Tony Abbott Dumps Controversial Changes to 18C Racial Discrimination Laws

Heath Aston, Sydney Morning Herald, August 5, 2014

The Abbott government has backed down on controversial plans to water down the Racial Discrimination Act.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a ‘‘leadership call’’ to bin the proposed changes to Section 18C of the act, which had been roundly criticised by ethnic community leaders and was unpopular with the wider public.

“Leadership is about preserving national unity on the essentials and that is why I have taken this position,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott said it was a “complication” in the current environment and “we’re just not going to proceed with it”.

‘‘I’m a passionate supporter of free speech and if we were starting from scratch with section 18C we wouldn’t have words such as offend and insult in the legislation. But we aren’t starting from scratch. We are dealing with the situation we find ourselves in and I want the communities of the country to be our friend not our critic,” he said.

“I want to work with the communities of our country as team Australia here.”

The announcement was made under the cover of Mr Abbott’s Tuesday press conference on terror laws with Attorney-General George Brandis.

Senator Brandis had led the government’s bid to wind back 18C, famously proclaiming that people had the ‘‘right to be a bigot’’.

Before last year’s election, the Coalition had promised to repeal section 18C, which became known as the “Bolt laws” after News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt was prosecuted under the existing legislation for two comment piece on white-skinned Aboriginals.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to: “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” because of their race or ethnicity”.

The Attorney-General’s draft bill proposed a new section that would make it: “unlawful for a person to do an act . . . that is reasonably likely to vilify another person or a group of persons or intimidate another person or group of persons”.

The proposed law would have removed protections against offending, insulting or humiliating someone.

But the public storm led to months of delays and reports of angst at cabinet level over the changes.

Last week, Fairfax Media revealed the Coalition’s plan to water down race hate laws had been rejected by a large majority of respondents to a government review.

More than 76 per cent of 4100 submissions opposed the proposal. Just 20.5 per cent of submissions were in favour of the changes, according to documents obtained under freedom of information laws by Simon Rice of the Australian National University. Three per cent called for a complete repeal of all racial discrimination protections.

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson tweeted after the announcement: ‘‘Disturbed to hear the government has backed down on 18C and will keep offensive speech illegal. Very disturbed.’’ Mr Wilson, an Abbott appointee and former analyst with the Institute of Public Affairs has been vocal in his support for changes to the racial discrimination laws, saying they prevent equality.
Mr Wilson told Fairfax Media the move to back down on reforming section 18C is “very disappointing.”

“A law that was controversial when it was introduced, controversial in its operation, a controversial act today,” he said.

“The racial discrimination act significantly restricts free speech in a way that all other anti-discrimination laws do not and the government seems to foolishly think that backing down will assist them or be in the best interest of the Australian population.”

Mr Wilson said there should not be a situation where select legal privileges are enjoyed by some and not by other people.

“The Prime Minister said that he wants to unite team Australia. I agree, which is why we should have laws that apply for everybody consistently,” he said.

“There is nothing more dangerous to a multicultural Australia today than the idea that some people have legal privileges on the basis of their race which do not exist for other people.”

Fellow commissioner Tim Soutphommasane also responded soon after the announcement, but supported the decision, saying the federal government had “listened to the community’s concerns”.

The changes to 18C had been publicly opposed by Labor and some government backbenchers including Craig Laundy and Alex Hawke.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was an “embarrassing backdown” by the government. He said Senator Brandis had been “rolled” and “humiliated”.

Referencing Senator Brandis’ comments earlier this year that Australians had the right to be bigots, Mr Shorten said “there is no right to be a bigot in this country”.

He also called on the government to back down on other plans, including “cuts to pensions, to schools, to hospitals”.

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • MekongDelta69

    Is this the same Tony Abbott who is ordering his Navy to turn back ships with illegal aliens on them? (Which is a good thing – and which we should be doing).

    I don’t get it…

    • GM (Australia)

      Yes, this is the same Mr Abbott who promised to “Stop the Boats”, Nothing more, nothing less. The stopping of the boats is still subject to legal challenges, condemnation by the UN and howls of protest from the Greens and other like minded loony left groups.

