Racial Vilification Still Illegal

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By Greta Hector-Dooley

The Federal Government announced on August 5th that proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 will not go ahead.

There was an outspoken reaction from the community against the proposed changes, as well as from many members of the government. Amongst them, Member for Caulfield, David Southwick MP spoke out against changes in parliament, voicing “…strong concerns …on the proposed changes by the federal government that risked the protection of Victorians from discrimination and vilification.” When the changes were scrapped, Southwick expressed his pride at the announcement in a letter that praised the Victorian government for supporting concerns with the proposed changes.

Concerns that the current Racial Discrimination Act impedes our freedom of speech have been raised by some members of the community. In the eyes of some, changes to section 18C would allow for conversations surrounding race, colour or national or ethnic origin, which currently cannot be had in public discussion. In the May edition of St Kilda News, Mr Tim Wilson, Australian Human Rights Commissioner, expressed that “…if the law is too limiting then legitimate speech about important matters related to race are censored and can limit our capacity to address legitimate issues.”

Federal Member, Michael Danby, also featured in the May edition, suggested instead that “…the whole purpose of section 18C is to promote tolerance…” and that changes to the law would allow for “…any comment made under the guise of any kind of public discussion of political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter …”

For now, the changes have been scrapped, although some expect the changes to be reintroduced later in the month.

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