Bucking the trend of rising racial hatred around the world, the Australian Senate tonight took a stand against racism in Australia by voting down proposed harmful changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
“This vote shows that Australia is ready to move on from this divisive debate. It follows last month’s decision by the bipartisan Freedom of Speech inquiry not to recommend any changes to race hate laws. The message to Prime Minister Turnbull is clear: this conversation is over. He needs to get on the right side of history, and firmly put an end to the debate around racist hate speech,” said Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia.
The proposed Bill would have changed prohibited conduct from that which causes insult, offence or humiliation on the basis of race or ethnicity, to only conduct that harasses or intimidates someone on that basis.
The Bill also proposed that conduct be judged according to the standards of a member of the general Australian community, rather than by the standards of the group experiencing racism.
No green light for race-hate speech
“The proposed changes would have given the green light to race-hate speech in Australia, causing untold harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally diverse communities. Instead, the Senate has protected the right of these communities to live in safety and in dignity, free from racist hate speech.”
One in five Australians experience racism, which has devastating impacts on mental health, physical safety, and the ability to participate in school and work.
“As politicians around the world whip up fear and race hate, Prime Minister Turnbull should instead bring Australians together to build a compassionate, strong and diverse society that we can be proud of. Diversity is a strength in this country, and we need to celebrate that rather than tearing communities apart.”
Amnesty International applauds those Senators who voted for an Australia that is accepting, that is diverse, and that does not tolerate racist hate speech.
PM Turnbull must become leader on race issues
“The eyes of the international community are on Australia’s Indigenous rights record – and that record is looking very tarnished indeed,” said Tammy Solonec.
“The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is currently investigating the situation here in Australia, and in just a few months UN members will vote on whether Australia is successful in its bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council. Now that the issue of race-hate speech in Australia is put to bed, Prime Minister Turnbull needs to step up on the international stage and show himself to be a leader on race issues in Australia.”