Today I join my colleagues to call on the Abbott government to rule out any further attempts to water down protections against racism in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
I worked in the Attorney-General's Department when these protections were first put in place some 20 years ago, and I was involved in the community consultation prior to their introduction. This was an incredibly extensive and nationwide consultation conducted over several months that involved traveling all over Australia to speak to communities about how these protections would affect them. This year the Abbott government sought to remove these protections and only allowed five weeks for community consultation, compared to the months in the early nineties.
I wonder if the government thought they could limit the fallout by limiting the consultation. Well they have not. The Australian community has made its voice heard loud and clear: Australians unanimously oppose these retrograde changes. The protections under 18C have served our country well for nearly 20 years, and must continue to protect our citizens against racial hate speech. Labor has joined with thousands of Australians, community groups and experts in vigorously opposing the government's attempt to give a green light to racism. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many Canberrans who have contacted me about this issue in recent months, who have attended community forums, signed petitions and written submissions. Your concerns have not fallen on deaf ears: the whole country, including Labor, are united in opposition to these changes.