Malcolm Turnbull has announced that the Coalition will pursue changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act despite the fact that many moderates within his own government fear it will severely damage the government’s vote within ethnic minority communities.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 21, 2017
Turnbull appeared with attorney general George Brandis at a press conference where he confirmed that the government will seek to remove ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ from the Act, replacing it with the word ‘harass’. According to Turnbull, the government believes this strengthens protections against race hate while encouraging free speech:
We are defending Australians from racial vilification by replacing language which has lost credibility. It has lost the credibility that a good law needs and so the changes we are proposing to section 18C will provide the right balance between protecting Australians from racial vilification and defending and enabling their right of free speech, upon which our democracy, our way of life, depends.
We are also amending the law so as to ensure that the Human Rights Commission will offer procedural fairness, will deal with cases promptly and swiftly and fairly, and that’s very important too. We need to restore confidence to the Racial Discrimination Act and to the Human Rights Commission’s administration of it.
Earlier, there was conflict in the Coalition party room over the changes, with MPs like Concetta Fierravanti-Wells warning the government that there would be backlash from ethnic communities, and that Labor would use it as a wedge. Five moderates – New South Wales Liberals David Coleman, Julian Leeser, and Craig Laundy, and Victorians, Julia Banks and Russell Broadbent – all spoke against the law, but will support whatever path the government takes.
Turnbull said that his previous opposition to changing the law had changed due to the Bill Leak and Queensland University of Technology cases.
This doesn’t mean it’ll change. The crossbench will be an issue for Turnbull, with the Nick Xenophon Team still opposing changes. The prime minister acknowledged this, saying that “our goal is to persuade the Senate to pass the legislation.”
Ethnic and religious groups are reportedly prepared to campaign against the change, and GetUp! have also confirmed that they will launch their own campaign.
Source: The Guardian.