AIJAC statement welcoming the outcome of the Parliamentary Joint Committee Inquiry into Freedom of Speech, including Sections 18C and 18D of the RDA

AIJAC statement welcoming the outcome of the Parliamentary Joint Committee Inquiry into Freedom of Speech

“AIJAC is pleased that the Australian Federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Australia found no consensus for change to the wording of either clauses 18C or 18D of of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA) – which we view as unnecessary and potentially damaging.

“We are quite comfortable with the recommendations made for streamlining the complaint-handling process through the Human Rights Commission, including improving the HRC’s ability to quickly terminate complaints that are vexatious or have no legal chance of success. We note that even some critics of 18C have acknowledged that these measures would likely correct any problems that have arisen with implementation of the act – including the HRC’s handling of the controversial QUT case.

“We are of course in favour of the recommendation for increased education efforts to counter racism and intolerance.

“Overall, AIJAC welcomes the result, which is largely consistent with our submission to the inquiry. As AIJAC has noted before, we believe that maintaining Australia as a successful, largely harmonious, liberal democratic and multicultural society requires both preserving freedom of expression, and providing legal recourse to those victimised by racist harassment, intimidation and abuse. Moreover, despite controversy over the process of administering complaints in a tiny number of cases, the overall experience is that provisions 18C and 18D of RDA have worked effectively and as intended for over 20 years in thousands of cases.

“We hope that the work of this Inquiry, together with the sensible, limited administrative reforms it has proposed, will finally put to rest the often ideologically-driven and poorly-informed campaign being run by some to abolish 18C, and the divisions and anxieties this has caused. These controversies have been particularly unwelcome at the present time due to the increasing activity and prominence of populist, xenophobic and extremist groups both in Australia and elsewhere, and the heightened concerns and fears that these developments are creating in multicultural communities around the country.”

Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM

Executive Director
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)