Most op­pose change to racism laws

Central and North Burnett Times - - NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS -

A KEY author­ity on race dis­crim­i­na­tion has blasted plans by Federal At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Se­na­tor Ge­orge Bran­dis to “wa­ter down” the Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act, say­ing new polling shows 88% of Aus­tralians op­pose the change.

The amend­ments scrap sec­tion 18C of the leg­is­la­tion, the part which makes it il­le­gal for some­one “to of­fend, in­sult, hu­mil­i­ate or in­tim­i­date an­other per­son” on the ba­sis of race, colour or back­ground.

Three other sec­tions will also be re­moved, re­placed by a sec­tion that would cre­ate rules against racial vil­i­fi­ca­tion.

The changes were pro­posed af­ter News Limited colum­nist Andrew Bolt was suc­cess­fully sued for claim­ing cer­tain light-skinned Abo­rig­i­nal people were pre­tend­ing to be indige­nous to ben­e­fit them­selves.

Aus­tralia’s Race Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sioner Dr Tim Sout­phom­masane said the sen­ti­ment shown in the Nielsen Poll pub­lished on Mon­day was in line with mul­ti­cul­tural and indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties,

Racial tol­er­ance is a pil­lar of Aus­tralian pub­lic moral­ity

hu­man rights groups and the le­gal pro­fes­sion.

“Racial tol­er­ance is a pil­lar of Aus­tralian pub­lic moral­ity,” he said.

“To­day’s find­ings are an em­phatic state­ment of our so­ci­ety’s com­mit­ment to ci­vil­ity, de­cency, and tol­er­ance.

“It is an ac­knowl­edge­ment that race re­la­tions should be placed above pol­i­tics or ide­ol­ogy.”

The At­tor­ney-Gen­eral’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment on the pro­posed changes.

Se­na­tor Bran­dis has pre­vi­ously said the changes would be the first time that racial vil­i­fi­ca­tion is in­cluded in the Com­mon­wealth leg­is­la­tion.

“Laws which are de­signed to pro­hibit racial vil­i­fi­ca­tion should not be used as a ve­hi­cle to at­tack le­git­i­mate free­doms of speech,” he said.

Shadow At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Mark Drey­fus said polling showed com­mu­nity was send­ing a clear mes­sage to the govern­ment.

“The time has come for Tony Ab­bott and Se­na­tor Bran­dis to lis­ten to Aus­tralians and aban­don their plan to wa­ter down pro­tec­tions against racial vil­i­fi­ca­tion and hate speech,” he said.

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