Brandis’ proposed laws will lead to vilification say Human Rights Law Centre
The Human Rights Law Centre has criticised Australian Attorney General George Brandis’ proposed new racial vilification legislation.
Under the proposed changes the words ‘offend, humiliate and insult’ would be removed from the existing laws and intimidation would also be given a narrower definition. While laws that currently govern free speech and artistic comment would be widened to include public discussion.
The Human Rights Law Centre believes these changes could lead to increased bigotry, prejudice, vilification and hate speech.
“These changes would significantly water down important laws that protect against the harm that flows from racial vilification,” said HRLC Executive Director Hugh de Kretser.
“Putting the debate around racial offence and insults to one side, our biggest concern is the gaping hole introduced by the public discourse exemption. There’s not much protection left when you see that the laws wouldn’t apply in private nor in public discussion on a wide range of matters. Anyone with a blog, megaphone or a twitter account will seemingly be given a licence to racially vilify.”
De Kretser said the existing free speech exemptions for fair comment, fair reporting and artistic and scientific works would be over-inflated and greatly expanded to include “public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”
Importantly, the requirements for “reasonableness” and “good faith” in the exemptions would be removed.
“It’s hard to imagine any racial topic that would be outside the realms of this extraordinarily broad exemption,” said Mr de Kretser.
Whilst de Kretser is in agreement the current laws need reviewing, the Human Rights Law Centre believes Brandis’ claims that they new laws would provide better protections was untrue.
“The Attorney’s claim that these proposed laws would provide the strongest ever protection against racism under Federal legislation is astonishing and not backed by any basic analysis. Overall, these changes substantially weaken the existing protection.
“These proposed changes tip the balance too far the wrong way. At least the changes have been released as an exposure draft as it will allow the substantial problems to be identified and amended, so long as the Government approaches the consultation in good faith.”