“The Senate did the right thing by Australian multiculturalism and social cohesion in rejecting the proposed amendments to 18C of the Racial Hatred Act last night”, Dr Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), said today.
“While we are still studying the changes to the complaints handling procedures in the Human Rights Commission passed today, we have long supported reforms designed to streamline and improve the complaints process – especially provisions to quickly terminate vexatious and unmeritorious claims.
“We note that the Joint Parliamentary Committee suggested improvements to the processes of complaint handling but prudently did not recommend specific changes to 18C”, he added. “We welcome the Government’s role in the legislative outcome which should provide a consensual basis going forward. While justifiably maintaining 18C, the legislative changes provide widely agreed-upon process reforms rectifying the problems that have been acknowledged by both critics and supporters of the law in the handling of a small number of cases.”
Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s Director of Community and International Affairs, who was personally involved as a named complainant in a number of successful complaints under 18C, argued “we have a basic right to live our lives free of racial intimidation, abuse and harassment, and Australia benefits when we can each contribute to our society to the maximum of our abilities. Maintaining 18C signals that this is recognised by our political leaders.”
Jones concluded, “The existing legislation maintains the correct balance between two essential freedoms – freedom of speech and freedom from racist bullying”.
For additional information, contact AIJAC on (03)-9681-6660 or (02)-9360-5415.