Racial Discrimination Act again under threat
Once again there are moves from elements within the Coalition Government to amend Section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act and the current Parliament has recently established a Freedom of Speech Parliamentary Inquiry. (See "Cory Bernadi leads 18C push", The Age (30 August 2016).
There's been a lot of talk - and a fair bit of misinformation - about the Racial Discrimination Act, especially sections 18C and 18D. These are the sections that address racial villification, and the exemptions.
The vast majority of complaints made under 18C are either conciliated through the Australian Human Rights Commission, or are withdrawn or dismissed. Many cases end with a simple apology.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has provided this useful summary of the RDA's race hate provisions and their impact.
Download Reconciliation Australia's Fact Sheet on the Racial Discrimination Act
Freedom of Speech Parliamentary Inquiry
The Federal Parliament has commenced a Freedom of Speech Parliamentary Inquiry, and invited submissions from the public. The deadline for submissions closed Friday 23 December, 2016, with the committee due to report on the findings in late February.
Reconciliation Victoria made a submission to the Inquiry. Read our submission here
Some useful background articles:
Some other opinion pieces worth reading:
Racial Discrimination Act section 18C campaigners want freedom to offend, not free speech, Kirsty Magary, The Age (5 September 2016)
Australia's Racial Discrimination Act should not be changed, Editorial, The Age (8 September 2016)
Back in 2014 RecVic welcomed the news that the proposed changes to Section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act had been dropped.
RecVic along with community organisations, local governments, faith based groups and many others were alarmed at the proposed 'Freedom of Speech Bill' and the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Media coverage of this decision:
Daniel Hurst, "Tony Abbott dumps race act changes to 'preserve unity' in terrorism fight" (The Guardian, August 5)
Stefanie Balogh, "Tony Abbott abandons push to alter race-hate legislation"(The Australian, August 6)
Heath Aston, "Tony Abbott dumps controversial changes to 18C racial discrimination laws" (The Age, August 5)
The Proposed Amendments
FREEDOM OF SPEECH (REPEAL OF S. 18C) BILL 2014
Reconciliation Victoria put in a submission against this proposal. It reads:
Other submissions in response to the proposed changes:
It is believed that close to 5,500 submissions were made in response to the proposed amendements to the RDA. Brandis has refused thus far to make these public. You can however find many of the submissions through this article by Melissa Castan and some are linked below too.
Reconciliation Australia’s CoChairs statement
Local Group Engagement and Advocacy:
The SRRG in partnership with the Greater Shepparton City Council and the Ethnic Council Shepparton & District hosted the Respecting Difference Forum last Wednesday evening, June 25th at the Rumbalara Football and Netball Club. It was a part of the Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity Project. It was well attended and showed strong community support and concern about the proposed changes to section 18 of the RDA. To see media coverage of this event, follow this link.