Law change condemned

Councillor Jennie Carter with her granddaughters Asha (3) and Carys (20 months) Nguyen. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d422066
Councillor Jennie Carter with her granddaughters Asha (3) and Carys (20 months) Nguyen. Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d422066

Councillor Jennie Carter put forward a notice of motion disagreeing with Senator Brandis’ proposal, which goes against the removal of the racial anti-vilification guarantees in the Act.

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, Cr Carter delivered a speech that included stories involving childhood friends she witnessed experiencing racial abuse.

‘Australia has a wonderful multicultural society and everyone should have a right to feel welcome,’ Cr Carter said.

‘This isn’t about restrictions or freedom of speech, this is about protecting all Australians who have been unfairly discriminated against based on their race.

‘I’ve not had to suffer racial abuse but I have witnessed it and the harm it can do.’

Cr Carter’s motion mentioned the present objective of the law was to protect the community from hate speech and from racial, religious and cultural intolerance and had been considered a good law for almost four decades.

‘Words can leave far deeper scars than any sticks and stones; they can profoundly hurt, degrade, belittle and humiliate,’ she said.

‘And yet the awesome power of words define who we are.

‘Above all, words shape what we aspire to be and interestingly in our constitution, unlike America’s, we do not enshrine the principle of free speech.

‘America also has laws against vilification and racial discrimination.

‘Mr Brandis is wrong.

‘Why we may think what we might, in no way do we have any right to be a racist or a bigot and we certainly do not have a right for public expression of the worst aspects of our bigotry.’

Senator Brandis’ proposed four changes include the extension of the pre-existing ‘free-speech’ provision, which now provides relevant speech acts done ‘reasonably and in good faith’ are not regulated under the Act.

There is the narrowed definition of vilification and intimidation as well as two other changes involving a modification to the definition of who sets the standard of a ‘reasonable’ response to racial abuse and a proposal to delete the section of the Act, which recognises that in determining whether an act is racially motivated.

Mayor John Gangell commended Cr Carter for putting forward the motion and said he was proud to be part of the first council to oppose the repeal.

About 40 councils across Australia have passed a motion similar to Cr Carter’s.