ALA responds to Abbott call to end Racial Discrimination Act provision

6th Aug 2012

“Liberal Leader Tony Abbott’s proposal to wind back the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act’s protection against racial abuse should alarm all Australians,” Australian Lawyers Alliance Director and barrister, Greg Barns, said.

Mr Barns was discussing a speech, made by Mr Abbott, at an Institute of Public Affairs function last week when Mr Abbott said a Coalition government would, if elected, repeal laws prohibiting statements that offend people on racial or ethnic grounds.

“Mr Abbott is using the case that News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt lost last year in the Federal Court when he made claims about the Aboriginality of some prominent Indigenous Australians, as a justification for his stance,” Mr Barns said.

“It is noteworthy that Mr Bolt did not appeal the decision of Justice Bromberg in the Federal Court. Perhaps this is because Justice Bromberg correctly applied the law. Further, there is no evidence that, other than in the Bolt case, this law has proved controversial,” he said.

Mr Barns said Racial Discrimination Act provisions, which deal with racial hate speech, were very important.

“They ensure that Australians are not subjected to racial abuse in the media and other public forums. If this protection is removed it will be a green light for those who already seek to demonise groups in our community such as Muslims, the Chinese, Indigenous Australians and other minorities.”

Mr Barns said in the absence of a Human Rights Act, Australians who are susceptible to being racially abused would have even less protection if Mr Abbott’s proposal saw the light of day.

Tags: Human rights Equality Discrimination