An interesting article on 18c. To me the proposed changes are perfectly logical if not going far enough. It's disappointing that the left have to again try and silence any talk or opinions outside of their beliefs.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull locks in 18C race-hate law reform
AAP, Claire Bickers, News Corp Australia Network
March 21, 2017 4:42pm
MALCOLM Turnbull has been shouted down in Question Time after saying changes to race-hate speech laws announced today would strengthen the Racial Discrimination Act.
The Prime Minister was asked why he chose to make the announcement on Harmony Day.
Labor MPs almost drowned out Mr Turnbull as he shouted to respond.
“We are standing up for the freedom of speech that underpins our society, the greatest multicultural society in the world,” Mr Turnbull said.
He accused the Labor Party of painting Australians as racists, only held in check by section 18C.
“We have more respect for the Australian people than the Labor Party does,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We know that our precious freedoms, our freedom of speech, is the very foundation of the nation.”
Speaker Tony Smith was forced to warn MPs about the “ridiculously high” level of interjections.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time in the House of Representatives. Picture: AAP
Labor MP Anne Aly then asked the Prime Minister to clarify which forms of racial discrimination he wanted people to be able to say that they could not say now.
Ms Aly said she had been “subjected to racism time and time again”.
“As someone who has been subjected to racism time and time again, as I was growing up and even in my life now, please give me an answer,” Ms Aly said.
“What exactly does the Prime Minister want people to be able to say that they cannot say now?”
Mr Turnbull responded: “I believe all Australians are absolutely opposed to racism in any form.”
“The suggestion that those people who support a change to the wording of Section 18C are somehow or other racist is a deeply offensive one.”
The bill will be introduced to the Senate.
The Prime Minister said the language in a contentious section of the Racial Discrimination Act has lost credibility and will be replaced.
Under the changes approved at a joint party room meeting in Canberra on Tuesday the words “offend, insult and humiliate” will be changed to “harass and intimidate”, making claims harder to prove.
The test to be applied in complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission will be the standard of a “reasonable member of the community”.
The commission will also have greater powers to filter complaints which are deemed to be frivolous or without merit and those who are the subject of the complaint will get an early warning when a complaint is lodged.
“We are defending Australians from racial vilification by replacing language which has been discredited and ... has lost the credibility that a good law needs,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.
“We need to restore confidence to the Racial Discrimination Act and to the Human Rights Commission’s administration of it.”
The changes struck a balance between protecting people from racial vilification while defending and enabling free speech, and had support across the political spectrum, he said.
“There will be many critics and opponents but this is an issue of values,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Free speech is a value at the very core of our party, it should be at the core of every party,” he said.
“What we presented today strikes the right balance, defending freedom of speech so that cartoonists will not be hauled up and accused of racism, so that university students won’t be dragged through the courts and have hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal costs imposed on them over spurious claims of racism.”
Labor Member for Cowan Anne Aly. Picture: AAP
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus immediately slammed the Prime Minister’s comments the changes would make the law stronger.
“He’s talking nonsense in suggesting that this law is a strengthening of protections,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“It’s not. Let me repeat, it is a weakening. It is a weakening of protection against racist hate speech.
“It is a moving of the line that we have drawn against racist hate speech for more than 20 years in the wrong direction and he’s done it on Harmony Day.”
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale accused the Prime Minister of trying to “cuddle up” to One Nation and appease the right wing of his party with changes to section 18C.
“ You only need to look at the people who are pushing to water down 18C to realise this is a cultural and ideological war masquerading as a free speech crusade,” Senator Di Natale said.
“It’s shameful that the coalition believe it’s OK for people to be humiliated, insulted and offended on the basis of their race.
“I ask Malcolm Turnbull, what it is that you want Australians to be able to say that they can’t say already?”
Coalition MPs have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Assistant minister to the prime minister James McGrath, said the changes got that balance right.
“Freedom of speech is everything,” Senator McGrath wrote on his Facebook page shortly after the partyroom meeting.
A staunch supporter of the changes, Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz, said the regulator of free speech had been “out of control” for years and turned into “self-appointed thought police”.
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“These commonsense reforms will go a long way to ensuring that Australians can engage in free speech while maintaining protections against racially motivated harassment and intimidation,” Senator Abetz said A parliamentary inquiry report called for the AHRC to more rigorously assess complaints, a move welcomed by commission president Gillian Triggs who believes the threshold for complaints is too low.
Mr Turnbull took the draft bill to the meeting after cabinet signed off on a position last night.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership will be tested. Picture: Kym Smith
Labor MPs have called out the Government for considering watering down the law’s protections today, which in a bizarre coincidence happens to be both Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
But it’s uncertain whether changes to the wording of section 18C would pass through the upper house.
It’s likely the Government will need to turn to the crossbench in the upper house.
Key crossbench senator Nick Xenophon has said he will support a change to the investigation but doubted the rewording would pass.
“Clearly the process has become the punishment in many cases,” he told ABC radio.
“It is beyond me why some of these cases got to the stage that they got to only to be easily dealt with once section 18D, the defence was considered.”
Xenophon clarified his stance further on Twitter later.
The former journalist rejected Labor MPs’ comments that there were more important issues than the proposed changes to race hate speech laws to consider.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” the senator said this morning.
Labor senator Sam Dastyari said changing the laws would send the wrong signals to the community.
“The debate itself ... where the debate has been heading, is simply about greenlighting how offensive people can be,” Senator Dastyari said.
“It’s not necessarily about the laws itself, it’s about the signals we send as a society.
“This has real practical consequences in the playground.”
WA Labor Senator Pat Dodson said it was sadly ironic the Coalition would discuss changing the laws on Harmony Day.
“That’s a very sad thing that we’ve come to as a democracy to disregard the position of those who are often the weakest in our society because it’s easy to bully them with the use of English and other things,” he said.
“What we want to do is build in that issue where it from being about hurt feelings to actually being in this case about people who are harassing others,” Mr Ciobo said.
“What really matters, when you really boil it down, is the law working now and the answer is clearly ‘No’.”
Originally published as PM shouted down over race-hate reform