Debate on race-hate laws divides The Hills councillors

The Hills Labor councillors failed in their attempts to convince their Liberal colleagues of the merits of opposing changes to our race-hate laws on Tuesday night.

‘‘The amended motion is a sensible compromise that removes the political motivation of the ALP" - — Andrew Jefferies

By the close of what was a lively, and sometimes heated, 40-minute debate councillors unanimously supported the following, put forward by Councillor Alan Haselden.

That council:

1. acknowledges, embraces and supports the diversity of the Australian community;

2. acknowledges that discrimination and vilification in any form is unacceptable; and

3. reaffirms its commitment to continue to provide services, events and activities uniformly across the community inclusive of all Hills shire residents.

‘‘The amended motion is a sensible compromise that removes the political motivation of the ALP whilst recognising that discrimination and vilification in any form is unacceptable,’’ deputy mayor Andrew Jefferies posted on our Facebook page.

Labor councillor Ryan Tracey had called via a notice of motion for the council to renounce any move by the federal government to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, among other things.

The section provides protection to individuals from offensive behaviour because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin.

‘‘This is not the forum’’ - — Crs Alan Haselden and Jeff Lowe

Some councillors claimed in the meeting it was not a matter for local government to discuss, including councillors Haselden and Jeff Lowe who said ‘‘this is not the forum’’.

Councillor Ray Harty said it was important to take a stand as a matter of principle and the community deserved to know where they stood on this issue.

“There is plenty on your side of politics in the public domain expressing a view" - — Labor councillor Ray Harty

Councillor Jefferies said this was an orchestrated political campaign by the Australian Labor Party, to which came Cr Harty’s reply: “There is plenty on your side of politics in the public domain expressing a view.’’

He cited Premier Mike Baird.

Cr Tracey said if the repeal goes through, the AFL and NFL would have stronger racial laws than the Australian government.

He was said the law should not be touched until empirical data was published and tested.

Cr Jefferies said he would have been prepared to take on Cr Tracey’s view “if” he had brought it back to a local level.

“Cr Tracey, like I did, grew up in the suburb of Carlingford . . . [where] 49 per cent of residents do not speak English at home,’’ he said.

He asked why Cr Tracey did not have those figures in his speech.

Present in the meeting was Clair McEntee of Kellyville who praised Cr Tracey for bringing the motion forward.

‘‘He spoke with conviction and passion and definitely represented my interests,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m a Hills shire resident and I oppose any changes to 18C of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act.’’

The Hills was one of 30 NSW councils the grassroots campaign group Action 18C had approached to oppose repealing sections 18B-E of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Parramatta and Holroyd Council have supported this.

There are 152 councils statewide.

Afterwards, former The Hills Liberal councillor, now Burwood councillor, Justin Taunton, said he’d bring Cr Tracey’s notice of motion to his council.

OUR PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Click here to read our previous coverage.

Cr Ryan Tracey’s original notice of motion read:

The Hills Shire Council supports and joins in the Racism “It Stops with Me” National initiative by:

1. acknowledging that we understand the importance of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 in that this Act provides protection to individuals from offensive behaviour because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin;

2. Notes that all levels of government should combat bigotry;

3. Calling on all local Members of Parliament (state and federal) and elected councillors to represent our diverse shire by renouncing any move by the federal government to adversely change section 18 C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975; and

4. Reaffirm the Australian citizenship pledge: ‘‘I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect and whose laws I will uphold and obey’’.

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