18C discussion may influence debate around Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill in Tasmania's Upper House

Tania Rattray MLC
Tania Rattray MLC

Tasmanian MLCs have made it clear where they stand in the debate around potential changes to the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

The Legislative Council held a briefing on the matter earlier in March.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, the federal Liberal Party reached a consensus on removing the words ‘insult’, ‘humiliate’ and ‘offend’ from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and replacing them with ‘harass’. 

Similarly, the Tasmanian legislation seeks to offer religious exemptions to certain people wishing to express a viewpoint that might otherwise be deemed discriminatory. 

Several independent Tasmanian MLCs agreed that the federal decision would likely impact on the anti-discrimination conversation in this state.

Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest, who moved that the bill be referred to a parliamentary committee before being debated in the Legislative Council chamber, said “no-one” supported the bill as it was.

But Apsley MLC Tania Rattray said last week’s briefing had not produced a consensus viewpoint on the issue.

She believed Tasmanian legislation should reflect Commonwealth legislation in this area.

Nonetheless, Ms Rattray did not think the matter needed to be resolved urgently.

Rosevears MLC Kerry Finch said many Tasmanians could not see why their parliamentary representatives were spending as much time as they were debating discrimination laws.

He did not feel existing laws needed to be changed.