Racial Discrimination Act - there's no case for change

Full transcript below:

Mr PERRETT (Moreton—Opposition Whip) (13:54): The report from the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee about the proposed legislation to amend section 18C was tabled at 12:30 today. The committee held one hearing over just a few hours with less than 48 hours' notice given to participants.

No Indigenous Australians or representative bodies were invited to appear before the committee. The Aboriginal Legal Service wanted to be heard, and Labor members argued for them to appear but the free-speech champions in the government denied the Aboriginal Legal Service the opportunity to speak.

Unsurprisingly, the coalition-dominated committee made only one recommendation—that this rushed and dangerous bill be passed. Already the bill has been put to the Senate to be debated. This is an appalling way to crunch our democratic process, especially for something with such potentially dangerous consequences.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, for which I am the deputy chair, has already considered possible changes to section 18C. We handed down a report in late February. Our inquiry was still rushed over 112 days but we at least had hearings in every capital city. Our committee actually heard from Indigenous Australians, their representative bodies and representatives of the Jewish community and multicultural community.

We heard the real harm that racist hate speech causes to individuals and their communities. The report from the human rights committee made no recommendation to change the Racial Discrimination Act. I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider the message that this divisive legislation will send—not to the fair-minded 99 per cent Australians but the hateful one per cent—(Time expired)

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