Standing up for Canberra

Section 18C Racial Discrimination Act

Multicultural communities around Australia are uncertain and they are anxious. They are uncertain about whether this government cares about them, and they are anxious that their basic human right to freedom from discrimination will not be protected anymore. They are scared about the message that this government is sending to bigots and racists across the country with its changes to 18C.

I was there in the beginning, at the birth of 18C. I began my career in Attorney-General's and I was involved in the public consultation on 18C. I was struck by the people I met during that consultation—Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Italian and Greek communities in Western Australia and Melbourne, and Jewish communities in Sydney. They told me stories about their traumatic experiences of racial discrimination. They gave me a sense of the pain, embarrassment and humiliation of racism and bigotry. Nobody should be subject to this behaviour.

What sort of hate speech is the government willing to accept? We need to protect our multicultural communities, not allow them to be bullied and oppressed. We are a successful multicultural nation that needs these protections in place to ensure we remain a success. The government has claimed these changes will strengthen both discrimination laws and freedom of speech. Which is it? Is it protection of freedom of speech, or strengthening of discrimination laws? I was there at the beginning and I do not intend to be there at the end of 18C.

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