Independent Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage withdraws support for anti-discrimination law amendment

Independent Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage has retreated from her support for a motion to change the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Ms Armitage originally supported independent Apsley MLC Tania Rattray’s motion to remove the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from section 17 of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

It was Ms Armitage and Ms Rattray’s view that these words were too “subjective”.

According to section 17, it is unlawful to offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule a person based on attributes including race, sexuality and disability.

Ms Armitage said she had received a great quantity of correspondence from minority groups voicing their concerns around Ms Rattray’s proposed amendment.

She said this prompted her to suggest the amendment undergo consultation.

Ms Armitage made reference to a letter she had received from the Brain Injury Association of Tasmania.

The organisation said that section 17 “provide[d] an invaluable protection for Tasmanians living with brain injury”.

Independent Huon MLC Robert Armstrong said the bill, as well as Ms Rattray’s amendment, was about defending freedom of speech.

He said that, without the bill, public discourse in Tasmania would be “muted”.

Rumney independent Liberal MLC Tony Mulder said there needed to be nationwide discrimination laws.

Independent Western Tiers MLC Greg Hall agreed with Ms Rattray, advocating for the removal of ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from the act.

The Law Society of Tasmania wrote to MLCs on Tuesday, calling on them to subject the proposed amendment to a public consultation process.

“The society urges an inquiry into the proposed amendments, or at least meaningful consultation,” the letter read.

Debate was adjourned until a later date.