The Racial Discrimination Act 1975  makes it against the law for people to treat you unfairly because of your race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status.

The Australian Government under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, are attempting to water-down section 18C of the Act which would further expose minority communities to discrimination and hate speech. This would include the Australian Muslim community.

The Keating Government in 1995 introduced Section 18C of the Act, making it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person based on their race or ethnicity.

Former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, also supported the push to repeal section 18C. Instead of championing the rights of those who are regularly exposed to discrimination and racism, our Government supports the notion espoused by the Attorney-General George Brandis; that is that “people do have a right to be bigots”.

Many supporters who wish to water down or repeal section 18C mischievously assert that the Act is an obstacle to free speech. This is baseless and without any merit whatsoever.

Section 18D of the Act says that the following things are not against the law if they are “done reasonably and in good faith” in:

  • an artistic work or performance – for example, a play in which racially offensive attitudes are expressed by a character.
  • a statement, publication, discussion or debate made for genuine academic or scientific purposes – for example, discussing and debating public policy such as immigration, multiculturalism or special measures for particular groups.
  • making a fair and accurate report on a matter of public interest – for example, a fair report in a newspaper about racially offensive conduct.
  • making a fair comment, if the comment is an expression of a person’s genuine belief.
  • The Act and arguments pushing for 18C protections to be watered down is nothing more than a “culture war” and if the amendments being pushed by the Australian Government are successful, will leave minority communities in Australia further at risk of being discriminated against on the basis of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status being.

This is an abhorrent concept far removed from our collective Australian values and in the words of Labor Senator Pat Dodson, is a “creep back to bigotry and racism”. The Australian Government’s obsession with weakening “race-hate” laws is occurring within the context of their own Ministers racially vilifying fellow Australians based on their descent, national or ethnic origin.

Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton has recently made comments attacking the great grandchildren of Lebanese refugees which came to Australia in the 1970’s and implied terrorists have a specific ethnic/racial profile (that is, Lebanese).

Of course, it is befitting of the Australian Government in their attempt to water down the laws that offer Australians a slither of protection against racist hate speech, to call for submissions without any public consultation, advertising and in a very limited amount of time in the lead up to Christmas.

Submissions to the enquiry regarding the Act need to be submitted by 9 December 2016, yet the Australian Government have not run any advertisements or publicised the submission deadline or the process.