If the reason that the Joint Committee on Human Rights was asked to inquire into freedom of speech in Australia was simply to appease Senator Cory Bernardi, then it seems this has been an expensive exercise for naught. Prime Minister Turnbull should show some leadership and ask the Parliament to abandon this inquiry now that Corey Bernardi has left the Liberal Party.
Cory Bernardi was the loudest advocate for watering down protections from racist hate speech. He was also one of the bangers of the war drum directed at Malcolm Turnbull.
Malcolm Turnbull launched the Inquiry into Freedom of Speech last year after Cory Bernardi led a rebellion in the Senate; moving a motion to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
It was only last August that Mathias Cormann, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, was reported as saying “The government has made our position very clear that we will not initiate or support any changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. It is a debate we had two years ago.”
Despite that commitment the Inquiry was referred by Malcolm Turnbull’s Government in November 2016.
This expensive and divisive Inquiry has received nearly 12,000 responses and sat for six days. The Inquiry has heard evidence from submitters in Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth and there are two more full days of hearings scheduled for Brisbane and Darwin.
The evidence received by the Committee in submissions and at the hearings so far has been overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the current protections contained in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
It has been distressing for those appearing, and for the Committee members to hear evidence of the damage that racism causes. What has come out loud and clear is that racism is very real in Australia and it is happening every day”, said Graham Perrett MP, Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Committee.
TUESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2017