The Australian Senate has rejected attempts to water down Australia’s hate speech laws; an outcome that is being celebrated by Labor and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) who took a strong stance against the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
“There was no way we were going to stand by and allow a free rein to racial vilification,” said the Chair of FECCA, Joe Caputo.
“The Racial Discrimination Act, as it stands, provides protection for vulnerable communities against racial attacks while defending the right to freedom of speech.”
The Turnbull government had been proposing to alter the section of 18C, to replace the words ‘insult’, ‘offend’ and ‘humiliate’ with the term ‘harass’.
But it was during a debate in the Senate that ran late on Thursday night that the government discovered it did not have the numbers required to pass the changes, voted down by Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers, including Nick Xenophon and Tasmanian Independent Jacqui Lambie.
Mr Caputo said that if the changes to 18C were to go ahead, that it would have led to the undoing of Australia’s harmonious, tolerant and cohesive multicultural society.
“It would have sent a message that it is acceptable for one person to verbally attack another based on their race,” he said.
“We support efforts to empower the Australian Human Rights Committee to deal with complaints in a fair and efficient manner and to block unreasonable and vexatious claims.”