The Federal Government’s amendments to sections of the Racial Discrimination Act, including controversial section 18C, are currently open to further input, with Attorney-General George Brandis saying he is “very open to other suggestions”. The draft amendments have been released to the public for community consultation for a period of 1 month.
The Government is currently concerned that the highlighted sections restrict free speech and effectively make it illegal to hurt the feelings of others. Senator Brandis on Monday defended the governments position by saying that people had “a right to be bigots”. The Government proposes to retain the offence of intimidating another person, and add a new offence making it illegal to vilify another person based on their race, colour or origin. Vilification or intimidation is however exempt from the laws if it was made in the course of participating in a public discussion.
The Opposition and the Greens have said said that the proposed changes effectively give a green light to racism in Australia, and that the proposed amendments create a very narrowly defined protection and prohibition of racist speech, with very wide exemptions.