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in brief: brandis to step back on changes to racial discrimination act

George_Brandis_Attorney-General

Attorney-General George Brandis has caused quite a stir in Australian politics this week with his proposal to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Clause 18C was added in 1995 and states that it is ‘unlawful for someone to publicly offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person or group of people’.

The proposal Brandis is putting forward removes most of this law and leaving it with just the last section. The first three, he claims, only represent ‘hurt feelings’ which the state shouldn’t have to control. He believes ‘intimidate’ means fear, a word more critical than just ‘hurt feelings’.

Brandis wants to add an additional clause mentioning vilification.

However, today, the federal senate has forced Brandis to soften his original amendments that could effectively loosen restraints on hate speech and racist insults.

Racism always causes great debate and many in the Opposition feel this will just give ‘bigots’ approval to use racial comments. The government see it as more of an encouragement to freedom of speech, but there are claims that this just covers any accidental racial slip up and protects the politicians and others in power.

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