Meetings were held this week between community representatives and Attorney General Senator George Brandis to discuss the review of section 18(c) of the Racial Discrimination Act (the Act).
The Act is currently under government review for amendment of Section 18(c). This section of the Act makes it unlawful for someone to make a public statement or act in a way that is likely to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ other persons or groups of people.
Representatives from various ethnic communities across Australia, including representatives from National Congress of Australia’s First People (Congress), have issued a joint statement following the meetings held.
“The Government appears to be approaching the review of Section 18(c) of the Racial Discrimination Act with caution, and that is something we welcome,” the statement said.
Ensuring people are free to live without racial discrimination is vital to the health and wellbeing of the nation and its people, and needs to be taken strongly into consideration when examining freedom of speech.
“A simplistic, absolutist view of freedom of expression will not solve the problem. The law needs to provide also for countervailing freedoms, including freedom from racial vilification.”
“Balancing these competing freedoms is not straight forward. The balance struck by the existing law in Section 18(c) and 18(d) of the Act was carefully reached after years of national inquiries and debates in Parliament and the general community”
Over 150 community and human organisations, including SNAICC, have joined together, calling on the Government not to repeal this section of the Act.