The Australian Christian Lobby has urged support for a bill to restore the balance in favour of freedom of speech.
The bill was introduced in the Senate today by Family First Senator Bob Day but co-sponsored by Liberal Senators Dean Smith and Cory Bernardi, and by Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm.
It would amend section 18C the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to remove the words “offend” and “insult” from the section, while the words “humiliate” and “intimidate” would remain.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said that this amendment is vital to protect freedom of speech and expression in Australia.
“While no reasonable person wants to offend or insult anyone on the basis of race, it is essential that we protect the right of people to express their views on contentious issues,” Mr Shelton said.
“At times, genuine and fair-minded people will hold views that others may find offensive,” he said. “We should not make this illegal.”
“Protections against intimidation or humiliation remain in place,” Mr Shelton said. “This strikes the right balance between protecting people from harm to their person or their reputation, while allowing the public to debate freely.”
Senator Day said the current section has created a serious imbalance between freedom of speech and racial discrimination, restricting objective and fair-minded opinion.
“While preventing racial discrimination in law is important, sometimes the court of public opinion can be very effective in determining if certain comments are inappropriate. “ Mr Shelton said.