The Commonwealth government recently sought public submissions on proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). The proposed amendments replace the existing provisions that protect against racially motivated hate speech (ss 18B-18E), with a new provision:
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely:
(i) to vilify another person or a group of persons; or
(ii) to intimidate another person or a group of persons, and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.
(2) For the purposes of this section:
(a) vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons;
(b) intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:
(i) to a person; or
(ii) to the property of a person; or
(iii) to the members of a group of persons.
(3) Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.
(4) This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.
A group of four scholars from the Adelaide Law School, Dr Gabrielle Appleby, the Hon. Catherine Branson QC, Dr Laura Grenfell, Professor Rosemary Owens AO and Dr Matthew Stubbs wrote a submission opposing the proposed amendments. The submission was supported by 18 scholars across the University.
The submission argued that ss 18B, 18C, 18D and 18E of the Racial Discrimination Act, as they are currently drafted, represent an appropriate restriction on freedom of speech in a multicultural and democratic society that values diversity.
The full submission can be accessed here.