ECCV opposed to ‘watering down’ Section 18C of Racial Vilification Act -which it says should be ‘strengthened’

The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) is strongly opposed to any proposals to “water down” or “dilute” Section 18C of the Racial Vilification Act - which it says should be strengthened.

ECCV Chairperson, Eddie Micallef, said – as part of its recent submission to the Government’s Inquiry into Freedom of Speech by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in December 2016 - we support the principle of free speech as something that all democratic societies are based on.

“This is an important juncture in Australian history and ECCV implores all Parliamentarians to take full responsibility for the wording in their terms of reference and their public comments.

“Diluting Section 18C risks endorsing racist behaviour and damaging our social cohesion.  18C and 18D as they stand are powerful incentives for balancing free speech and countering hate speech.

“While freedom of speech is a very important right, it is not and should never be an unconditional and absolute right if it risks damaging our society’s social cohesion.

“ECCV does not consider that section 18C or 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act imposes unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech.  In a November 19, 2016, media release we re-stated that those freedoms are very adequately provided for in section 18D of the Act.”

On 22 November, 2016, ECCV joined with 60 multicultural, faith and community organisations and the Victoria State Government to endorse the document Submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Freedom of Speech from Victorian Multicultural, Faith and Community Organisations.

“In our recent Social Cohesion Policy Brief On the Road with Australian Muslim Mothers, and in our gender equity consultations, we found that many culturally diverse residents were concerned about high levels of discrimination.

 “There are many laws that restrict freedom of speech, for example, laws related to defamation, advertising and national security laws. These laws are rarely under review, yet section 18C, which fills an important gap in legal protections for those affected by racial hatred and vilification is again under review.

 “ECCV also strongly supports the idea the Act can be strengthened by adding protections for people to practice their faith and that the benefits of the Act as it now stands can be enjoyed by all Australian regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.”

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