Backdown on act, terrorism link criticised

Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks
Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks

THE Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner has criticised the federal government's link between its dropping of proposed changes to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act, and its announcement of tougher measures to fight home-grown terrorists.

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott revealed the government would back down on its promised repeal of section 18C of the legislation, which makes it unlawful for someone to do an act that is reasonably likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" someone because of their race or ethnicity.

In the same announcement, Mr Abbott confirmed that security agencies would receive a boost in resources and legal powers to combat Australian-born terrorists.

Almost 80 per cent of 4100 submissions opposed the government's proposal to weaken the racial discrimination law.

In March, Attorney-General Senator George Brandis declared the right of people to be bigoted.

Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said while she "absolutely welcomed" the government's dropping of its proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, it was unfortunate the government related the issue to its anti-terrorism plans.

Mr Abbott dubbed the draft laws a "complication" in the government's relationship with Australian Muslims.

He said he wanted the communities of Australia to be friends.

"That sort of suggests that people who oppose racism, are somehow not going to support anti-terrorism policies and procedures," Ms Banks said.

"The reason we have have section 18C and racial discrimination laws, is because we want to be a multicultural and tolerant society, in which everyone can contribute to the best of their capacity. Racism prevents that from happening."

Tweets after the announcement were diverse. Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane welcomed the news, while Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson tweeted that he was "very disturbed" by the back-down.


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