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Brandis’ proposed laws will lead to vilification say Human Rights Law Centre

Brandis’ proposed laws will lead to vilification say Human Rights Law Centre

LAST UPDATED // Wednesday, 26 March 2014 11:35 Written by // Cec Busby

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.”


Cec Busby

Cec Busby

Cec Busby is the news editor of SX and

Comments (1)

  • Derek Williams

    26 March 2014 at 22:14 |
    Take Russia as an example with its so-called "anti-gay law", forbidding "propaganda of non-traditional relationships to minors". On the face of it, this seems perfectly reasonable. Who in their right mind wants propaganda of anything to minors, let alone a particular kind of relationship?

    There's the nub. There was no propaganda of homosexuality to minors in the first place, yet the government saw fit to legislate against it. Why? The answer is that Putin wants the vote of the increasingly omnipotent Russian Orthodox Church to secure himself the presidency in perpetuity. He knows that society will always rise up against any threat, real or imagined, to its children, and rightly so, but that's the problem right there, when you represent a particular kind of disliked minority as posing a particular kind of threat to children.

    Hitler and Goebbels succeeded with exactly the same technique, by representing Jews as a "danger to Aryan children". The prejudice had already been wallpaper, but now the government through its legislature ignited the prejudice and gave the avuncular nod for ordinary citizens to engage in pogroms. Although nowhere near the severity of what Jews experienced under the Nazis, anti-gay attacks are now ubiquitous across Russia and go unprosecuted. Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystin called for the burning alive of gays in ovens, to a cheering audience. Putin's new news chief Dimitry Kiselyov called for the burning of the organs of gay donors, as "unifit for the continuation of human life", again to cheering audience. These statements will be legal against racial and gender minorities if Abbot's push to legitimate them becomes Australian law.

    In African countries that have stepped up their criminalisation of homosexuality, gays are now being set on fire and stoned in the streets while crowds record the killings on their mobile phones. A quick Google will show you these shamelessly uploaded to social media.

    When, as in Russia, the state finally legislates away the right of minorities like gays to protest at such mistreatment, it has in effect extinguished their citizenship. We must zealously guard our freedoms so hard-won and at such cost, and it all starts with unregulated hate speech.


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