The Australian Government must maintain strong and effective laws against racial hatred the Human Rights Law Centre said today in its submission to a parliamentary inquiry.
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said, “Strong racial vilification laws help stop the spread of racial hatred and discrimination in the community. Weakening these laws would give a green light to bigotry.”
“The Government should be doing everything it can to fight racism and send a strong message that stopping racism is a priority,” Ms Walters added.
The submission points to recent research by the Scanlon Foundation, which reveals an increase in reported experiences of racial discrimination in Australia. Research also shows that experiences of racial discrimination has serious physical and mental health impacts.
“A large majority of Australians support multiculturalism, but unfortunately more people are reporting experiences of discrimination,” Ms Walters said.
“Most racial vilification complaints are resolved by the Human Rights Commission through mediation. Very few go to court each year. Courts are interpreting the laws sensibly and cases only succeed where the impact of the vilification is serious and profound. There is also a broad free speech defence, which strikes the right balance between freedom of speech and freedom from vilification,” Ms Walters added.
The submission supports the Australian Human Rights Commission’s vital role in educating the public about their rights and responsibilities and in helping vulnerable Australians resolve discrimination and vilification complaints. It recommends restoring funding to the Commission that was cut on the back of unprecedented political attacks on the Commission and its President, Professor Gillian Triggs.
“The Commission plays a critical role in making sure vulnerable people know they have somewhere to turn to when they experience discrimination. It provides a low-cost, efficient and informal way to resolve complaints. If Government wants the Commission to be more efficient in handling complaints, it should restore the funding that was cut,” Ms Walters added.
For further comments or queries please contact:
Adrianne Walters, HRLC: 0432 049 383
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communication, HRLC: 0419 100 519