I managed this week to get in a quick submission to the 18C Consultation process. It’s not great, but it is a version of a couple of the letters that I wrote to the prior to the release of the exposure draft. At least I’m on the record, and it’s also my first submission. Hopefully the first of many. Trying to be an engaged citizen I guess.
Dear Senator Brandis
In relation to your government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, this is a law that currently stands against racial intolerance and discrimination.
Over the past two decades the provisions have been in effect, the courts have struck a balance between a right between free speech and a right to be free from discrimination. Section 18C of the Act makes it unlawful to commit an act that is reasonably likely to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ on the basis of race. Section 18D makes explicit exemptions for free speech that is conducted reasonably and in good faith.
A change in the law will send a dangerous signal that bigotry is acceptable. The Australian community says they value tolerance and harmony. The proposed legislation does not.
Furthermore, I ask the following questions be considered:
- In whose interest is this “rebalance” being sought? Aboriginal people are the least powerful “interest group” in this nation. The social indicators, of which you are no doubt aware, tell us this is so. Why is the government seeking to make amendments that appear to benefit the powerful minority interest group in the nation, the Media? It is unclear why this matter is a priority for the Commonwealth Government.
- Why do you seek to change the legislation when there were already provisions in the RDA to protect free speech? Sections 18C and 18D when read together, ensure that free and accurate comment that is in the public interest is protected.
I hope that you take into consideration my feedback.