      The main groups of immigrants coming to Australia legally are, Indian 21%, Chinese 20%, UK possibly 18%. (Figures may need confirmation) Others??? Who knows?Student Visa abuse, lots of. Tourist Visa Overstayers, plenty of. Skilled Migrant program abuse, widespread. (= cheap Indian & Chinese labour, often family)
      Obviously we will still not be allowed to have any public debate on immigration policy in this once proudly white nation.
      I have followed this news story and still do not know why Mr Abbott has changed his mind on this issue.
      Note, and in all fairness the authorities here took swift and decisive action re a group of “teens” (nationality not disclosed) who racially abused Jewish school children on a school bus here yesterday.

      • Pro_Whitey

        Well, I hope he keeps up the border control, at least. Perhaps he can be like the left, backing down now, and then coming back later when circumstances are more propitious. In the meantime, they are to do some more work preparing the ground.

      • Aussie_Thinker

        Sadly this was one of the main reasons I still supported LNP, and now its gone. Its probably because Abbott has faced criticism over other changes that aren’t “necessary”, such as the deal with knighthoods (which I fully supported, and am ashamed it became such a spectacle). Not to mention, with the voting polls saying they’re losing their lead, Abbott is going to be trying to keep his party members happy as well as the majority of (vocal) Australians, who just so happen to be mostly leftards.

  • Law? What law? Does not Mr. Abbott have a pen and a phone?

  • Einsatzgrenadier

    Mr. Abbott still needs the ethnic vote in order to secure a second term as PM and the re-election of his Liberal cabinet, that’s why he can’t water down the 18C racial discrimination laws. Eventually, the Aussie government will no longer be held accountable to the white electorate. This is because mass third world immigration will totally replace the historic Oz nation with one from the third world.

    • Aussie_Thinker

      Second term he may change it. Hopefully.

  • Mary

    I used to think so…but now who the heck knows? With rapidly changing demographics, I don’t believe anything can be considered sacrosanct.

  • “Team Australia?” Government by mindless slogan is always going to be bad government. That slogan is obviously intended to generate white guilt. If you don’t back the black, you’re not on the team and you’re bad, bad, bad.

    We had it at the university too. “Team UTSA.” Teams do not get work done, when teams consist of one smart white guy working his butt off and a half dozen lazy blacks and messcans free riding on his work.

    This notion of “teams” which the workplace has adopted in the US is a cultural Marxist backdoor means of promoting diversity. Don’t fall for it.

  • JohnEngelman

    Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to: “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” because of their race or ethnicity”.

    – Heath Aston, Sydney Morning Herald, August 5, 2014

    I guess that means I can’t read “The Color of Crime” in public over there.

  • coco bongo

    Allow the government to control free speech and you’re screwed. It’s Britain all over again with Paul Weston being arrested for quoting Winston Churchill because it offended some Muslimes! Tools. White people have gone insane!

  • It would be nice to think so, but there is too much talk among academic elites and influential people (not to mention young, idealistic Leftists at our universities) who are screaming for ‘hate-speech’ laws.

    They consider it ‘reasonable’ to prevent certain persons (whites) and groups (political dissenters) from voicing their views publicly. That’s why the Left has no problem with disrupting the meetings of those they oppose and to prevent others from their hearing their viewpoints. It’s all seen as justifiable in the demented mind of the Leftist.

    Many of these same folks, when pressed, will admit the first amendment does not apply to ‘hate-speech.’ The mass of low-information voters will nod their heads, and blindly go along with it too.

    The America I grew up in is not the America of today. That old America has died, never again to be revived as originally founded.

  • LHathaway

    “Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to: “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” because of their race or ethnicity”.

    No need to re-word the legislation. As it stands now it is a call to remove all persons of color from Australia.

