Posted on August 8, 2016

Senators at One on Race Hate Law Change

Rashida Yosufzai, AAP, August 7, 2016

They may be a mixed bag when it comes to ideas and beliefs, but some crossbench senators seem to agree on at least one testy issue: watering down race hate laws.

Their argument? Free speech is just free speech–and you shouldn’t shoot the messenger.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, who’s been returned for a second term, says he’ll push for the scrapping of the entire section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate a person on the grounds of race.

It’s a bigger move from what he tried to do in 2015 with fellow crossbencher Bob Day under a private bill to remove the words “insult or offend” from section 18C.

But now he’s got the backing of One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, who’s worried people are too afraid to speak their mind for fear of being dismissed.

The rookie Queensland politician says free speech is free speech, and anything less won’t do.

“What tends to happen is we address the messenger rather than the message,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.

Minorities wouldn’t be hurt or humiliated unless they chose to take offence.

“You can call me short, fat, a Queenslander, a cane toad, whatever you want to call me, the only person who decides whether I’m upset is me.”

His comments received resounding support from Senator Leyonhjelm.

“Offence is always taken, not given,” he said.

“If you don’t want to be offended it’s up to you, don’t be offended.”

Broadcaster-turned-politician Derryn Hinch also wants to scrap 18C, after being approached by Senator Day in February about supporting the push to repeal the section.