Take note of answers _ Racial Discrimmination Act


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:10): Congratulations to Senator Dodson on what is not his 'first speech' but it is his first speech! It was obviously a thoughtful contribution to the chamber. But if I could suggest to the senator it is important that in speeches to the chamber he actually is factual in some of the things he says. Can I assure Senator Dodson—and I think I can say this on behalf of almost every Australian—that every Australian abhors racial discrimination or any other form of discrimination. That is a given in our country of Australia. It is what makes us all so proud to be Australians. But the comments that the senator mentioned are simply not accurate.

First of all, can I repeat the response of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to Senator Dodson's question, and that is that as far as the government is concerned this is not a priority and it will not be introduced by the government. That is the government's official line and I make it clear at the start of my contribution that that is what the executive government has a view of.

Having said that, as an individual member of the coalition government and a proud member of the Liberal Party and Liberal National Party of Queensland I have the right in this parliament to exercise not only my view on what is correct or not correct but also to represent the views of my constituents, who are the people of Queensland. I am again fairly confident in saying that most people in Queensland, whilst abhorring any form of discrimination, particularly racial discrimination, are offended and insulted by the fact that these words 'offend' and 'insult' are in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Senator Dodson said that the proposal was to delete the paragraph or to amend it to remove two other words. This is plainly incorrect. We are not proposing to remove from 18C the words 'humiliate' and 'intimidate'. So I proudly am one of those on our side, as an individual member of this parliament, not directed by my party and not directed by the government, who choose to support this private member's bill to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to remove the words 'offend' and 'insult'. The words 'humiliate' and 'intimidate' will remain and should remain. But when Australians have to legislate against offence and insult, I think it is a sad day for a country as free and open as Australia.

Most Australians who understand what happened at the Queensland University of Technology, in a celebrated case that is still before the courts, will appreciate how absolutely awful this legislation is that it would cause those young students, who, on anyone's standard, could not possibly have offended or insulted anyone, to be hauled before the courts under the provisions of this particular piece of legislation. The fact that the Human Rights Commission, which I almost think at times is poorly named, is taking that particular case on with the gusto that it is really brings into question the relevance and the approach of the Human Rights Commission.

Now, I repeat that I and most other Australians—and certainly all of those on this side of the chamber—abhor any form of discrimination, racial or otherwise. But removing the words 'offend' and 'insult' from section 18C is, I think, a step in the right direction and ensures that Australia is a free, open country that abhors and rejects any form of discrimination but encourages and celebrates free speech and the ability to say things that some others might not like. If 'offence' and 'insult' were an offence in this chamber, Senator Cameron, for some of the things that he says to me, would be out on his ear, and I would be a quivering mess. But we put up with those things in Australia— (Time expired)

Back to List