  • WR_the_realist

    I’d like to be able to believe that bit of fantasy but then, my handle here is WR the realist. As the non-whites become ever more of a majority it is only a matter of time before the ADL gets its most draconian anti-free speech “hate speech” laws passed.

  • kjh64

    Don’t count on it. People here in America are frequently severely penalized for openly saying anything not politically correct. A news reporter was recently fired from his job by saying that a big problem is Black communities is a lack of father. While Americans, as of now, can’t be thrown in jail or arrested for “hate speech”, they can face job loss and other forms of persecution for not going along with the “party line.”

  • none of your business

    Note, and in all fairness the authorities here took swift and decisive action re a group of “teens” (nationality not disclosed) who racially abused Jewish school children on a school bus here yesterday.

    It’s on freerepublic. The Jewish community claims the school bus invaders were blondes who shouted Heil Hitler and claimed to be Nazis.

  • David Ashton

    Tim Soutphommasane – is an anagram for….?

  • canto28

    Saying that one has a RIGHT to be a bigot is NOT the same as saying it’s OK to be a bigot. Apparently this is a distinction too many can’t make, but fortunately SCOTUS can.

    BTW, notice that every politician that moves to restrict free speech always prefaces his words with the lie that he is passionate about free speech. They are cowardly hypocrites.

  • none of your business

    By Brenton Sanderson

    In the face of a coordinated and sustained campaign initiated and led by Jewish activists, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has abandoned his 2013 election promise to water down or remove Section 18C of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act which makes it unlawful to act in a manner likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone on the basis of race. Abbott said he had made a “leadership decision” to walk away from his pledge despite having promised to remove this outrageous restriction on the free speech after the law was used successfully against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt in 2011.

    It is a measure of the power wielded by organized Jewry in Australia that the Prime Minister would rather damage his political credibility by breaking a clear election promise than suffer the consequences of defying the single most powerful group in Australian society.

    I knew it all along. I have observed them for 50 years and I can recognize their operations. The ADL recently greatly enhanced their operation in Australia. This is one result. Expect more to come including Whites being jailed for hate speech and more non White immigrant attacks on Whites.

  • none of your business

    Continued by Brenton Sanderson

    Despite these concerns, most Australian Jews see themselves as the longer-term beneficiaries of policies explicitly designed to dilute the power of the traditional European-derived Australian majority. Australian Jewry has therefore sought to make alliances with various immigrant groups in opposition to the White majority, including Muslims. Attempts to form a political coalition with Australian Muslims date from the earliest days of Australian multiculturalism. Australian Jews sought Muslim support for the enactment of the racial discrimination legislation recommended by the Lippmann-chaired Committeeon Community Relations in the mid-1970s. In the years since, Jews have repeatedly sought the support of the Muslim community in lobbying for various multicultural policies, including those relating to “access to government services, recourse for victims of discrimination, and protection from harassment.” Jewish activism organizations such as the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council was quick to enlist Australia’s Muslim leaders in their campaign to oppose any changed to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

    According to Jeremy Jones, the director of international and community affairs of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, “the relationship between Australian Jews and Muslims has developed positively over the past decade.” Nevertheless, he believes that “maintaining the momentum will require leadership and determination, but there are good grounds for optimism given the network of relations and shared fruitful experiences in contemporary multicultural Australia.”

    About 10 years ago I read in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that the ADL was vastly expanding its operations in Australia. Actually i should say subversive operations in Australia. I knew something like this would happen. By “protection from harassment”
    The ADL means that Australians will not be able to resist in any way harassment from muslims and africans including rape. Expect a few Scottsboro boys trials, an Australian
    “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a spate of african and muslims raping White women defended by Jewish attorneys and a full on blast of it was consensual and the woman is a racist bigot for reporting it.

    I know a lot of Jews and they are totally anti White racist and ultra liberal. Some of these ultra liberals Jews believe that southern White women actually seduced black men and then reported the incident as rape so as to rile White men up to lynch the blacks.

    That is what Jews or some liberal Jews believe about us. It is mostly Jewish women who have told me this. But Jewish liberal men believe this too.