
In a submission, the Community Relations Commission of NSW has called on Attorney-General George Brandis to withdraw his draft freedom of speech reforms to Section 18C.
Chairman Vic Alhadeff called for the government to call a public inquiry as comprehensive as the three inquiries the lead to the introduction of 18C by the Keating government 20 years ago.
“The process which led to the exposure draft was completely inadequate. It consisted of limited private consultations behind closed doors, and the final product doesn’t come close to reflecting the concerns expressed by many community groups about the need to maintain existing protections against racism...”...
Former prime minister Paul Keating told The Australian yesterday that the Abbott government was following in John Howard’s footsteps by planning to legislate the “right to confront people in the respect of their race or creed”.
Section 18C of the act makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the grounds of race, colour or ethnicity. Under the draft proposals put forward by the Abbott government, the government would replace 18C with provisions making it unlawful to vilify or intimidate others on similar grounds, but with broad exemptions, including the right to offend.
“Although the government has claimed that its proposals would enhance protections against racism, its own supporters have been unanimous in stating that the exposure draft would be almost tantamount to a full repeal...” ...
The CRC says that with approximately 25 per cent of people in NSW born overseas and another 25 per cent with at least one parent born abroad, it had heard from a large number of ethnic and indigenous communities who opposed to the draft reforms, while not one had expressed support.
“The safeguards currently provided by Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act have been in place for almost 20 years, including during the 11 years of the Howard administration, to give the targets of hate speech a peaceful and civilised avenue of redress...These laws have succeeded in resolving hundreds of cases that would otherwise have been left to fester and to degrade social cohesion and mutual respect...”.
“The current law protects all Australians, not only minority groups. Many Australians have immigrated to this country to escape bloodshed and strife in their countries of origin, often fuelled by racism and bigotry”.