FOI request reveals high community opposition to Government’s moves to weaken protections against racial vilification

New figures revealed today show that a large majority of submissions to the Australian Government oppose controversial proposed changes to Australia’s racial vilification laws.

The figures, obtained under freedom of information laws by Professor Simon Rice of the Australian National University, for the first time reveal the extent of opposition to the changes in the submissions.

Over 4,000 individual submissions were received and once endorsements of those submissions are accounted for, 76.5% of respondents are opposed to the Governments proposals, with 20.5% supporting and 3% arguing for a complete repeal.

“These figures provide further confirmation of the deep community opposition to the changes,” said Professor Rice, “I’m glad to have been able to add some transparency to this consultation process.”

The Human Rights Law Centre has been advocating against the introduction of the proposed changes and the HRLC’s Executive Director Hugh de Kretser said the laws have been working well for many years.

“The proposed changes would effectively remove Federal racial vilification protection entirely and give a green light to racism. It’s not surprising that there has been such strong opposition to the changes,’ said Mr de Kretser.

Despite numerous calls to publicly release the submissions, as would normally occur in any public consultation, the Government has consistently refused to do so.

“It is of course ironic that the Government would keep these submissions regarding free speech a secret. It’s a simple and common process in consultations to ask people to indicate whether they want their submission to remain confidential, yet the Government is seemingly happy to keep the public in dark about community views on the topic,” said Mr de Kretser.

The HRLC and the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law have both compiled lists of some of the publicly available submissions on the changes which can be accessed here:

In April, a Fairfax Nielsen poll found that 88 per cent of respondents believed it should remain unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the grounds of race. The Challenging Racism Project also confirmed strong community support for the existing laws.

“The Government should put the submissions on the public record and abandon its proposed changes. Racist hate speech has no place in modern Australia,” said Mr de Kretser.

Documents provided by Attorney-General's Department in response to FOI request: Cover letter & schedule of documents | Document 2b | Document 3