RDA Joint Media Statement

We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government will not proceed with proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (”the Act”) and that and those proposals now “off the table”.

We believe that the Prime Minister has made the right leadership call.

The arguments which were put forward to support the repealing or weakening of sections 18B, 18C, 18D and 18E of the Act were based on a mischaracterisation of the way the courts have applied those sections in practice. It is gratifying for us to know that the truth has ultimately prevailed.

The extraordinarily large number of written submissions received by the Federal government opposing its proposed changes indicate that most Australians understand that racial vilification laws are a necessary last resort for the targets of race hate to defend themselves.

Although we were disturbed by the possibility of our legal protections being diminished, the extended public debate about the legislation has had a positive result. People are now better informed about the way the Act works to protect vulnerable groups without preventing people from expressing their views robustly about any issues.

This was never really a debate about freedom of speech. Section 18C provides protection against the excesses of racial hatred and bitterness in Australia and the retention of the legislation in its existing form is therefore not only a good thing for our communities but a good thing for Australia.