ECCV welcomes Senate’s rejection of proposed changes to 18C but says still need for vigilance
The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) has welcomed the Senate’s rejection of proposals to change the wording in Section 18C of the Racial Vilification Act, but says there is need for “ongoing vigilance on this issue” because of reports about revisiting this at a later date.
“The ECCV is very pleased with this outcome, and has lobbied long and hard – particularly through various media statements – to oppose the various versions of proposed changes to the Act,” Mr Micallef said.
“The most recent version of the Federal Governments attempts to ‘water down’ the Act was to take the words ‘offend’, ‘insult’ and ‘humiliate’ out of the Act and replace them with ‘harass and intimidate’, which we argued against.
“As we have indicated in previous statements, media reports about people being the subject of racial vilification, abuse, insults on public transport and in other areas of the community are reported in the media on a regular basis.
“As part of ECCV’s Social Cohesion Policy Brief, we conducted round-table community consultations. The report on one of these - On the Road with Muslim Mothers - found that many local residents were concerned about high levels of discrimination and abuse.
“ECCV is strongly supportive of the principles of freedom of speech, which is one of the key elements of any democratic system.
“As we have argued in the past, Section 18D of the Racial Vilification Act extensively covers many areas which support freedom of speech.
“We believe that if this most recent attempt to make changes to the Racial Vilification Act had been passed by the Senate, this would have given validity and credence to the various forms of ‘hate speech’ we have witnessed in our society in the past.
“The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria commends those Senate members who joined together to vote against the proposed amendments to Section 18C.
“However, recent reports in the media suggest we need to keep vigilant about this issue. There have been reports already about proponents of changing Section 18C revisiting the issue if examples of the law’s ‘problematic application’ came to light.
“It has also been reported that free-market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, is urging the Coalition to take the policy amendment to the next election.
“This is why ECCV is urging ethic and multicultural leaders and community members in Victoria to continue lobbying the Federal Government on an ongoing basis to ‘make their voices heard’ about any future changes to Section 18C.”