Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism Michelle Rowland last night addressed a community forum in Bankstown, hosted by the Member for Blaxland Jason Clare, to discuss the Abbott Government’s proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
At the Bankstown meeting community members discussed the Government’s changes and heard from guest speakers Randa Kattan from the Arab Council Australia and Kirstie Parker from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
“Our meeting saw a large turnout from concerned Western Sydney residents who overwhelmingly oppose these changes,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“The Government has refused to hold any public consultation on their draft changes, and has indicated that any submissions received will be made public.
“It is now clear that Senator Brandis is too afraid to face Australians and hear what they really think about his draft changes – Section 18C is working well and should be left exactly as it is.”
“The Abbott Government’s push to introduce sweeping changes that effectively neutralise protections against hate speech, is an attack on fundamental values of tolerance and respect,” Ms Rowland said.
“These values are at the heart of our diverse and multicultural society.”
“What Tony Abbott is doing is sending a message that it’s okay to abuse, insult or harass people based on the colour of their skin,” Mr Clare said.
“This is not us. It’s not the sort of country that we are, or the sort of country we want to be.
“We are the best country in the world, part of what makes us so great is we’ve got people from all around the world living together in harmony. Bankstown is a good example of that. Tony Abbott has just showed us how out of touch he really is.”
“There is now one week left in the short five week public consultation the Government allowed for feedback on their changes to the Racial Discrimination Act,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“Tony Abbott and Senator Brandis should listen to the individuals, ethnic and community groups from across the country who have spoken out against their proposed changes.
“The Government must abandon their plan to give the green light to bigotry and hate speech. Senator Brandis has to wake up and listen to community rejection of his ineptly drafted changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.”
Submissions to the Government on the proposed changes can be sent tobefore 30 April.
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