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Posted in News on 30 March, 2014

Media Release-Coalition MP Breaks Ranks with Federal Government on Section 18C
Thursday, 13 March 2014
Coalition MP Breaks Ranks with Federal Government on Section 18C

Coalition MP, Craig Laundy, the Federal Member for Reid, has come out publicly to oppose any changes to sections of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) which prohibit public conduct that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person or groups because of their skin colour or national or ethnic origin.

Mr Laundy told “The Conversation” on Wednesday 12 March 2014 that he would like the law “to stay exactly as it is”.

Mr Laundy’s stance has won praise from a group of representatives of the Indigenous, Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Arab, Armenian and Korean communities, who have been pursuing a vigorous campaign to persuade Federal politicians against any repeal or watering down of Australia’s laws against racial vilification.

“Craig Laundy has had the courage to say publicly what a number of his Coalition colleagues, some of them very senior, have been saying to us privately,” Ms Randa Kattan, CEO of Arab Council Australia and spokesperson for the group said.

“Once people understand that the existing law only applies to serious cases and requires an objective test to be satisfied based on community standards, rather than a subject test based on hurt feelings, it becomes clear that the current law is about enabling targeted groups to defend themselves against racial vilification and has nothing to do with limiting free speech.”

“The law does not stop anybody from offending or insulting others because of their opinions or beliefs. People can change their opinions or beliefs. But the current law does prohibit publicly offending and insulting others because of their race, which is something people cannot change. Offending and insulting other people because of their race is not about persuasion. It’s about attacking their human dignity,” Ms Kattan said.

It is expected that the government will table draft legislation before the Parliament within the next fortnight. “The more extensive the proposed changes are, the stiffer the opposition to it will be,” Ms Kattan predicted.

“The Racial Discrimination Act is one of Australia’s most iconic pieces of legislation. It goes to the heart of Australia’s identity as a nation that is both democratic and culturally diverse. The law ought not to be changed unless there are truly compelling reasons. The outcome of one contentious case falls a long way short in that regard,” Ms Kattan concluded.

Endorsed by:
Ms Kirstie Parker, Co-chair, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
Mr Les Malezer, Co-chair, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
Mr Vache Kahramanian, Executive Director, Armenian National Committee of Australia
Ms Randa Kattan, CEO, Arab Council Australia
Mr Tony Pang, Secretary, Chinese Australian Services Society
Mr Luke Song, Korean Society of Sydney
Mr George Vellis, Co-ordinator, Australian Hellenic Council
Mr Patrick Voon, President, Chinese Australian Forum
Mr Peter Wertheim, Executive Director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry