HRLC Submission on proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act

Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis released details on proposed changes to the racial vilification laws in March 2014 and announced a limited public consultation process on the changes. Submissions closed on 30 April 2014.

The changes outlined in the AG’s Exposure Draft would almost effectively abolish the current Federal legal protections against racial vilification and would send an appalling signal about the Government's views on racial tolerance.

The HRLC does not support the proposed changes. Our submission can be found here.

Racial vilification can cause serious harm to individuals and society. Racial vilification and hate speech increases the risk of racially motivated violence and needs to be actively combatted.

International human rights law specifically recognises the need to prohibit by law any advocacy of racial hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

Although opposing the proposed changes, the HRLC’s submission outlines how the worst aspects of the Exposure Draft could be mitigated, namely by giving the words “intimidate” and “vilify” their ordinary meaning; reinserting “reasonableness”, “good faith” and “public interest” requirements in the exemption; ensuring the community standards test requires some consideration of the impact on the relevant racial group affected by the conduct; and retaining sections 18B and 18E.

A media release about the HRLC’s submission can be found here.