Call to speak against racism

THE Multicultural Council of Tasmania has called on the Premier to join his interstate counterparts in asking the federal government to reconsider its proposal to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act, after a meeting of community leaders last week.

George Brandis

George Brandis

Critics have said the proposal to amend the federal law would give racists a field day.

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis also sparked controversy while defending the proposal in March, when he declared that people had the right to be bigots.

Multicultural council chief executive Anna Reynolds said community groups wanted Tasmanian politicians to take the lead on the issue.

About 25 people, representing about 16 multicultural communities and organisations, met in Hobart last week to voice their concerns about the proposed changes.

Ms Reynolds said the group wanted local politicians to speak out against the proposal.

She said this was something Tasmanian politicians were yet to do.

``It's important for state leaders to speak out and say that Tasmania wants to be a more multicultural community and we don't think these kinds of laws will create a harmonious society or community,'' Ms Reynolds said.

``The premiers of Victoria and New South Wales have said it's not what those states want to see.

``They have opposed it publicly and quite strongly.

``They also put in a submission against the proposed legislation.''

When asked if he would join his interstate counterparts in calling for the changes to be reconsidered, Premier Will Hodgman answered in general terms.

``The right to free speech is very important, but it must be balanced by the responsibility to protect the vulnerable,'' he said.

``Personally, I do not support anything that encourages or justifies racial discrimination.''

Ms Reynolds said the issue was one which unified many communities. 

``There are a lot of people who have experienced racism from being different and from having different-coloured skin,'' she said.

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