Thursday, 27 March 2014
Australian Attorney-General George Brandis’ announcement of his intention to weaken the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975:
25 March 2014
The Government Party Room this morning approved reforms to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (the Act), which will strengthen the Act’s protections against racism, while at the same time removing provisions which unreasonably limit freedom of speech.
The legislation will repeal section 18C of the Act, as well as sections 18B, 18D, and 18E.
A new section will be inserted into the Act which will preserve the existing protection against intimidation and create a new protection from racial vilification. This will be the first time that racial vilification is proscribed in Commonwealth legislation sending a clear message that it is unacceptable in the Australian community.
I have always said that freedom of speech and the need to protect people from racial vilification are not inconsistent objectives. Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech.
This is an important reform and a key part of the Government’s freedom agenda. It sends a strong message about the kind of society that we want to live in where freedom of speech is able to flourish and racial vilification and intimidation are not tolerated.
The draft amendments are released for community consultation. The Government is interested in hearing from all stakeholders on the proposed reforms. Submissions can be made until 30 April 2014 at email@example.com.
A copy of the draft amendments is attached.
Part IIA—Prohibition of offensive behaviour based on racial hatred
(a) an act is done for 2 or more reasons; and
(b) one of the reasons is the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of a person (whether or not it is the dominant reason or a substantial reason for doing the act);
then, for the purposes of this Part, the act is taken to be done because of the person’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
Note: Subsection (1) makes certain acts unlawful. Section 46P of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986allows people to make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful acts. However, an unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence. Section 26 says that this Act does not make it an offence to do an act that is unlawful because of this Part, unless Part IV expressly says that the act is an offence.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or
(b) is done in a public place; or
(c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.
(3) In this section:
public place includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.
Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:
(a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or
(b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or
(c) in making or publishing:
(i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or
(ii) a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.
(1) Subject to subsection (2), if:
(a) an employee or agent of a person does an act in connection with his or her duties as an employee or agent; and
(b) the act would be unlawful under this Part if it were done by the person;
this Act applies in relation to the person as if the person had also done the act.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an act done by an employee or agent of a person if it is established that the person took all reasonable steps to prevent the employee or agent from doing the act.