ECCV urges Victorian multicultural communities to lobby Fed Govt on proposed changes to Section 18C

The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) is strongly urging leaders and members of Victoria’s ethnic and multicultural communities to actively lobby the Federal Government to prevent proposed changes being made to Section 18C of the Racial Vilification Act.

ECCV Chairperson, Eddie Micallef, said his organisation was fully supportive of the principles and importance of freedom of speech, and how this was an “essential element” in any “truly democratic society”.

“The proposed changes, which have yet again been outlined by the Federal Government to Section 18C of the Racial Vilification Act, do nothing to promote free speech in our society, and will only give credence and credibility to the proliferation of ‘hate speech’.

“It is almost inconceivable that the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, choose Harmony Day to announce this latest attempt to ‘water down’ Section 18C of the Act. 

“Harmony Day, which was held throughout Australia on 21 March, is meant to be a potent symbol of the great success story of multiculturalism in this country, and an expression of our highly successful cultural diversity and social cohesion,” Mr Micallef said.

“ECCV has put out a number of media statements recently outlining why the various proposals and versions of changing the wording in Section 18C are not necessary, and how the provisions of 18D of the Act more than cover the right to freedom of speech.

“In the most recent version of the attempt to ‘water down’ Section 18C, we have the Prime Minister proposing that we take the words ‘offend’, ‘insult’ and ‘humiliate’ out of the Act and replace them with ‘harass and intimidate’.

“There have been numerous instances reported in the media where people have been the subject of racial vilification, abuse, insults on public transport and in other community spaces, and how these people feel threatened and intimated by this.

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

“We are strongly supportive of the stance the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council has taken on this issue calling for strong grass-roots opposition to the changes.

“ECCV is urging all members and leaders within Victoria’s ethnic and multicultural communities to come together in a strong grass-roots action of opposition to the proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Vilification Act.

“While it seems likely at this stage that the proposed changes will not be passed by the Senate, it is important for people to send a clear statement to the Federal Government that these proposed changes are unacceptable given that this issue is likely to be revisited in the future.”

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