What’s Section 18C and all the uproar about?

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Prime Minister Turnbull says Racial Discrimination Act will defend the law | Image: Veni

Section 18C? What on earth is that? Are news headlines and social media projecting that it’s something to do with racism and white men?

If this is what you’re thinking — you’re not alone.


Section 18C makes it unlawful to commit a public act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people based on their race.


The Australian Government is looking to amend the Racial Discrimination Act through removing the current words ‘offend, insult and humiliate’ and instead using ‘harass and intimidate’.

The conservative wing of the Liberal Party — along with other members of the political community — has led the push for amendment.

They argue the bar for offence ‘had been set too low’ and impinges the right to freedom of speech.


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Bill Leak’s controversial cartoon prompted a Human Rights Commission Investigation | Image: The Australian: Bill Leak

Andrew Bolt’s comments back in 2011 claiming people were pretending to be Aboriginal in order to access benefits — and the action against late cartoonist Bill Leak, who was accused of racism for his illustration depicting an Aboriginal derelict dad — are two cases that spring to mind in regards to section 18C.

But at the moment, the political debate surrounding changes dampening 18C has caused significant uproar across the nation — in both parliament and social media — prompting many to come forward with their experiences of racism.


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People are tweeting about #FreedomOfSpeech to report their experiences of racial abuse.

Are the proposed changes simply a way for the government to tell people to ‘harden up’ when it comes to racist vilification … or is it a legitimate response to petty claims of discrimination?

It seems irresponsible and inappropriate in this current global climate, for a national government to argue that a part of its Racial Discrimination Act has ‘set the bar for offence too low’.

Let’s get things straight — intentionally racially insulting and offending another member of the community should remain a crime.

Yes, offence may be subjective — but, racism is truly unacceptable.


 

 

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