Western Sydney opposes race-hate law change

An increasing number of western Sydney councils are joining a grassroots campaign to oppose changes to our race-hate laws.

First Action 18C convinced Holroyd Council to openly oppose Attorney-General George Brandis’ proposed changes to the Race Discrimination Act 1975, which it did at a meeting on April 15.

Parramatta Council supported a similar motion last night, thanks to Labor councillor James Shaw, and The Hills Council is expected to debate the merits of the changes tonight.

"The Commission considers that, at the very least, a requirement of good faith should be included. This would prevent racist abuse offered up in the course of public discussion being permitted" - — the Australian Human Rights Commission in its submission to the Attorney-General’s Department

On its Facebook page, Action 18C suggested Councillor Ryan Tracey would bring forward a motion at tonight’s full council meeting to join in the Racism “It Stops with Me” national initiative.

They are among 30 NSW councils to have been approached by the three-week-old Action 18C group to oppose repealing sections 18B-E of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The proposed new subsection 4 reads as follows:

(4) This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.

The existing exemption provision found in section 18D exempts words in a much narrower range of public discourse, and only where they meet the test of being “done reasonably and in good faith”.

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY? Click here to read more about racial discrimination.

According to Action 18C’s Facebook page, about 20 of the 30 NSW councils they have approached agree the changes should not be made and will go on the public record to say as much.

There are 152 councils statewide.

Action 18C says City of Ryde was the first known local council to pass a motion against the proposed changes to the Race Discrimination Act.

‘‘Project 18C would like to thank Cr Jerome Laxale for moving the motion,’’ its site moderator wrote.

On March 19, City of Ryde Council signed off on an agreement with the Australian Human Rights Commission to support the “Racism. It stops with me” campaign.

AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: The Commission has made a submission to the Attorney-General’s Department about the proposed changes to the law.

It considers that the exposure Bill as drafted should not proceed and expressed concern with:

■ the Bill’s narrow definition of vilification, ‘‘which excludes conduct that is degrading; and limited definition of intimidation, which excludes conduct causing emotional or psychological harm’’; and

■ the removal of the requirement that acts be done reasonably and in good faith.

‘‘The Commission considers that, at the very least, a requirement of good faith should be included. This would prevent racist abuse offered up in the course of public discussion being permitted,’’ it wrote on its website.

The Action 18C Facebook page was founded on April 11 after a successful Facebook campaign in Victoria.

PAST COVERAGE: Click here to read what western Sydney's migrant groups think about the proposed changes to the Race Discrimination Act.

■ What do you think?

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